Ohio House Bill 157 passed unanimously in the House of Representatives with a 97 to 0 vote June 22.
The bill is an advocacy measure for children with dyslexia and was authored by North Canton resident and Certified Academic Language Therapist Rebecca Tolson.
“We’re halfway there,” Tolson said.
Tolson, who has worked alongside the co-sponsors of this bi-partisan bill (Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, and Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren) gave her testimony as a dyslexia specialist June 1 in support of the bill.
According to Schuring’s sponsor testimony April 13, the bill is intended to “assist with early detection and intervention of students with dyslexia,” specifically focusing on early developmental years because that is when detection and intervention are most effective.
Tolson owns a company that provides remedial services to students with dyslexia, and she also teaches professional in-service training on remediation strategies. She knows firsthand how important early identification is so that students don’t fall behind or get discouraged and give up.
National Institute of Health statistics report that of children who display reading difficulties in first grade, 74 percent will be poor readers in ninth grade and carry that difficulty into adulthood if they don't receive the specific types of instruction designed to help a dyslexic student learn to read (strategies like the Orton-Gillingham method, Wilson Language and other multi-sensory approaches).
Up to 20 percent of our student population could be dyslexic, yet dyslexia is identifiable with 92 percent accuracy at ages 5 ½ to 6 ½, Schuring’s testimony pointed out.
Tolson initiated the bill (with the support of the Northern Ohio Branch of the International Dyslexia Association) because she has a passion for helping educators to better understand dyslexia.
“We still have myths out there (even among educators) that dyslexia doesn’t exist — that it’s not a real condition.”
She says some people are afraid of “the label” of dyslexia. House Bill 157 encompasses official definitions for “dyslexia” (provided by Yale Medical Professor Sally Schawitz, author of Overcoming Dyslexia) and “dyslexia specialist” (as someone who is “trained and certified in a multi-sensory structured language program” meeting criteria set by the International Dyslexia Association).
Tolson feels that one reason the bill has been well-received is because it is “permissive” in nature. The bill gives Ohio’s Educational Service Centers “permissive authority." That means it encourages but not necessarily requires them to engage or contract the services of dyslexia specialists to provide training for K-4 teachers on indicators and types of instruction beneficial to children with dyslexia.
Some advocates of this type of teacher training have suggested that the bill would be more effective if it were to require, rather than merely “permit” Educational Service Centers to contract with dyslexia specialists for teacher training.
Tolson’s response: The bill’s passage into a law is a crucial first step. The bill not only defines the neurobiological disability, but gives ESCs the authority to provide training and sets the standard for the type of training and methodologies teachers should receive and learn.
If an Educational Service Center chooses not to offer these types of services, the bill encourages school districts in that ESC’s territory to contract a specialist to provide collaborative training sessions and gives guidelines for doing so, Schuring said.
The bill will move on to the Senate when sessions resume this fall.
Wednesday, Patch will feature the woman behind the House Bill 157 when author and North Canton resident Rebecca Tolson talks about her passion for helping kids become successful readers.