December 2, 2021

Cassidy, Colleagues Introduce 21st Century Dyslexia Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today introduced the 21st Century Dyslexia Act. This legislation aims to bring our modern, scientific understanding of dyslexia to federal statute and prevent the harm inflicted on young students when their dyslexia goes unidentified.

“Dyslexia has no impact on a student’s intelligence,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We know how to teach a student with dyslexia how to read and reach their full potential, but we have to identify their need before they fall behind.”

“While dyslexia is more manageable today than ever before, a lack of early detection threatens the success of far too many students,” said Senator Scott. “By clearly defining dyslexia and working to diagnose it earlier, this bill will bring us one step closer to ensuring all young Americans are equipped with the tools needed to achieve their dreams.”

“It is a priority of mine in Congress to help children with learning disabilities access the help they need to thrive as a student. I’m honored to cosponsor the 21st Century Dyslexia Act, which aims to modernize how we educate school children with dyslexia. This legislation has the potential to improve the learning experiences of millions of students who will go on to achieve success in academia,” said Senator Braun.

Currently, dyslexia is included as one of many disabilities under “Specific Learning Disabilities” (SLD) in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). SLD is the most common disability category for children covered under IDEA, representing more than 33 percent of these students. However, despite dyslexia being the most prevalent disability within SLD, students are rarely diagnosed with dyslexia. This prevents them from getting the services and accommodations necessary to assist dyslexic students learning to read. When children are not identified with dyslexia, evidence shows that lifelong harm is done, resulting in lower career wagesreduced graduation rates, and even increased rates of incarceration

This legislation helps students and solves the problem by pulling dyslexia out of the overly broad definition of SLD and including it in the list of disabilities included in the definition of a “child with a disability,” thus classifying dyslexia as its own category within IDEA. In doing so, the 21st Century Dyslexia Act provides a clear definition of dyslexia, which is the same definition that was adopted in the First Step Act of 2018.

“As physician-scientists dedicated to improving the lives of children who are dyslexic, we give a loud shout out to the 21st Century Dyslexia Act. Hurray! At long last education relating to dyslexia is aligned with the latest scientific advances; this act incorporates into federal education law the great advances in the science of dyslexia. Most importantly it recognizes that dyslexia is a specific, scientifically well defined entity in contrast to the mixed bag, relatively poorly characterized term “specific learning disability” in current federal law. Much needed good will emerge from this ACT; it will allow the one in five students who are dyslexic to finally be identified by their schools, know that their difficulty has a name and that slow readers can also be fast thinkers and successful in life. The 21st Century Dyslexia Act will encourage schools to not only identify dyslexia but to also provide evidence-based interventions to children with dyslexia who make up 20% of the school-age population, over 11 million children in our country. The 21st Century Dyslexia Act is a well-deserved, too long withheld gift not only to those who are dyslexic but also to their teachers, parents and community who will all benefit from the alignment of dyslexia with 21st century science. Thank you to the legislators who support this bill and make such progress possible,” said Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D. and Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D., Co-Directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.