Moms pressing lawmakers to make dyslexia training a requirement for Virginia teachers

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In December, 8News exposed schools in our area were struggling to identify and assist students with dyslexia. It impacts one in five kids.

Now, there’s new legislation aimed at changing that.

Two bills — one in the House and one in the Senate — are moving forward in the General Assembly. The bills would require universities and colleges to play a bigger role in preparing teachers.

Pressing lawmakers to pass the measures is Chesterfield mom Lorraine Hightower.

“Dyslexia is not a new challenge for kids, it’s been around for over 50 years,” she said.

She and several other local moms with the grassroots group ‘Decoding Dyslexia’ have been working with lawmakers to get dyslexic students in Virginia the assistance they need.

“My son is 13 and when he was in the lower grades, his teachers — not only did they not have the training to work with him — they really didn’t know what dyslexia was,” Hightower explained.

An 8News investigation talking with multiple parents and students uncovered while schools in Virginia are supposed to have a dyslexia advisor on hand, it doesn’t always happen.

“I do feel like at my new school most of my teachers have tried to help but they don’t know how to help,” Henrico 6th grader Allie Florence said.

The big problem has been finding teachers or reading specialists with any experience in it.

“Our teachers in most of the colleges around the country don’t get that kind education,” explained Jenna Hynes, the mother of a dyslexic student in Henrico Schools.

8News has learned most college courses for educators devote only a page or less to identifying dyslexia. However, it is a fairly common condition that sometimes has students reversing letters or struggling to decode words.

“I think people are surprised that reading specialists don’t have this information,” says Rebecca Warner with Decoding Dyslexia.

The moms say that is why they are pushing the two bills that would require colleges and universities in the state to provide training in identifying and accommodating students with dyslexia for anyone seeking a degree as a reading specialist.

“The bills this year really represent a front end approach where we are getting teachers trained in the science of reading up front, so they can get hit the ground running when they are in schools,” says Hynes.

The bills have the support of the Virginia State PTA.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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