Dyslexia is a learning disorder impacting millions of children worldwide, most commonly characterized as difficulty reading. As October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, OMLO’s Special Education Practice has summarized recent legislation in California regarding dyslexia in order to help provide the best outcomes for students, their families, and the districts we serve.
In 2015, California passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1369 into law. AB 1369 includes two parts:
- It required the California Superintendent of Instruction to develop program guidelines for dyslexia. These guidelines are to be used to assist regular education teachers, special education teachers, and parents to identify and assess pupils with dyslexia, and to plan, provide, evaluate, and improve educational services to pupils with dyslexia.
- It required the State Board of Education include “phonological processing” in the description of basic “psychological processes” when assessing students for special education eligibility. This section of the law went into effect January 1, 2016. This is important because difficulties with phonological processing is one of the key features of dyslexia.
The California Dyslexia Guidelines
The California Dyslexia Guidelines were published by the California Department of Education (CDE) in 2017. In furtherance of AB 1369, CDE was also required to develop and disseminate the guidelines in time for use no later than the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. The California Dyslexia Guidelines can be found on the CDE’s website here.
The guidelines are not mandatory, but they offer practical methods to identify and comprehensively assess students with dyslexia that are likely to assist local educational agencies (LEAs), including school districts and county offices of education, in complying with the “child find” mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to identify, locate and evaluate all children with disabilities to ensure that they receive special education and related services if they qualify.
In addition to practical methods to identify students with dyslexia, the guidelines also contain tools for comprehensive assessments and evidence-based interventions. Advice and tools offered in the guidelines include:
- Universal screenings, beginning in kindergarten and continuing each year, increase the likelihood of early identification of and intervention for students with dyslexia. The guidelines’ extensive list of dyslexia characteristics, broken down by age group and grade level, will support classroom teachers in screening for students with dyslexia.
- Assessments must cover essential reading, writing and spoken language areas, such as phonological awareness, encoding, reading comprehension and rapid naming. Speech and language pathologists and school psychologists can refer to the guidelines’ appendix of assessment tools and instruments to measure students’ phonological processing abilities when they assess for special education eligibility.
- In addition to practical instruction on teaching methods, the guidelines suggest various accommodations and assistive technology that may help students with dyslexia fully participate in the classroom.
- The guidelines also note that a student who has dyslexia does not necessarily need special education or related services and is not automatically eligible for services. However, the guidelines remind LEAs not to delay evaluating a student for special education eligibility if the LEA suspects or has reason to suspect that the student has dyslexia and needs special education as a result.
The guidelines provide an opportunity for school districts to identify students who are struggling, provide interventions and ensure compliance with laws protecting students with disabilities. In that regard, we recommend that districts review the eligibility criteria for specific learning disabilities, with special attention paid to phonological processing and dyslexia.
OMLO will continue to monitor these developments carefully. This article is for informational purposes only and only provides an overview of specific developments. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation. For actual legal advice and specifics pertaining to your governmental entity, please contact your OMLO attorney for assistance.