SB117: Dyslexia bill would create pilot program


By Melissa Taylor
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – Parents, teachers, and fellow children stood in support of SB117, as Aran Pollard, an 8-year-old Utah student, was recognized by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Salt Lake City, on the Senate floor recently.

SB117, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, creates a pilot program to help students with reading difficulties, including dyslexia.

“[Aran] has dyslexia, and that is a gift, but it’s also a challenge for people in learning to read and Senator Osmond’s bill provides special interventions for children who have this special gift,” Stephenson told the Senate.

The bill has two components: professional development to help teachers to identify dyslexia in their classrooms and literacy tools provided to help kids realize there are things that can be done to help them learn how to read effectively earlier on in their education.

“It’s important that we do this early,” Osmond said on the Senate floor. “By the time they get to fourth, fifth, or sixth grade, then we’ve missed the ideal time to do that intervention and it costs a lot more money and time to help these kids overcome this challenge.”

The bill has been supported by the grassroots movement organization, Decoding Dyslexia Utah. The movement was inspired by Utah families in search of better educational access for students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities in Utah public schools. Vice President of Decoding Dyslexia, Randa Alvord, said that the organization seeks to raise awareness and advocate for policy change in Utah on behalf of dyslexics.

“Here in the state of Utah, 80 percent of people with a learning disability are individuals with dyslexia and there are many more dyslexics not being serviced in special education,” Alvord said. “[We] believe that early intervention and teacher training is key to changing these statistics.”

Alvord became an advocate for Decoding Dyslexia because her twin sons have dyslexia. She reached out to Decoding Dyslexia New Jersey to try and get the organization started in Utah.

“I wanted other parents not to have to go through what I went through and to not be alone in the process,” Alvord said. “I did it for the kids–others and mine. These children have such potential and the current education system is not providing them with the education that they need.”

The organization held an event on Feb. 20 during which awards were given to outstanding teachers, and an eighth grade student gave a speech about his struggle with dyslexia. A video was shown that Decoding Dyslexia Utah has been working on for the last year.

“Through the process [of our video] we honor those brave children who allowed their face to be shown, and also the many others that are going through the struggle as well,” Alvord said.

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