MADISON (WKOW) — Wisconsin Institute for Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia says school districts currently don’t have tools for teachers when they need to help students with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a type of learning disability where individuals often have difficulties with word recognition and spelling.
A new proposal introduced by Rep. Bob Kulp (R-Stratford) would change how teachers learn about the reading disorder. Legislation would require the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to create a handbook for parents, teachers, and administrators on how to detect and assist students with dyslexia and other conditions. A separate bill would create a new position at DPI to hire a dyslexia specialist to support school districts and students. Under the proposal, the specialist would make a yearly salary of $95,000.
Current law doesn’t mandate school districts work with dyslexic students. Most parents are often referred to an outside specialist like the Wisconsin Institute for Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia (WILDD). Ervin Carpenter is the co-founder and executive director and says too often teachers and parents come looking for answers.
“If you say dyslexia to a school district they say, we don’t work with that and we don’t deal with it,” said Carpenter. “Most of the time teachers (say) they are not prepared to teach these kids, not even special education teachers…. saying they don’t have the skills to teach these students how to read.”
According to the International Dyslexia Association dyslexia includes problems in “reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
Carpenter said an annual class to help children and adults with dyslexia can cost upward to $6,000. They do provide financial assistance based on a families income and the reading level of the individual. If these bill pass he’s not concerned he would lose business, instead, he hopes it spreads awareness that dyslexia is treatable.
The bills have yet to be heard at the education committee. Carpenter says most in the field are supportive of these bills but fears some lawmakers are opposed because of how much a new DPI position would cost.
Other professionals said catching dyslexia at an early age is ideal and putting additional resources in the classrooms can help fill an achievement gap. Ann Malone is a Co-President at International Dyslexia Association (IDA) – Wisconsin Branch who said children who have difficulty reading tend to avoid it because it’s a chore.
“Avoiding reading impedes the growth of vocabulary and limits exposure to the new ideas and concepts that are so important to the understanding the curriculum at the upper elementary level and beyond,” according to IDA website.
The Department of Public Instruction did not respond to requests for comment. Governor Tony Evers office said they are reviewing the legislation.