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Ranking Member Cassidy, Hickenlooper Introduce 21st Century Dyslexia Act

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) introduced the 21st Century Dyslexia Act. This legislation works to incorporate the modern, scientific understanding of dyslexia into federal statute and prevent the harm unidentified dyslexia can inflict on young students.  

“We know how to teach a student with dyslexia and help them reach their full potential. Unfortunately, a student is often not screened for dyslexia until after they have already fallen behind, if at all,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This legislation brings a 21st century approach to dyslexia based on science that allows children with dyslexia to achieve their God-given potential.”  

“Kids with dyslexia are best served by being diagnosed and helped early on, but that can’t happen without screening and awareness. A modern approach will bring students the critical early assistance that many of us never got,” said Senator Hickenlooper

U.S. Representatives Erin Houchin (R-IN) and Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

“I’ve been continually disappointed in how students with Dyslexia are left to fend for themselves in our education system. I remember the years of sleepless nights and wrong information that delayed my own son’s diagnosis, and ultimately delayed his ability to receive appropriate accommodations. Our family’s story isn’t unique, which is why the 21st Century Dyslexia Act is necessary,” said Representative Houchin.  

“For far too long, students with dyslexia have faced a mountain of obstacles to learn in a way that’s best suited to them. Educators weren’t properly trained and parents often felt powerless to help their children who struggled with dyslexia. I’ve been honored to meet many of these students and parents during my time as the co-chair of the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, and I know that their futures are bright when we equip them with the tools they need for success. I’m proud to once again lead this important legislation alongside Congresswoman Houchin and Dyslexia Caucus Co-Chair Brownley, and I hope it serves as a roadmap for raising dyslexia awareness and giving schools across the country the right resources to educate the next generation,” said Representative Westerman.   

Currently, dyslexia is included as one of many neurocognitive differences under “Specific Learning Disabilities” (SLD) in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Despite dyslexia being the most prevalent neurocognitive difference within SLD, students are rarely tested. This prevents them from getting the services and accommodations necessary to assist dyslexic students learning to read. When children are not identified with dyslexia, evidence shows lifelong harm can occur, including lower career wages, reduced graduation rates, and increased rates of incarceration.   

This legislation helps students by pulling dyslexia out of the overly broad definition of SLD and including it in the list of disabilities that define a “child with a disability,” thus classifying dyslexia as its own category within IDEA.  

“As physician-scientists dedicated to improving the lives of children who are dyslexic, we give a loud shout out to the 21st Century Dyslexia Act. Hurray! At long last education relating to dyslexia is aligned with the latest scientific advances; this act incorporates into federal education law the great advances in the science of dyslexia. Most importantly it recognizes that dyslexia is a specific, scientifically well defined entity in contrast to the mixed bag, relatively poorly characterized term “specific learning disability” in current federal law. Much needed good will emerge from this ACT; it will allow the one in five students who are dyslexic to finally be identified by their schools, know that their difficulty has a name and that slow readers can also be fast thinkers and successful in life. The 21st Century Dyslexia Act will encourage schools to not only identify dyslexia but to also provide evidence-based interventions to children with dyslexia who make up 20% of the school-age population, over 11 million children in our country. The 21st Century Dyslexia Act is a well-deserved, too long withheld gift not only to those who are dyslexic but also to their teachers, parents and community who will all benefit from the alignment of dyslexia with 21st century science. Thank you to the legislators who support this bill and make such progress possible,” said Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D. and Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D., Co-Directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

Click here for the one pager and here for an FAQ on the legislation.


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