Ohio Advances Early Identification and Support for Students with Dyslexia

August 25, 2023

Starting this Fall, Ohio’s Dyslexia Law mandates that schools take a more holistic approach to dyslexia. For starters, school districts will have to screen all children in grades K-3 and students grades 4-6, if requested by parents, for dyslexia. This screening is called a Tier 1 Dyslexia Screening.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is defined by Ohio Revised Code Section 3323.25 as:

“A specific learning disorder that is neurological in origin and that is characterized by unexpected difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities not consistent with the person’s intelligence, motivation, and sensory capabilities.”

Students with dyslexia have problems with speech sounds, decoding words and reading fluency. While there is no single test for dyslexia, screening will help identify students at risk. Districts will then notify parents if their student is at risk and provide intervention. Those students will be closely monitored for several weeks to see if progress is occurring. Early intervention can truly remediate dyslexia, and those students who receive intervention can advance as readers. Conversely, those students who do not receive early intervention can, and often do, struggle throughout their education, which can cause frustration with learning and low self-esteem.

Structured Literacy Programs

Early identification of dyslexia is just the start of Ohio’s new mandates. Also beginning this Fall, schools must develop structured literacy programs. Structured literacy demands an explicit and systematic research-based approach to reading instruction. One commonly known method of structured literacy is the Orton Gillingham method, which is a phonics based approach to reading. Another method, Wilson, calls for a multisensory approach to reading. As for which approach is better, Wilson is thought of as being more structured and Orton Gillingham has more flexibility. Either method has proved to be effective to remediate dyslexia. Regardless, schools will have to adopt and be trained in a structured literacy program.

In order to deliver this type of curriculum, teachers will have to be trained to teach structured literacy to students. All teachers (except fine arts and physical education) will need 18 hours of training. Several districts have created their own course to train teachers and intervention specialists.

Tiered Approaches

Finally, Ohio’s new law requires a tiered approach to handling the level of intervention given to students. As discussed above, Tier 1 requires screening for all students. Tier 2 and Tier 3 provide a higher level of support for those students who need intervention in reading. Students are supposed to be monitored to make sure that they are making progress. It should be noted that these students are receiving interventions through the general education system. However, parents should be aware that some students might require special education delivered through an individualized education plan (IEP).

All information about this new law is explained in Ohio’s Dyslexia Guidebook. Ohio’s Dyslexia Guidebook is an excellent resource for families to understand how Ohio’s law will now identify and provide support to those students identified as needing early intervention for Dyslexia. The Guidebook will also provide definitions and explanations for so many concepts that can be new and confusing for parents.

For further questions or concerns, please contact Student & Athlete Defense Attorneys Susan Stone (SCS@kjk.com; 216.736.7220) or Kristina Supler (KWS@kjk.com; 216.736.7217).