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California Dyslexia Law…
Information for Parents

What is the new law?

California passed AB 1369 into law in 2015.  It includes two parts:

  1. A requirement that the California Superintendent of Instruction develop program guidelines for dyslexia. These are to be used to assist teachers and parents to identify and assess pupils with dyslexia and to plan, provide, evaluate and improve educational services to pupils with dyslexia. The Guidelines were published on August 14, 2017.
  2. A requirement that the State Board of Education include “phonological processing” in the description of basic “psychological processes” when assessing students for special education eligibility. This section of the law went into effect January 1, 2016. This is important because difficulty with phonological processing is one of the key features of dyslexia.

Where can I find the state Dyslexia Guidelines?

You can access the Guidelines on the California Department of Education (CDE) website.  Please note, also, that the article on the home page of the Nor Cal IDA website lists what we feel are ten important-to-know highlights from the guidelines.

How does this law affect me?

This law can affect you in many ways, depending on your circumstances, but here are some important points that you as a parent should know.

  1. If you suspect your child has dyslexia, school districts can no longer say that they do not use that term, or that dyslexia does not exist.  Dyslexia is real, and has actually been included in state law since the 1990s.  This new law, however, states more clearly that schools must recognize dyslexia as a language-based learning disability
  2. Schools are encouraged not to wait until 3rd grade to do intervention work with students who are not learning to read or spell on target with their age or grade.  If your child is struggling to learn to read, talk to the teacher and/or request testing from the school district.
  3. School districts are encouraged to offer training for teachers in identification of dyslexia as well as in the principles of Structured Literacy, a research-based method of teaching students with dyslexia that has been proven successful.  Currently, most classroom teachers and many special education teachers do not have such training.
  4. Schools are also encouraged to screen all children in early grades for dyslexia.

How can I get my child tested?

If you suspect that your child has a learning disability, you can request an evaluation from your school district.  You will need to write a letter explaining that you are requesting a full psychoeducational evaluation from the district.  Additionally, you should document the concerns you have about your student that have prompted you to request the testing.

The school district then has a certain number of days to respond to your request.  Often, the schools create a Student Study Team, and at that point, will sometimes try to say that there is not enough evidence to do testing.  If you are a parent who has good evidence for the difficulties your student is experiencing, you should push for the testing.

Even if your child attends a private school, the district in which the private school resides is required to offer testing, if you have good reason to believe your child has a learning disability.

For more information about testing and advocacy for your student, see the following resources:

  1. Dyslexia Assessment: What is it and how can it help?
  2. Community Alliance for Special Education
  3. Wrights Law website
  4. IDA Dyslexia Handbook: What Every Family Should Know
  5. Right to an Evaluation of a Child for Special Education Services from the LDA website

What is Structured Literacy?

The term Structured Literacy has been adopted by The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and others to describe instructional approaches that teach students explicit and systematic strategies for decoding and spelling words. This term is used to differentiate it from commonly used teaching methods (e.g.,Balanced Literacy or Guided Reading) that have not proven effective with students who have dyslexia.  The State Dyslexia Guidelines recommend that Structured Literacy approaches be used for students with dyslexia. Read more about Structured Literacy.

IDA has published a matrix that lists examples of recommended Structured Literacy programs/approaches with their characteristics.

IDA takes the stance that some form of Structured Literacy is beneficial to all students in primary grades (K-2).  Our position is that this researched-based approach to teaching literacy should be required in all teacher training programs. It should also be part of in-service training for teachers currently working in primary grades.

How can I learn more about this law?  What programs or speakers could we invite to our school to address parents, teachers, and administrators?

Click here to get a list of possible programs and speakers.

What other websites and organizations can be helpful to me, as a parent?

Parents are children’s first and best teachers.  It is important that you do what is necessary to ensure that your child has an appropriate education.  This new law does not mandate that schools offer services for students who might have dyslexia, but it highly encourages schools to address the needs of students with dyslexia.   Become an advocate for your student and others with dyslexia and related learning disabilities.  The following organizations and websites can help in this process.

  1. Decoding Dyslexia CA –  This is a grassroots parent movement that was instrumental in getting this new legislation passed.
  2. IDA Northern California –  The website you are now looking at.  This international organization has a branch in the San Francisco Bay Area that services all of Northern California.  Click on Resources to find referrals for testing and tutoring in your area and also to get a list of Fact Sheets that may be helpful.
  3. Parents Helping Parents –  This organization in San Jose offers a parent support group as well as a series of speakers. PHP also has a large library of assistive technology that can be borrowed, and offers training in assistive technology that may be helpful to your student.

Websites and organizations of interest include:

  1. Understood – This website has many articles of interest, written by experts, on a variety of issues facing students with learning difficulties.
  2. Learning Ally – This organization is a source of audiobooks for students and offers other workshops and support.
  3. Smart Kids with LD – This website has many excellent articles on students with learning disabilities.
  4. Dyslexic Advantage – This website explores the strengths of people with dyslexia.
  5. Support for Families of Children with Disabilities –  This is a San Francisco organization that offers resources, workshops and events for families dealing with a variety of disabilities.
  6. Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity – This website, set up by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, reports on current research, among other topics.
  7. CHC – This organization offers many parent and teacher education programs, including Parents Education Network (PEN) programs.

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