By Amanda Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
LEOMINSTER — Christina Chatalian noticed her son struggled to read as a kindergartner, but it wasn’t until he turned 8-years-old that a private medical center handed down a formal diagnosis of dyslexia.
Chatalian said diagnosing children with dyslexia at an early age would have helped her son and children like him keep pace with grade-level reading requirements.
“A lot of children who have dyslexia aren’t getting the proper interventions,” said Chatalian. “Some kids are failing first before they’re ever tested for a reading disability.”
Chatalian is one of many expected to testify at a public hearing Tuesday before a joint committee of state legislation advocates says would help ensure children with dyslexia are diagnosed at an early age.
Rep. Natalie Higgins and Sen. Jennifer Flanagan are co-sponsoring the legislation that, if passed, would affect the one in five Mass. children who have dyslexia.
The public hearing will address four House and Senate bills — S.313, S.294, H.330 and H.2872 — that lawmakers said would be rolled together if endorsed by the Joint Committee on Education.
The language of H.330 would legally define dyslexia as a neurological learning disability. It would require the department of elementary and secondary education to issue screening guidance to districts.
Higgins said her cousin dropped out of trade high school because she struggled with reading curriculum. A dyslexia diagnosis came later.
“For her, it was really her ability to read that handicapped her ability to finish,” said Higgins. “She needed some extra support.”
The measure has gained support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Higgins said.
Flanagan said that early dyslexia screening allows parents and educators to develop Individual Education Plans while a student is in the first stages of developing their reading skills.
“It’s important that there’s screening for dyslexia so that students have the foundation and the tools that they need to continue their educational journey,” said Flanagan. “As soon as the screening is done you’re able to put a plan in place to get services.”
“You want to make sure these kids get what they need, because they could be the future inventors, the future scientists,” said Chatalian.