has made 14 trips from North Canton to Columbus in the past year as she's advocated for — a bill encourages Ohio's Educational Service Centers to hire dyslexia specialists to provide training for K-4 teachers to help them work with dyslexic children.
The North Canton resident and certified academic language therapist has worked alongside co-sponsors Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, and Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren. Their hard work led to the bill passing unanimously in the House June 22.
It then headed to the Ohio Senate, which approved it Wednesday with a vote of 90-1. The bill will go into effect shortly after being signed.
Below Tolson talks about her victory and what it means for Ohio students.
North Canton Patch: What was your reaction to the bill passing?
Rebecca Tolson: Ecstatic. Really ecstatic. I’m very excited. It is definitely a victory for my organization and for all the individuals I’ve been serving who’ve suffered with a learning disability and live with it every day.
North Canton Patch: The Ohio Senate passed the bill with a 90-1 vote, and the Ohio House of Representatives a 97-0 vote. Why do you think legislators were so supportive of this?
Tolson: Our testimony was very emotional. We had experts in the field. We had doctors, neurologists, licensed psychologists, language therapists like myself. And most important were the parents. The parents struggled getting services through the school and getting assessments done and, most importantly, the treatment. … Fifteen to 20 percent of each classroom is affected. That means that percentage of students is a struggling reader from mild to moderate to severe. When the legislators put it all together, realizing how many parents and families were affected, it was sold.
And it was being faithful. It was being consistent. It was being there. We were a voice — a united voice — and we were serious about what we were trying to do.
North Canton Patch: What do you hope schools and Ohio’s Educational Service Centers do now?
Tolson: We’ve already had some calls. We’re actually getting a good response. Stark County Educational Service Center has responded all along. They were the model ESC in the state, already running this for a full year. We modeled the bill after them. They’ve committed to more trainings and offering more classes for teachers in the region. Different ESCs across the state would like to run trainings, so I think from here we are standardizing our information we’re going to be presenting, which is based off the research.
Another avenue would be online classes. That’s something to look for is some opportunities for teachers to take online classes as well.
North Canton Patch: Anything else you’d like to add?
Tolson: I can’t emphasize enough the support of this community and this ESC, and just that they took a leap in helping us move forward as a state.