Delaware law expands reading help for students with disabilities

 (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Delaware mom Kim Hamstead is one of many parents whose child struggled to read. 

Hamstead said it began in kindergarten, after her son’s teacher pointed out that the child had difficulty identifying letters and sight words. It was puzzling for Hamstead, who said her son was doing well in all other subjects.

“Typically in the classroom, teachers try to adapt their approach,” explained Hamstead. “Perhaps a child is an auditory learner, which means they learn by hearing the material, or a visual learner, by seeing the material. My son wasn’t responding to either of these typical techniques.”

Through a process called evidence based reading, Hamstead said they we’re able to figure out other ways to help her son learn to read.

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“We learned that there are multi-sensory approaches that are available through these evidence based reading curriculum’s and we were able to get hooked up with the Reading Assist program and it was very effective for my son,” she said. “We had a tutor that had the skills needed to provide the multi-sensory approach as well as a curriculum that would work for him.”

Hamstead said her son, now in the third grade, loves to read and confidently volunteers to read out loud in his classroom.

Recently, Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 229, which will allow IEP student ages 7 and older, the opportunity to participate in reading intervention programs.

Many students with an IEP (individualized education program), have a learning disability such as dyslexia, and struggle to read.

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn explained that the new law will expand the opportunity for reading intervention, making it easier for parents to access the help.

“The goal here is to, number one, ensure the conversation takes place, make sure that educational diagnosticians and others participating in an IEP meeting with children who meet this description have the conversation at the IEP meeting,” Denn explained.

The law will also allow for extended school year and summertime programs.

“Our summer services are not as long as they should be and when you have that gap in the time period of three months, you have a child that could be extremely successful by the time that they have finished that particular grade but going back in September again they have lost something along the way,” explained Sen. Nicole Poore, D-Delaware City, sponsor of the legislation. “So this summer intervention will give the child the opportunity to continue through with what they have gained through that previous year.”

Denn explained that they use age 7 as a reading benchmark because that’s around the age that medical professionals can begin identifying dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

The evidence based reading program will be paid for by a portion of money that the state already allocates to after school and summer programs.

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