The United States has a somewhat fraught history with dyslexia laws. Despite over a century of research, a consistent definition of dyslexia for use in legislation still does not exist. The International Dyslexia Association uses the following definition, which some states, but not all, have incorporated word for word into their dyslexia laws:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. (See Sources.)
Many states classify dyslexia as a “specific learning disability (SLD),” as defined in the IDEA Act of 2004, or as a “reading disability,” as defined in DSM-IV. With dyslexia placed under such a large umbrella, legislatures nationwide have struggled to find the best way to address the needs of students with dyslexia, resulting in a patchwork of state-by-state variations.
At the federal level, the most recent movement in dyslexia legislation is passage of the bipartisan Research Excellence and Advancement for Dyslexia Act (READ Act). The READ Act authorizes dyslexia research projects and appropriates funding from the National Science Foundation for that research.
The READ Act, however, does not provide for actual services. Those services are part of legislation known as IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The four-part act ensures that students with disabilities are provided with a Free and Appropriate Public Education tailored to their individual needs. Unfortunately, dyslexia is only noted as being covered by IDEA, leaving the states to further define dyslexia and detail appropriate standards. As shown below, some states have adopted quality dyslexia laws and others have not yet taken that step.
Alabama: On October 8, 2015, the Alabama State Board of Education voted on and unanimously passed changes to the Alabama Administrative Code that pertain to early screening for dyslexia, dyslexia specific interventions, and accommodations within the general education (K–12) classroom.
Alaska: No specific dyslexia legislation.
Arizona: Senate Bill 1461 was signed into law in 2015. This bill defines dyslexia, permits teachers to include dyslexia training as continuing education, and allows exemptions from Arizona’s “Move On When Reading” requirement.
Arkansas: In 2013, Arkansas passed SB 33, which defines dyslexia and requires screening and intervention. These requirements received additional clarification in 2015 via SB 788.
California: California has two laws on the books, Sections 56245 and 4227.7 of the education code, that encourage dyslexia-specific training. Additionally, Sections 56245 and 56337 address services for students. Assembly Bill 1369 is the most recent addition to California dyslexia law. This bill requires updates to the criteria for identifying children with dyslexia by adding “phonological processing” to the screening process for special education eligibility. It also requires that guidelines be developed by the state superintendent of public instruction and the California Department of Education to assist teachers, parents, and professionals in identifying, assessing, and improving educational services for students with dyslexia.
Colorado: SB 245 provides funds for dyslexia training, identification, and higher education programs specific to dyslexia. That 2011 bill added to the already existing HB 1223, which provides for training and identification in broader language. The Colorado Read Act of 2012 focuses on early literacy but is not dyslexia specific.
Connecticut: The state of Connecticut has made strides in the realm of dyslexia legislation over the last two years. The state passed SB 1054 in 2015, defining dyslexia and requiring dyslexia training for educators during teacher preparation courses. In 2016, SB 317 added the requirement that reading specialists complete a course that includes dyslexia instruction.
Delaware: Delaware amended their existing Title 14 to better service students with dyslexia. The act requires that dyslexia interventions be evidence based, and it allows students with severe dyslexia to obtain a waiver from state assessments.
Florida: State lawmakers passed legislation allowing for John McKay Scholarships, assisting IEP or 504 students in paying for private school or attending a public school (other than what was assigned). Dyslexia is defined and dyslexia intervention procedures are detailed in State Board of Education Rule 6A-6.03018.
Georgia: No specific dyslexia legislation.
Hawaii: SB 2217, passed in 2010, promotes awareness of dyslexia and establishes a task force to develop a comprehensive policy to improve awareness of and strengthen support for persons with dyslexia.
Idaho: No specific dyslexia legislation.
Illinois: Illinois passed HB 3700 in 2014, providing for assessment, professional development, and intervention for dyslexia. The bill requires that professional development include training in multisensory, systematic, and sequential reading instruction.
Indiana: In 2015, Indiana passed HB 1108, which defines dyslexia, requires guideline development for teacher training programs, and provides for teacher training specific to dyslexia.
Iowa: Senate File 2319 is the state’s first dyslexia law. Dyslexia is defined, and the law states that professional development instruction on dyslexia is to be provided by the state department . The training portion of the bill has not yet been funded.
Kansas: HB 5015, passed in 2008, endeavors to better serve children with reading problems, including dyslexia. The bill supports early screening for reading disabilities, implementation of best educational practices, and greater parent access to information. The follow-up legislation designed to review the findings of HB 5015 died in committee in 2012.
Kentucky: Kentucky passed HB 69 in 2012. This bill defines dyslexia as well as other processing disorders and requires implementation of district-wide reporting on the use of K–3 RTI. Interventions must leverage scientifically based research.
Louisiana: Unique among the states, Louisiana law is based on a civil code. The need to create education codes means dyslexia testing has been codified since 1986. A requested review of procedural effectiveness in educating students with dyslexia was voted on and passed in as a resolution 2010 . SCR 62, also a Resolution, monitors compliance among schools and districts in implementing state dyslexia laws.
Maine: The needle on dyslexia moved in Maine in 2015 with the passage of LD 231. This bill defined dyslexia, mandated elementary age screening, detailed screening requirements, and provided for a dyslexia consultant at the state level.
Maryland: In 2015, Maryland passed HB 278, a bill which established a dyslexia task force to study the implementation of a dyslexia education program.
Massachusetts: Massachusetts law has exempted students with dyslexia from college aptitude entrance exams since 1983 via Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 15A section 30.
Michigan: No specific dyslexia legislation. On October 6, 2016 , the governor of Michigan signed a law that prohibits students who read below grade level from advancing to 4th grade.
Minnesota: Dyslexia entered the official state lexicon in 2015 via 125A.01 . In 2016, dyslexia language was added to 120B.12, a reading proficiency law. Districts are now required to annually report their efforts to identify and evaluate students with dyslexia.
Mississippi: HB 1494 provides funds for educator training, including dyslexia training. HB 1031, passed in 2012, allows students enrolled in schools with no dyslexia programs to transfer to schools that have appropriate programs.
Missouri: The two bills relevant to dyslexia in Missouri are HB 1614 and 167.268. 1614 adds dyslexia to the special needs definition for purposes of Bryce’s Law which provides scholarships for students with special needs. 167.268 provides for dyslexia screening and a task force.
Montana: No specific dyslexia legislation.
Nebraska: No specific dyslexia legislation.
Nevada: Assembly Bill 341, passed in 2015, revises provisions relating to pupils with disabilities and requires school districts to administer early literacy screenings. Additional dyslexia testing was authorized under this bill, as was required professional development regarding dyslexia.
New Hampshire: In June 2016, the governor of New Hampshire signed HB 1644 into law. This bill defines dyslexia, requires screening, and establishes a state reading specialist position.
New Jersey: In 2012, New Jersey passed a slate of bills relating to dyslexia. SB 2441 requires the state to provide dyslexia specific professional development opportunities to teachers. SB 2439 defines dyslexia. SB 2442 requires universal kindergarten screening . Senate Resolution 91 encourages the state to develop a reading disability endorsement.
New Mexico: New Mexico passed House Joint Measure 43 in 2009, requesting that dyslexia be added to the state definition of disabilities. In 2010, HB 230 passed, requiring interventions for students displaying characteristics of dyslexia.
New York: No specific dyslexia legislation. Legislation is pending for teacher training and early screening.
North Carolina: No specific dyslexia legislation.
North Dakota: No specific dyslexia legislation.
Ohio: HB 157 and HB 96, both of which passed in 2011, represent Ohio dyslexia legislation. HB 157 provides for professional development in dyslexia, and HB 96 names dyslexia as a specific learning disability.
Oklahoma: HB 96 (2011–2012 ) requires dyslexia screening. HB 3073 established a pilot program for dyslexia training.
Oregon: In a big shift for the state, Oregon passed SB 612 in August 2015. The bill requires student screening, and it ensures that each school will have at least one specially trained teacher. Districts must now designate a dyslexia specialist.
Pennsylvania: In 2014, Pennsylvania passed AB 69, requiring dyslexia screening and launching a pilot program . It requires an evaluation of early reading assistance programs.
Rhode Island: SB 2609 created a special legislative commission in 2011 to assess the educational needs of students with dyslexia, and in 2014, HB 7447 created a seven-member panel to conduct a comprehensive study of student educational outcomes. In 2015, that seven-member panel was increased and their deadline extended. HB 7542, passed in 2012, defines dyslexia and appropriate interventions .
South Carolina: SJR 241 established a dyslexia task force.
South Dakota: No specific dyslexia legislation.
Tennessee: A new bill, called the #SayDyslexia Bill , was signed into law in 2016. This bill amends the “Dyslexia is Real” bill passed in 2014, which defined dyslexia. The new provisions for dyslexia require universal screening, remove requirements that funding come from RTI2, and permit parents/guardians/counselors/teachers to request screening at any time. The law also provides for professional development on dyslexia .
Texas: Texas has a number of laws dealing with dyslexia. The first, passed in 1995, is Texas Education Code Section 38.003, detailing screening and treatment for dyslexia. House Resolution 1790 defines dyslexia officially and requires teacher training on it. HB 3382 provides for adaptive instructional materials . HB 461 regulates dyslexia practitioners and requires licensure. SB 866 amends the Texas education code regarding the requirements of teacher training. SB 867 grants testing accommodations for any state licensing exam . SB 1264 requires reporting of the number of students with dyslexia in each district.
Utah: SB 117, passed in 2015, created a pilot program to provide interventions for students at risk for or experiencing reading difficulties, including dyslexia. Dyslexia was officially defined. The pilot program also provides for professional development on dyslexia for teachers.
Vermont: In their Special Education Rules, Section 2362.2.5 articulates additional procedures for Identifying Children with Specific Learning Disabilities and uses the term Dyslexia as a condition included in the definition of SLD. 2362.1 Categories of Disability.
Virginia: The Senate passed Joint Resolution 87 in 2010 to study dyslexia screening for kindergartners. In 2016, HB 842 stated that starting in 2017, teachers must receive dyslexia training as part of teacher preparation and licensure.
Washington: SB 5664, passed in 2005, allows for certain special education training credits to be applicable to the teacher salary schedule, including instructional strategies for students with dyslexia. In 2010, SB 6016 created a new section of code aimed at developing new educator training programs for dyslexia and intervention.
West Virginia: In 2014, West Virginia amended state code through SB 421/HB4068, requiring a definition of dyslexia consistent with that of the International Dyslexia Association.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin passed ACT 166 in 2014. This bill requires passing the Foundations of Reading Teacher Licensure Exam for all K–5 teachers, special educators, or reading specialists.
Wyoming: The state of Wyoming amended state code to provide for assessment and early intervention for children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties.
Many of the state laws passed in the last 48 months can be credited directly to the rise of Decoding Dyslexia, a grassroots collection of parents and educators working tirelessly to improve the state of dyslexia legislation.
Dyslexia Help, U Mich. "Know Your Rights: IDEA and State Law." Dyslexia Help at the University of Michigan. Accessed October 10, 2016. http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/dyslexics/living-with-dyslexia/school/know-your-rights.
IDA Board of Directors. "Definition of Dyslexia." International Dyslexia Association. Accessed October 10, 2016. https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/.
Youman, M., & Mather, N. (2012). Dyslexia laws in the USA. Annals of Dyslexia Ann. of Dyslexia, 63(2), 133–153. doi:10.1007/s11881-012-0076-2.
"Practices for Identifying and Treating Dyslexia—State Dyslexia Legislation & Regulations Updated January 2016." Decoding Dyslexia MD. January 2016. Accessed September 2016. http://www.decodingdyslexiamd.org/uploads/1/7/7/2/17722255/enacted_2015_state_dyslexia_laws.pdf.
"President Signs Dyslexia Bill Into Law." Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. February 18, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016. https://science.house.gov/news/press-releases/president-signs-dyslexia-bill-law.
"State Dyslexia Laws." Dyslegia: A Legislative Information Site. 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016. http://www.dyslegia.com/.