Early dyslexia screening leads to better education outcomes

The most common of all neuro-cognitive disorders, dyslexia, affects 20 percent of the population and represents 80-90 percent of those with learning disabilities. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children in school are dyslexic but not all of those students, only about 5%, are identified as such. 

While intensive dyslexia interventions are most effective when they begin in kindergarten or first grade, oftentimes dyslexia goes undetected until 3rd or 4th grade, if at all. Experts agree that early reading problems can manifest as serious reading disabilities later on so it is vital that students are screened for dyslexia when they enter school

What’s more, studies show children with dyslexia and other similar learning disabilities are three times more likely to drop out of high school, leading to less lifetime earnings and a greater likelihood of living in poverty.

Early detection can mean the difference between success and failure for many students with dyslexia. To make sure all students get the best start possible, Illinois State Representative Jackie Haas has introduced HB 4632, legislation that would require school districts to screen all students for dyslexia when they begin their education.

Haas believes early screening will lead to better outcomes for students with dyslexia, in school and life. “It is our job to provide all students with a quality education,” said Haas. “We can’t do that if students with dyslexia are not identified.”

While there is an initial dollar cost to school districts for early dyslexia screenings, many agree, it outweighs the costs associated with remediation, the treatment of accompanying psychological and medical problems, and the long term impact when students dropout of school.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) defines dyslexia as a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. 

Currently, ISBE recognizes dyslexia as a disability and has enacted administrative rules requiring children suspected of having dyslexia or who are identified as dyslexic to be referred for evaluation. However, the real trick is identifying children at the earliest stage so appropriate interventions can be introduced as soon as possible. That’s the gap Representative Haas' legislation will fill.