Melanie Holtsman via Flickr/Creative Commons

Decoding Dyslexia Oregon is pushing for legislation that would require dyslexia screening for young children and more training for teachers on how to engage kids who are dyslexic. The bill, which had a hearing Tuesday, also calls on the Oregon Department of Education to hire a dyslexia specialist.

Decoding Dyslexia Oregon volunteer advocate Jen Cappalonga trained as a special education teacher and has a dyslexic child. She says early screening can make a difference for children like her son who struggle with dyslexia to get the help they need. When she inquired about what she saw as early warning signs in her son, she says she was told that dyslexia could not be identified until a child had already fallen behind significantly in school. Cappalonga described that as a “wait-to-fail model.” Her son was diagnosed at age seven and now, with the help of tutoring, she says he reads at or above grade level.

Cappalonga says her experience also speaks to the need for teacher training. When she was a high school teacher, she says she saw a lot of students who showed signs of dyslexia. “I thought it was important for me to speak up and say, ‘I was a teacher, I was special education trained, and I wasn’t taught about dyslexia.’”

Oregon Education Association president Hanna Vaanderling indicated that the teachers’ union would like to see some changes to the bill when it comes to the teacher training requirements. “What we want to ensure is that it’s the right training at the right time for the right people,” she said, explaining that the union will work with the bill’s proponents to ensure “that it doesn’t mandate training that’s not necessary.”