Pa. launches pilot programs to help students struggling with dyslexia

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    Three Pennsylvania school districts are rolling out a pilot program to screen kids for dyslexia — and to offer teaching resources.

    The Pennsylvania Dyslexia Literacy Coalition assisted then-Rep. Ed Neilson and the state Department of Education in developing the pilot.

    Diane Reott, a Newtown Square mother, helped found the coalition after her son, Matthew, was diagnosed with dyslexia 13 years ago. At the time, his school district offered very little in terms of specialized tutoring.

    “The pilot is not just about having these kids get better services. It’s really about helping teachers to be better trained to know what to do in a classroom,” said Reott. “We really want the teaches to be helped as much as the children.”

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    Monica McHale-Small, superintendent of the Saucon Valley School District in Northampton County, said identifying children who struggle with dyslexia is one goal of the pilot program. Another is improving reading instruction for all students.

    “The idea is not to identify everybody with dyslexia, but to be screening all the students, to be monitoring their progress,” she said. “And when the children are not making the progress that they need to be making, to have the mechanism to put real evidence-based interventions in place for those kids.”

    Dyslexia can take many forms — ranging from trouble spelling to a total inability to read. Currently, 80 percent of special-education students are dyslexic.

    Starting in September, students in three school districts — Crawford Central, Governor Mifflin and Delaware Valley — will be screened for dyslexia from kindergarten through second grade. The plan is to use findings from the 3-year trial run to develop a statewide initiative.

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