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Washington Legislature Passes Bill To Screen Kids For Dyslexia By Second Grade

U.S. Department of Education

Schools may soon have to screen kids for the learning disability dyslexia early on in elementary school. State lawmakers passed a bill requiring districts to do so starting in the 2020-2021 school year.

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that can make it hard to learn how to read. People with the condition often have trouble with spelling and decoding words. But with proper screening and different teaching techniques, kids with dyslexia can learn how to read and keep up with their peers.

The bill requires school districts to screen all kindergarten, first and second grade students for dyslexia and provide students with interventions.

Democratic Rep. Gerry Pollet is one of the main proponents of the bill. He said his own daughter’s dyslexia wasn’t identified until they used their private insurance to have her tested. But not every family has that option.

“Poor children, parents who don’t have the knowledge – they never get tested at all and instead they think their child just can’t read well and never catches up,” Pollet said.

One parent who had been tracking the bill closely is Jennifer Bardsley, who has a daughter with dyslexia and writes the “I Brake For Moms” column for the Daily Herald in Everett.

“I view this as a huge positive because it’s going to have teachers be attuned to looking for these red flags for dyslexia,” Bardsley said. “And that will be a benefit to all children because the sooner they get identified, the sooner they can start getting help.”

Pollet said teachers will have to be trained in how to do the screenings. He said he plans to work with the state superintendent of public instruction to figure out how much money is needed for professional development for teachers.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.