HARRISBURG, June 5, 2013 – State Senator Sean D. Wiley and State Rep. Ed Neilson today discussed pending legislation aimed at earlier diagnosis of dyslexia in the public school system.

Wiley, D-Erie, and Neilson, D-Philadelphia, have introduced similar legislation in their respective chambers to establish a Dyslexia Screening Pilot Program in at least three Pennsylvania school districts.

“These bills present the opportunity to do the right thing for children while doing the most efficient thing for taxpayers,” Wiley said. “Identifying dyslexia in students at a young age could save schools millions, and what it could do for a child is priceless.”

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Dyslexia is a developmental reading disorder that affects as much as 20 percent of the population, but many are not diagnosed and treated until they have struggled through the school system and countless remedial programs.
Earlier diagnosis of the disorder could allow educators to focus on successful strategies for treating it, sparing students and parents’ frustration and emotional strain.

“It is possible that a lot of what could be dismissed as laziness or behavior problems is the result of an undiagnosed learning disorder,” Wiley said. “If a pilot program successfully identifies dyslexia at an early age, it could save school districts from dealing with disruption and discipline and it could save families a lot of stress. It’s definitely worth exploring.”

Wiley and Neilson discussed the legislation at a news conference in the Capitol Media Center today.
“If left undiagnosed or untreated, dyslexia can have a devastating effect on a child’s performance in school and later in life,” Neilson said. “Screening and intervention efforts have been shown to offer these children a real opportunity to overcome this challenge and have a real chance at leading a successful life.”

Under Senate Bill 873 or House Bill 198, the state Department of Education would oversee the screening program and evaluate its effectiveness. Three years after implementation, the Secretary of Education would submit and evaluation of the effort to the General Assembly, including whether the program should be expanded to more districts.

“This is a measured and methodical approach to address a difficult problem, Wiley said. “It could be a model for other efforts to reform our school system to provide better outcomes at a lower cost.”

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