A law that went into effect over the summer will soon help identify at an early age and assist Georgia students with dyslexia and other learning disorders.
In May, Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 48 into law to create more support for students with dyslexia in Georgia’s schools. Beginning in 2024, the law will require schools to screen all students in kindergarten for characteristics of dyslexia and other learning disorders, including aphasia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia. It also calls for the screening of first- through third-graders who show signs of dyslexia.
In addition, the law will require the Georgia Department of Education to provide local school systems with a dyslexia information handbook by the end of 2019, as well as ongoing teacher training and professional development opportunities regarding dyslexia.
Before statewide kindergarten screenings begin, the Department of Education will launch a three-year pilot program to address the requirements of the new law. School districts may apply to take part in the identification and intervention pilot program, which will begin in the 2020-2021 school year.
State Sen. John Albers (R-56th District) said in a statement that out of the all the bills passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year, S.B. 48 was of particular importance to him.
“I was proud to see bipartisan support and effort to ensure that this crucial bill became law,” Albers said. “What stood out most during the moving testimonies I heard is that dyslexia may cause difficulties for our children in reading, but it does not prevent our children from thinking.”
Dyslexia affects the language processing portions of the brain. Students with dyslexia often have difficulty reading and spelling words. Other learning disorders include aphasia, which is the loss of ability to understand or express speech; dyscalculia, a difficulty understanding and working with arithmetic; and dysgraphia, a disability that affects handwriting.
The 155th Georgia General Assembly heard from educators, parents, medical professionals and experts in dyslexia before voting overwhelmingly in favor of S.B. 48.
One in five students has a language-based disability, of which dyslexia is the most common, Albers said after hearing from the speakers.
“In its preliminary stages, the bill was assigned to the Education and Youth Committee, where parents, teachers and individuals with dyslexia provided emotional testimonies regarding the lack of support under current policy,” Albers said. “The stories of their struggles only reinforced the importance of providing clear, explicit legislation regarding dyslexia in Georgia’s law… Our children are the future of this great state, and we must do all we can to provide them with a quality education while also addressing their needs as early as possible.”