New dyslexia guidelines available online

The California Department of Education recently released the new “California Dyslexia Guidelines” online to help educators and parents recognize the signs of dyslexia and ensure that dyslexic students receive an equitable education.

The new guidelines are a result of Assembly Bill 1369, a law which took effect Jan. 1, 2016. The bill required the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop program guidelines for dyslexia that would be accessible to regular education teachers, special education teachers and parents by the 2017–18 school year. A group of experts worked on the guidelines for a year, and the resulting document includes information on the learning disability, screening and assessment, special education and 504 plans, assistive technology and more.

Dyslexia is a neurobiological learning disability that affects approximately 15 percent of the nation’s population, according to the International Dyslexia Association. More than one million students in California’s K-12 public schools have some signs of dyslexia. Of these, approximately 220,000 are receiving special education services under the category of a Specific Learning Disability in the area of reading, according to the grassroots organization Decoding Dyslexia CA. Students with dyslexia have difficulties with accurately and/or fluently recognizing words, spelling and decoding. It is not a reflection of intelligence levels, and many dyslexic people learn coping mechanisms to help them become successful readers. Dyslexia often occurs alongside other conditions such as dysgraphia, dyscalculia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or an oral language disorder.

The learning disability can present as early as first grade, and educators are encouraged to screen students as early as possible. An early diagnosis is key to keeping students from falling behind and guaranteeing that they receive focused, evidence-based intervention. Dyslexic students are not automatically eligible to receive special education — the new guidelines provide information about the process for determining a student’s best educational path.

School board members are encouraged to view the guidelines and share them within their school communities. The new CDE guidelines can be viewed here.

For a general overview of special education in California, check out “Special & Equal: An Inclusive Vision for Educating Students with Disabilities,” a feature story in the Spring 2017 issue of California Schools magazine.