Senate Enrolled Act 217, authored by State Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem), and sponsored by Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland), was ceremonially signed into law yesterday by Gov. Eric Holcomb. This bill is aimed at identifying students who may be affected with dyslexia, and getting them the resources and accommodations necessary to be successful in school and beyond. Holcomb and Houchin were joined for the signing by students with dyslexia and their parents from around the state.
“Studies estimate that up to 20 percent of the population is affected at some level with dyslexia,” Houchin said. “We cannot afford to let any of our students struggle through school, and potentially their lives and careers, without doing something – especially when we know teaching methods that work.”
SEA 217 requires school corporation and charter school reading plans to include indicators to screen for dyslexia risk factors. If a student is determined to be at-risk for dyslexia, the school shall administer a simple dyslexia screening test, which will identify whether they need referred for further testing and a diagnosis. It also requires schools to use specific response to intervention processes if a screener indicates certain characteristics of dyslexia.
Dyslexia is categorized as a specific learning disability related to reading. Students who have dyslexia and related conditions will struggle to identify and match letter sounds with letters, have difficulty with phonics, and will struggle to read. It affects reading, writing, spelling, and comprehension. These students are typically very bright, and can excel with the right interventions. Without an intervention, these students could unnecessarily face a life-long struggle with reading. Houchin said, “Though dyslexia is inherited and cannot be cured, SEA 217 will ensure we are giving our students the best possible chance to succeed.”
SEA 217 also requires each school corporation and charter school to employ at least one authorized reading specialist trained in dyslexia, no later than the 2019-2020 school year, and requires the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) to employ at least one reading specialist trained in dyslexia. School specialists can be current reading specialists trained in dyslexia, or a teacher or tutor who has completed dyslexia intervention training approved by the DOE.
“The changes outlined in SEA 217 will help accurately identify this pervasive issue among our student population,” Houchin said. “It will provide the tools dyslexic students need to achieve their full potential in school and as they grow.”