Commissioner Wayne Lewis

Commissioner Wayne Lewis

By some estimates, 1 in 5 students in this country have a language-based learning disability, the most common of which is dyslexia. In Kentucky, that amounts to up to 130,000 students sitting in classrooms who may be struggling to master learning how to read or comprehend what they have read.

Dyslexia occurs in individuals from all walks of life and is, in no way, connected to how intelligent a person is. The proportion of boys and girls who exhibit symptoms of dyslexia is about equal and so far, we are not really sure what the exact cause of dyslexia is.

What we are sure about is early identification of children who are showing signs of dyslexia is key. Those first three or four years of school when a child is learning how to read are crucial for helping them reach their full potential. If a child is not reading on grade level by the 3rd grade – the point where children stop learning to read and begin reading to learn – it becomes more difficult for them to keep pace with their peers and leaves them at greater risk of dropping out of high school before they graduate.

The Kentucky Department of Education recently released a K-3 Dyslexia Toolkit for families and teachers. This 20-page document provides guidance for teachers about how to identify and provide support for children who have dyslexia. For parents, it provides information about what kinds of support their child is entitled to and how they can be a part of that process.

The toolkit was developed in response to The Ready to Read Act (House Bill 187, 2018), a bipartisan effort spearheaded by former State Rep. Addia Wuchner that was aimed at decreasing the education barriers students with dyslexia face. The bill took aim at increasing educators’ knowledge of the characteristics of dyslexia; appropriate teaching strategies to use when instructing students with dyslexia; and established a process for identifying individual learning needs.

Reading is an essential life skill – the basis for all other learning – which impacts success throughout school and beyond. Therefore, it is imperative teachers and families are equipped with appropriate tools to recognize the signs of dyslexia and the practices necessary to bridge this learning difficulty.

If diagnosed and addressed early, children with dyslexia can learn and thrive just as other children. Preparing teachers to identify the characteristics of dyslexia and getting them the tools to support students is critical. Without diagnosis and intervention, children with dyslexia are at a distinct disadvantage in school and later in the workforce. This toolkit will serve as a resource and will hopefully have long-term benefits for Kentuckians for years to come.

To see a recorded webinar about the dyslexia toolkit, visit the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) media portal. The toolkit is available on the KDE website.