Corbett signs bill for dyslexia intervention program

A helping hand: State Rep. Ed Neilson stands with his family, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley and Gov. Tom Corbett as Neilson’s youngest son, Ryan, adds his name next to the governor’s signature on legislation that will establish the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Pilot Program.

Gov. Tom Corbett last week signed into law House Bill 198, the Dyslexia and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program, sponsored by state Rep. Ed Neilson.

The pilot program will provide early screening for all students enrolled in full-day kindergarten for potential risk factors for early reading deficiencies and dyslexia.

The program will operate in three school districts for a full three years. Participants will be selected from a pool of district applicants that will be given the opportunity to apply for the program in the near future.

Three years after implementation of the pilot program, the state secretary of the Department of Education will submit an evaluation of the pilot program to the General Assembly containing recommendations to continue, expand or make changes to the program.

“Today is a good day. Finally, we can start providing children with dyslexia the resources they need to thrive,” Neilson said. “This program will allow us to better identify children in need of extra assistance and attention, and it has the potential to provide us with a model for other special education efforts that can produce better outcomes at a lower cost.”

Neilson, his wife and children joined Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley at the signing ceremony. Neilson’s youngest son, Ryan, added his name next to the governor’s signature on the legislation. Ryan was the inspiration for the legislation.

Diane Reott, a Newtown Square resident and mother of a dyslexic child, has, along with several others, started the Pennsylvania Dyslexia and Literacy Coalition, which worked with Neilson on HB 198.

The coalition consists of parents, educators, professionals and like-minded groups, including the International Dyslexia Association, Decoding Dyslexia PA and Learning Ally, whose goals are to raise awareness of dyslexia and the need for better teacher training so that all children can learn to read.

ldquo;According to the latest research studies, early intervention, particularly in kindergarten and first grade, can make a significant difference in students’ success in school,” Reott said. “Thanks to HB 198, this pilot screening will finally put into place well-documented research that early intervention can help all students who are struggling readers while helping to recognize the dyslexic students early.”

Dyslexia is a brain-based learning disability that often runs in families and makes reading difficult, and in many cases, painful.

Students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia usually have already experienced multiple failures at school.

In 2013, 27 percent of Pennsylvania fourth-graders read at a below basic level.

“But with early intervention, we can decrease the number of poor readers significantly,” Reott said. ••