(TRENTON) -Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nelson Albano, Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Mila Jasey and Andrew Andrzejczak to require certain public school students be screened for dyslexia and other reading disabilities before they finish second grade and be provided with proper treatment if the screening confirms a diagnosis was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.
“Reading is basic to learning. Dyslexia puts children at an educational disadvantage which can carry onto adulthood if left untreated,” said Albano (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “Intervening early can help a child struggling with a reading disability learn how to manage the disability so that it does not become an impediment to learning and becoming successful adults later in life.”
“Reading disabilities can be terribly demoralizing to young children who may not understand why despite trying, they just cannot keep up with their classmates,” said Diegnan, Jr., (D-Middlesex). “Screening students early will provide students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities with the resources needed to succeed academically despite the impediments created by this disorder.”
“There is no cure for dyslexia, but there are strategies and alternative approaches that help children be successful learners through early detection and intervention,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Being dyslexic is not a reflection of intellectual ability, and it is time this is recognized so all children can reap the benefit of a positive learning experience.”
“Early intervention can make a significant difference in what a child with a reading disability can achieve in school,” said Andrzejczak (D- Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “The earlier the reading disability is detected; the better chances that child will have of not only working through these daily challenges at school, but avoiding the emotional problems that often accompany the disability.”
The bill (A-3605) requires the state Commissioner of Education to distribute information to each board of education on screening instruments that are available to identify students who possess potential indicators of dyslexia or other reading disabilities. The bill also calls on the commissioner to develop and distribute guidance to each board of education on appropriate intervention strategies for students who are diagnosed with dyslexia or other reading disabilities as a result of the screening.
The bill also requires a board of education to ensure that each student who is enrolled in the school district and who has exhibited one or more potential indicators of dyslexia or other reading disabilities is screened for dyslexia and other reading disabilities no later than the student’s completion of the first semester of the second grade. Under the bill, a board of education must ensure screening is provided if a student, who would have been enrolled in kindergarten or the first or second grade during or after the 2014-2015 school year, enrolls in the district in kindergarten or grades one through six during or after the 2015-2016 school year and has no record of a previous screening. Screenings must be administered by a teacher or other teaching staff member properly trained in the screening process.
Lastly, the bill requires a board of education to ensure each student who is determined, as a result of a screening, to possess one or more potential indicators of dyslexia or other reading disabilities is provided a comprehensive assessment for the learning disorder. If a diagnosis of dyslexia or other reading disability is confirmed, the bill requires the board of education to provide appropriate evidenced-based intervention strategies to the student, including intense instruction on phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension.
The bill was approved 80-0 by the Assembly and now heads back to the Senate for further consideration.