Dyslexia, Learning Accommodations, and the New Guidelines [IEP 012]
There is much conversation surrounding dyslexia and what it is exactly. In this episode, we tackle the subject of dyslexia and how laws that have recently emerged are approaching this disability in academic settings.
Joining us today is law student and IEP advocate, Victoria Lucero
Full show transcript available at the bottom of this post.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- What is the definition of dyslexia?
- Why dyslexia appears so contradictory in the way it appears in children
- What caused the push for new dyslexia laws and why many of the “laws” are actually only guidelines
- What type of assessments can parents request when it comes to their children’s dyslexia needs
- How can reading intervention programs help
- Why consistency is key when it comes to reading intervention programs
- The importance of helping teachers recognize when a child has dyslexia as opposed to believing the child is lazy or has another issues
- How can a special education lawyer help when there is a medical diagnosis of dyslexia
- How can educators ask of their administration to receive training to better serve students with dyslexia
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
California Education Code Section 56335
CA Ed Code Section 33308.5
Endrew F. Supreme Court case
Thank you for listening!
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Full Show Transcript
Vickie: Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.
Amanda: I’m Amanda Selogie. We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism.
Vickie: Each week, we’re going to explore new topics, which are going to educate and empower others.
Amanda: And give them a platform to enact change in education and level the playing field.
Vickie: Hi, welcome back to The Inclusive Education Project podcast. Today, we have a really interesting topic regarding dyslexia, which is more so a spectrum of a disability, of a learning difference, for a lot of our kids here in California. I’m not introducing us. You guys know who we are. We’re not doing that anymore. We’re done. We’re saying that it’s Amanda. We’re not saying it’s Vickie, but we are. I know.
I know that we will be introducing our guest, and today, again, we have Victoria Lucero on. She is working at our law firm, as well as over the summer was at our IEP clinic, and for the fall semester, we’ll transition her back into our law firm for next semester, so she’ll be doing a lot more writing. Still advocating, but we’re happy to have on her pod again as we discuss this topic. Do you know anybody with dyslexia?
Victoria: Yes, I do know a few people with dyslexia back home, and unfortunately, they were not diagnosed until very late, so they didn’t get a lot of help for it.
Vickie: Did they find out in college?
Victoria: No, they would be late when we were in high school, like junior and senior year of high school.
Vickie: Do you know anyone, Amanda, with dyslexia?
Amanda: Yes, I feel like I had some friends in high school that had some challenges. I think back when we were in school, it was something where it was almost taboo. People would talk about it, but I feel like our perceptions of it back then was, “Oh, it’s something that affects people, but it really only affects you when you’re writing,” I think is the way that I always heard people talk about, like, “It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t affect your learning. It just affects your output, so when you’re writing something, you might get the letters wrong.” That’s the way I think it was seen, and so that’s why new interventions have had to come about, right, and Vickie, there’s been some new laws about it?
Vickie: Yes. What I’ll do is I’ll do a really quick overview of what dyslexia is, and then we’ll get into the new laws, especially in California, and the guidelines that have been set. As always, this podcast is for information purposes only and not for providing legal advice. Contact a legal representative if you have any questions.
I will be talking about some of the different statutes and obviously the IDEA, the Individuals with Disability Education Act, in reference to these children that fall under the specific learning disability category and possibly some other ones.
Dyslexia actually affects 20% of the population in California. There’s at least some signs of it, and this is information that’s coming from the California Department of Education. If that much of our population has some signs of dyslexia, and that’s why I call it a spectrum, because there’s just so many different things that fall under this umbrella category, but if you think about it, in California, it could mean that we have about a million kids from K through 12 that could have some signs of dyslexia.
Just kind of getting into the definition of it from the International Dyslexia Association, there’s a neural biological origin is what affects it, right? It’s not a child with cerebral palsy that may affect the child cognitively and physically. It’s more neural biological, right? It has to do a lot with the accuracy and or fluent word recognition.
A big term that’s always thrown out is phonological. It’s like, “A phonological component of the language that they don’t understand.” When you think about phonological processing, it’s like, how do we appreciate individual sounds of spoken language. Does that make sense?
Amanda: Yes, so we’ve talked before about auditory processing and visual processing. One thing I don’t know that we’ve talked about is language processing, so would dyslexia fall under the language processing, like when they’re processing language, whether it be orally or written, that’s when it’s becoming difficult for them, that it’s that processing of the language?
Vickie: Right, and so when you have inherent disconnect, and people often are just like, “Oh, well, my kid can talk,” and it’s just like, that’s not what we’re looking at. Sometimes even children with dyslexia can read, but they just have a lot of trouble with spelling. That’s why, again, it’s a spectrum. There’s different effects of it, right?
What could happen is comprehension of reading and reduced reading. Everybody knows it’s about early intervention, right? The more that you read, the more you increase your vocabulary, and that inherently helps you with reading comprehension. What’s insane about dyslexia is just it’s so contradictory in and of itself. You’ll have children that appear to not be able to read or comprehend their reading, but they’re really smart.
Amanda: I think one situation I’ve seen with a lot of kids is they might be in high school, and they could read something out loud and they’re reading every word correctly and they know the words, but their comprehension is at a much lower level. Maybe they’re in ninth grade and their fluency, so their ability to decode and recognize words that they’re reading is maybe at an eighth grade, ninth grade level, but the level of comprehension is still at a second grade level.
They are reading and that’s where a lot of times this gets undiagnosed, because they’re asked to read a book or they’re reading out loud in class and they have no problem reading and they’re able to say it, and so everyone I think believes, “Well, you’re able to read. You understand it.” Reading something is different from understanding it.
Vickie: Right, and so oftentimes, if you’re having difficulty with the fluency … Third grade is oftentimes when parents are able to see a shift, right? In third grade, the font starts to get smaller and you go from learning how to read to, “Now I’m reading to learn material.”
I’ll see a lot of times kids that start to fall behind, or we’ll start seeing these signs of dyslexia. It’s not just about reversals of your B and D or not understanding that. It’s more so you’re looking down at a piece of paper and just imagine the words are in a different language and you have no comprehension of what is being said. You’re hearing the teacher read it out loud, and I’m not talking about tracking, your eye tracking or anything like that. It’s just the way that your mind is trying to process that language component of it.
That’s why oftentimes you’ll see it fall under an eligibility category of specific learning disability, because as we’ve gone over in previous podcasts, a specific learning disability is a disorder in the basic psychological processes. That’s including understanding or using language, spoken or written.
It’s manifested in a way that you’re not able to appropriately listen, think, speak, read, write, but if you have a child with dyslexia and they’re not able to read as quickly as other students or spell things correctly and you have a couple of accommodations where they’re just saying back to you the answer on a test, that’s an accommodation that we’ve seen oftentimes. They’re getting 100% on their tests.
What’s important is, and where the California Department of Education stands, is we want to be sure that dyslexia is known. That’s the biggest thing. I think we can talk more about what dyslexia is and how it affects children, but I think what’s really important is to go to that practical aspect of the law.
I’ve had a lot of parents, a lot of the parents with children that have dyslexia, it runs in the family, so these are parents that are coming to me advocating for themselves and advocating for their children. The last couple of years, I’ve had so many of them, “I’m on my Facebook group and I see the new dyslexia laws and they’ve come out.”
Yes, we had the senate in 2015 pass. Actually, it started in 2016. Let me go back. California was ahead of the curve, but what was important is in September of 2016, the senate passed Resolution 576. This is where we got Dyslexia Awareness Month, National Dyslexia Awareness Month, which is in October.
Basically, congress called upon state and legal educational agencies to recognize the significant educational implications of dyslexia that must be addressed. It was kind of like, “Hey, you guys, let’s figure this out,” but there was no real, “And you have to figure it out by this time.” Congress has the ability to make people do things, and that’s not what they were doing.
Amanda: Yes, and I think the reason why a big push for needing new laws was we had kids who might have been diagnosed with dyslexia, but the IEP teams were coming up with the same types of interventions to address dyslexia as they would with a child who maybe has a developmental disorder who is maybe having to learn to read at a slower pace, but the intervention that needs to be done for a kid with dyslexia is a little bit different.
First of all, when we were kids, a lot of these students didn’t get diagnosed and they never had any services, right? Then, we started to see a shift of providing some services, but it wasn’t services that was working. We were getting kids who were going through, and for a little while, they were able to compensate to a certain point and they were getting okay grades.
Maybe in the second grade, expectations are lower. Then, we start getting into the fourth and fifth grade and it’s harder, and we’re using the same approaches that we would for a kid with autism for reading intervention of saying, “Oh, we just need to do a lot of repetition.” That might not be the same type of intervention that needs to be worked, so we were seeing a lot of kids going without the appropriate services. The school might’ve given some specialized academic instruction, but it wasn’t the right intervention.
Vickie: Right, and so a grass roots movement happened in California. That’s how change is often completed nowadays, right? We have a grass roots movement by Decoding Dyslexia CA or Decoding Dyslexia California, and they tried to spearhead this. 2015, we had some of the senate … Actually, hold on. I have it somewhere here. Of course, I wrote all these notes and I was so excited about this topic.
What ended up happening is a couple of the California Educational Code sections were added. One was 56334, which was talking about phonological processing, so that became effective in January of 2016. Then, California Education Code section 56335, which were the California Dyslexia Guidelines. Those were issued August of this past year.
This is what parents of children with dyslexia come to me with is, “We have these new laws, we have these new laws.” We have a new law that basically from California’s perspective was like, “Hey, we need to do something about this.” We wanted to go further, right? We wanted it to be able to say that we’re going to try to do early screenings. That was something that the Decoding Dyslexia California really wanted that didn’t get into the bill, and also another big thing that they wanted was let’s get the school districts to actually do this. Let’s not just do guidelines.
That is a big thing that I think Californians need to understand is that all it is is the California Superintendent of Public Instruction consulting with teachers, parents, and experts in dyslexia to develop guidelines. Do you know what guidelines do? They’re just a roadmap, and the California Department of Education, they have it on their website. Specifically, they have Ed Code 33308.5, which says any type of program guidelines issued by the State Department of Education, they’re just designed to serve as a model or an example. They’re not something that has to be done.
It’s great that we have dyslexia as a table conversation now and people are becoming more aware of, but it’s one of those things where people weren’t aware of it before, so this law passed to say, “Hey, we should try to make people aware of it,” but that implementation, the thing that Amanda and I grasp all the time, like, “Hey, this code section you are not implementing is something that is just not there.” The guidelines are great. They’re on the California Department website. I’ll go over it a little bit, but it’s just a guideline. They don’t have to do anything with it.
Amanda: Yes, so I think it goes to just looking at the fact that these educational programs have to be individualized, no matter what. When we look at a kid who has dyslexia, what all this is telling us is essentially the same thing that we already knew. We have to individualize the intervention. If a certain intervention is not working for that child, we need to look at individualizing it, so if a special day class has an intervention program that everyone’s using in that same class but doesn’t work to help address dyslexia, then we need to look at something else.
There are comprehensive, evidence-based reading programs that are available. The schools might have their own curriculums, but we can really look at these intensive interventions that can sometimes support and measure progress, as well. A couple that have been known to help with dyslexia are the Orton-Gillingham or the Wilson Language Training that are really looking more, they’re not just addressing going at a slower pace or repetition. It’s really looking more at breaking down the code of letters and sounds and how we’re addressing the unique challenges that someone with dyslexia has versus just someone who has a language processing deficit.
When we’re going to the IEP meetings, I guess we can kind of go into it as an advocate. What is something that we can keep in mind knowing these guidelines, Victoria? How would we approach it in an IEP meeting to make sure that this is individualized?
Victoria: I guess making sure this is individualized, you want to make sure that the district is using first and foremost, the appropriate language, because that’s how a parent is going to understand this is for their child and their child alone, then making sure the service is appropriate for their child. Because dyslexia is a spectrum, you want to make sure that the district is actually paying attention to the place that child is at on the spectrum.
Vickie: Yes, and that was the purpose, I found it. It’s Assembly Bill 1369. That was in 2015, and it’s just this requirement of getting it on the table. This is huge. It was huge for parents of children with dyslexia, and I think it’s huge for what we do as special education attorneys and advocates is to get the conversation started. These guidelines, they were revised in October of 2017, and you can find them on the California Department of Education website. They’re supposed to be there for teachers and principals and any staff that are dealing with children with … For us, too, right?
Just because there are certain programs that are out there, I think that that’s the rub that parents have is they don’t have to pay for Orton-Gillingham. They don’t have to do that. As long as they can show you that they have a research-based, multisensory, because I hear those buzzwords all the time that parents are like, “I want a multisensory,” and it’s like, you may not agree with the brand name that they’re using, but if they can show you and prove to you that it fits within the guidelines, these new guidelines, then that’s it. We are changing it constantly. We shouldn’t just accept it and be like, “Okay, we’re just going to use this.” We want to check in.
I know you and I were having this conversation where it’s oftentimes a process, right? Let’s just try it, right? Let’s try these services, let’s try these goals. In three months or in six months, if it doesn’t work, we’re holding another IEP meeting. Once you explain that, do parents understand that process, or do you find that they fight that a little bit?
Victoria: I would say it’s split. It’s about 50/50. You get some parents that really are like, “Yes,” because they understand that it is a compromise, and you’ve got to meet the district a little bit. By just allowing them to get that far to get this sort of diagnostic time where they’re going to test out the program, parents, as long as they understand I think that at the end of the period, three month, six month, whatever it may be, as long as they understand that at that time, we can reevaluate and likely get those services, if we can show that they are working, then I think that’s okay. Sometimes, parents just don’t want that. They just want the services right off the bat, and that’s not to say that they’re wrong. They’ve been frustrated with the district for so long already.
Amanda: Yes, and I think that’s where it’s so important to make sure that if the district says, “We want to use this one brand and we think it’s going to work,” we’re really looking at the root of okay, is it appropriate? How do we know it’s appropriate? Well, oftentimes to know if a program is appropriate or works is to track that progress and have ways of measurable progress. It’s not just a program that the student is filling out worksheets in a book on a regular basis, because what does that do for us? It’s going to give us some scores on how many questions they get right, but when we really look at, okay, if a student’s comprehension level was at a 2.4 grade level when they started with this program, majority of these programs have ways to track and measure progress.
As we’re going through the program, we’re able to see exactly how much progress is being made. Not just the school will be able to see it, but the parents are able to see it. I think that’s oftentimes if the parent has been told by another parent, “Oh, use this program because it’s made so much progress,” they assume that that’s what’s going to happen.
Oftentimes, if a school says we’re going to use an intervention, how is the parent going to know if it actually works, right? If a school can say, “Look, we can give you printouts or we can give you progress that we tracked on a regular basis maybe each week,” and we can show, “Look, we started here and we’re seeing some progress as we go through each level of the program,” or whatnot, then I think it eases the parents’ mind a little bit. If in that three month time, we’re not seeing that progress, we’re then able to say, “It’s not working.”
Vickie: These reading intervention programs, especially Orton-Gillingham, aren’t just beneficial to children with dyslexia. That is I think another driving force behind this bill passing is that it’s applicable to all children when they’re learning how to read. It’s not just for children with dyslexia.
I thought what was interesting going on the California Department of Education website is that they wanted, within the guidelines, within the actual guidelines that were just revised in October, were these principles that they had set out at the beginning saying, “The principles form the foundation of the guidelines and inform the perspective from which the guidelines were written.”
It was interesting because one of them was, on top of students with dyslexia need a knowledge base and active system of support that includes families, educators, all that stuff, knowing that dyslexia exists on a continuum, all the things that we’ve been talking about, like that individual students have a tiered system of support within the school, not just with family and friends, but that students who have dyslexia are general education students first, and that they should be educated in general education classrooms and benefit from just a wide variety of support.
I know that we were talking about a lot of children falling under a specific learning disability, but I think what’s important to see about this guiding principle for the guidelines is that how I was talking about dyslexia is a paradox in and of itself, because most of these children have really critical reasoning and thinking skills that surpass their peers, is that we oftentimes at that fourth, fifth, sixth grade level are catching it too late, or parents not knowing that it’s dyslexia, and the child being pushed into a special day class because at that point it’s like, “Oh, you’re a sixth grader reading at a second grade reading level. We’re not going to be able to appropriately accommodate in a gen ed setting,” and like, “Too sad, so sad, you have to be there.” That’s where we as attorneys and advocates want to prevent that from happening.
Amanda: Yes, I was just going to say, and what’s important to know about that is in looking at how do we address it when it gets to that point or how can we address it earlier on is looking at, sometimes it’s how the programs are not things that can be done an hour a month or an hour a week. When we look at certain interventions that deal with language and processing, it really needs to be consistently a part of a child’s program.
A lot of times, when I’m in an IEP meetings and we’re talking about using an evidence-based comprehensive reading program, we’re looking at, “I want that kid to do it 20 minutes a day.” Maybe they have access to it at home, as well, but that consistency, and maybe it doesn’t even need to be 20 minutes. Some kids can benefit from 10 minutes a day. That could be when the other kids in the classroom are doing independent reading, the student is hopping on a computer or into the book, whether it’s computer-based or not, and they’re doing it 10 minutes, 20 minutes every single day, it’s providing them that consistency.
It’s more of an intensive intervention than, “Oh, well, if the student has speech therapy, they’re going once a week to work on their social skills,” and that’s fine for those types of skills, but when we’re talking about reading, it’s kind of along the lines of if you don’t use it, you lose it. We say that all the time with learning a foreign language. With learning a second language, we have to use it, so language in general is like that, as well.
We really want to look at really getting the appropriate … And the new case laws that we have this year in 2017, [inaudible 00:23:15] and that came out of the Supreme Court, we’re now not only looking at the appropriate services to be proposed for a student, but we’re looking at their circumstances and the ability to address remediation.
If we get a child that comes in and is at sixth grade, and we’re just now figuring out that they have dyslexia, it’s definitely important to catch it earlier on, but what happens if we don’t catch it? If we don’t catch it, the school district, the IEP team is required to look at the regression that’s occurred and remediate that regression.
Vickie: Oftentimes, that’s where the districts are dropping the ball, especially with [inaudible 00:23:53]. That’s something that we’ve always advocated for, but that is a really big push this last year that we’re going to be using more and more to see how we’re going to appropriately, especially a lot of these kiddos that don’t need to be in a special day class that should stay in gen ed classes and just have the appropriate accomodation, and not just, “Oh, just here, have this Chromebook read things out loud to you,” because there’s some level of reading that you need to be able to have to function in the “real world.”
You’re at an IEP team meeting now, and you have a teacher that’s refusing to say dyslexia or dysgraphia or any of the other dyses that fall under that umbrella of dyslexia and what the guidelines in their question and answer section really wanted to point out, and this was obviously in October of 2017 that the revised version came out.
I don’t know if they’re going to come out with another revised, because they do make reference to a Dear Colleague Letter, and the Dear Colleague Letters are actual official correspondence that is usually sent to a member or committee of the House of Reps or the senate to give light to a bill that’s making its way through, right? We have the Office of Special Education Programs, OSEP policy letters, and those were taken off the Department of Education website. I see you nodding your head.
Those Dear Colleague Letters and OSEP policy letters were very useful, because they just provided information, guidance, kind of like how California is saying, “We need dyslexia guidelines.” Those letters did that, and [inaudible 00:25:31] took those all away. That was fun, but I don’t know if California is going to update their guideline. If you’re at an IEP meeting and a teacher’s refusing to say that, the Dear Colleague Letter just kind of spelled out essentially what everybody knows is that, listen, there’s nothing in the IDEA that says that you can’t use these words, right?
To me, oftentimes I tell a parent, “Look, it’s a red herring. If that teacher doesn’t want to use it, fine.” As long as they understand that’s the phonological processing, the fluency, as long as they’re understanding everything else that falls under it and they just don’t want to label it, it’s not that big of a deal. The problem comes when they don’t understand what dyslexia is period. They see your kid and they think they’re lazy and that they can read but they don’t want to.
That’s where the problem is, and that’s where parents or attorneys or advocates really need to be able to express, “No, no, no, now we have in California this law that says you better know what you’re talking about.” I think that that is what parents, when they come to me, I think that’s their biggest thing is when the teachers just don’t understand. Now, we come in and maybe the teacher does understand, but they’re just using different words, right?
It’s trying to find that common ground, and that’s why the IEP meetings are really important, because it should be a conversation. It shouldn’t be this convoluted, we’re using these buzzwords. How many times have you seen IEP goals and you’re looking at them and you’re like, “What? I don’t even understand. Four out of five opportunities, 80% of the time, standing on their head, hitting their hand,” right? You see that in IEP meetings.
Amanda: That’s why I always tell parents, “If you read a goal and you can’t envision how this is even being worked on, then it’s not appropriate,” because the design is supposed to be that anyone who’s working with this kid could pick up this IEP and understand what they need to do. Sometimes it does get convoluted, and we have people that recommend goals, and then the people actually implementing it don’t understand what that means. That’s a problem, because how are we going to ensure that the kid is making progress, because we made it as the goal, right? It was supposed to be something that they have a deficit in, but then we’re not seeing results.
Vickie: I think at least in California, right, with these guidelines, we will start seeing more teachers as they’re being educated, as they’re being trained, most likely using it. It might have just been a situation where they just didn’t want to say dyslexia because they didn’t really want to say that buzzword.
Amanda: I think it might go along the lines of, we say this a lot, of, one person said something to someone else, they heard it, believed it to be true, and then started telling other people, right? Somewhere along the line, one person said, “We can’t use the word dyslexia,” so then everyone else started to say the same thing.
It’s like little parrots happening all the time, and I get so frustrated with that. That happens with legal requirements and obligations, too, but I think where I hear it, it’s similar to the ADHD, that, “Ooh, this is a DSM5 diagnosis, so this is a medical based diagnosis and not an educationally related diagnosis,” because educators can’t diagnose medical.
I guess the myth that always gets spread between educators is that if something has a medical diagnosis, we can’t touch, or we don’t have to address. That’s not true. There’s a medical diagnosis for things, but then how that has an implication and impacts the child’s education is a different story. With ADHD, with dyslexia, it may be a medical diagnosis, but the minute it impacts a child’s ability to learn or acts their curriculum, it’s 100% an obligation of the school to address.
We can absolutely use these medical terms, but you may not just say, it’s not the school diagnosing the child. They have a diagnosis from an outside medical provider. This is how that diagnosis impacts them at school, and then we’re going to address it in X, Y, and Z way. It’s important to know that distinction, because otherwise, we’re going to just say, “Oh, well, we’re not allowed to say it so then we’re not addressing it,” and then the child is that kid that’s in sixth grade at a second grade reading level.
Vickie: I think it just stems from training, right? That’s what you’re doing with us is we’re trying to train you in special education so that when you go back home, if you go back home to Albuquerque, you’re able to use that knowledge. Albuquerque education law is going to be completely different than what you have within California.
Victoria: Completely different and completely behind.
Vickie: Yes. Why do you say behind?
Victoria: I say behind because not only California really pushes the envelope in a lot of ways in all legal fields, but when I talk to people about education in New Mexico, it kind of blows their mind. We have laws from not so long ago, 1940s, 1950s, saying children are not allowed to speak Spanish in school. That’s just one way that says they’re way behind. That was ended in California in the 1900s. Also, New Mexico is super rural, and I think that rural schools, you’re putting kids together from eight, nine communities that have to ride the bus for two hours just to get to school.
Amanda: That’s so crazy. Such a long bus ride.
Victoria: It’s ridiculous, and I think that schools in rural areas, they’re just trying to figure out how to do the basic. When you have communities that don’t really support education, then it just keeps going up to the top. It’s not a trickle down. It moves up to the top. Our Director of Public Education, she’s never been a teacher. We’re not even sure why she’s actually the Director of Public Education. Disgusting.
Amanda: That sounds very familiar. Don’t we have that in our federal system? That goes to what Vickie just said, the training and education and making sure that the people that are making the decisions, because oftentimes the teachers are kind of the low men on the totem pole in terms of being able to make a decision.
A teacher might say, “I think these kids need different interventions,” but they may not be able to make any decisions about how they change their curriculum or their policies. Going up the chain, we have the district administrators and the superintendents and federal public education or the administrators and the Department of Education for the state that are making these decisions. If they’re not even getting trained, how are they going to make directions for people below them on how they have to act?
Vickie: Right, and so I think the takeaway from what the guidelines are letting the educational agencies know is that it’s a structured literacy approach that proven over time in numerous research studies to be effective with children that have dyslexia. If you’re thinking about, “Okay, what is this going to cost us?” The estimated cost of this new law taking effect is a one time cost of $207,000, and ongoing costs of about $140,000 per year. That is incurred by the California Department of Education, and included in the ongoing costs will be a full-time dyslexia specialist position at the California Department of Education.
These local educational agencies and districts can have that as a resource, and they themselves, any of these incremental costs for assessing phonological processing skills, when they’re doing their special education assessments and such, that should just be in there, right? That should just be the bottom line, which is just another evaluation. The cost of that isn’t really going to be too much. They should be responsible for any costs related to their teacher training and purchasing of the appropriate structured literacy programs and interventions.
You’re not going to see the California Department of Education tell you what those structured literacy programs are that you have to use, and you’re not going to see the Decoding Dyslexia of California on their website prefer one over the other. It just has to fall under the proven over time broad and vague definition that we have for it.
If you’re a teacher and you’re like, “Wait, this happened? My school is way behind. We haven’t done any training and this supposed to be in effect this academic school year. What can I do? Where can I go?” You can actually go into the International Dyslexia Association website. They have all this information about the best knowledge and practice standards for teachers of reading. They actually also created the Center for Effective Reading Instruction, and that provides two levels of structured literacy certifications. You could actually kind of be well-versed in this and get a little certificate.
In 2015, President Barack Obama under the Every Student Succeeds Act created a comprehensive literacy center, which was to open this year. What it was supposed to do is support parents and educators in helping students who are having difficulty reading. You as a teacher don’t have to wait for your school. They should be setting up training and I’ve heard parents say, “Well, when is it going to happen?” Well, we’re halfway through the school year. It was supposed to already happen, but some districts are better at it than others.
Amanda: Yes. We would’ve hoped that this would’ve been on their planning agenda before the school year started, but we realize sometimes things are slow. If you are an educator and you’re listening or you’re a school psychologist or you work for a school in some capacity, know that it’s well within your rights to go to your administrator or your boss and say, “Hey, I heard about the Department of Education is able to provide us this. I feel like I have students that could benefit from this. How can I get this training?” Or, “How can I have access to it?”
I think that goes for a lot of things, too, for educators. There’s a lot of resources out there that I don’t think educators are aware that they’re even there for them to get training so that they can better serve this community. I’ve talked to a lot of general education teachers who want to do right by their students and want to do the best that they can, but sometimes they feel that they’re at a loss for what to do. They’re being told, “Well, we can’t do this or we can’t do that,” and sometimes it’s about asking the right people.
We know it’s scary sometimes to go out on a limb, to be like, “Hey, I don’t think I’m getting the right tools to do my job.” That would be scary in any kind of job, right? Know that there are resources and supports out there that can support you in making sure that you get the training, and we know it’s out there, especially with these dyslexia guidelines.
Vickie: You can Google it. I know you come to us, or you were at the law library in Albuquerque, and that’s where parents are coming to the library. Were they telling you about issues or were they specifically knowing where they needed to go?
Victoria: No. I can’t even think of a single instance where a parent really understood where they should go or where they should start. Luckily, the library was located at the place that was diagnosing the kids, so it was a one stop shop. Get your kid diagnosed, come to the library, get some information on it.
I can’t even tell you the number of times a week that I would be researching for medical professionals, for superintendents, for principals, just basic diagnosis stuff. I’m glad to have one that because I’m glad that they were reaching out to somebody, but it’s just not widely known in New Mexico.
I just want everyone to know who’s listening, also, there is a Center for Developmental Disabilities in every state. I think California has two. I know that UCLA is one of them, and they have the same exact library with a research database, so please contact them.
Vickie: Oh, that’s a good pro tip for these parents. Yes, I think that California is ahead of the curve with being able to produce this guideline. I think that that’s probably your best bet. That’s where we started when I heard that these laws were coming out, and that’s why we felt it important to do this podcast, because the majority of the dyslexia clients that we’ve had, I’ve had just a slew of them. Over the last couple years, I’ve seen it kind of progress. It was important to share that information between ourselves, and obviously Victoria advocates.
Amanda: I was just going to say, yes, and when we look at resources, we’ll definitely put some information in the show notes about these guidelines. Like we said, California is progressive. If you are in another state and you want to look towards getting your legislation to enact some change with regards to guidelines in your state, you can use this as a starting point to go to your representative and say, “Hey, California just did this. Why don’t we have that?” Maybe make some waves that way.
I think we’re always hoping to push the envelope in terms of getting people involved and take action with regards to our future and the education system. We always know that there’s a lot out there, but there’s a lot that we can do, and we want to make sure that we can get there. We can learn from what other states are doing.
We go to a conference every year for an organization that we’re a part of, COPAA, the Council of Parent, Attorney, and Advocates, and so we always are learning from other attorneys and advocates from other states about what they’re doing. Even though California is very progressive, we also have different things that we do. Other states are very progressive in other ways, and so we still learn from them, as well. It can always be helpful. If it’s being done somewhere else, it can be done where you are.
Vickie: You’re able to create that opportunity for this child that otherwise wouldn’t have had this opportunity to have a teacher in first grade understand the early signs of dyslexia. There was a list. I was going to write down some of the names, but you’d be shocked to see how many people have had dyslexia and have won Nobel Peace Prizes and just have done amazing research scientifically and literature and maybe had a parent that was behind them that told them, “We will be heard.” I think that that’s important moving forward for everyone, and that’s the purpose of this podcast.
Thanks so much for listening. Again, just like at the beginning at the top of the show, ooh, top of the show, sounds so radio, I asked to have you subscribe if you haven’t already. I think one of the things that would be nice is if you share the podcast. I know Victoria has shared the podcast with people.
Victoria: Sharing it with everyone. Go listen.
Vickie: Which is amazing, so thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week. Bye.