Parents of dyslexic children rally behind legislation

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - An Arkansas lawmaker is pushing for new resources and funding to help the state detect Dyslexia early and for schools to provide adequate service for students with the learning disorder.

Senator Joyce Elliot (D-Little Rock), by sponsoring Senate Bill 33, is asking legislators to revisit how the state handles the identification and education of dyslexic students in Arkansas public schools.

For Shelly Chandler, the mother of a moderately dyslexic 8-year-old, she has been closely monitoring the bill's progress at the Capitol.

She recalls her son Luke's struggles in schools before he was diagnosed.

"It wasn't that he wasn't trying," she said from her Conway house, "it was that he wasn't able to read."

It wasn't until he finished kindergarten Chandler was able to scrape together more than $1,000 to have Luke privately screened for dyslexia. Even then, Chandler says Arkansas schools are unprepared with how to educate students with the disorder.

"The school did all they could do," she said. "They do not have the tools they do not have the resources or the information to deal with something like this."

Now she and other parents are rallying behind SB33, an act to ensure that children with dyslexia have their needs met by the public school system.

The bill would require schools to screen children in kindergarten through the second grade for dyslexia. Any student who is identified as having dyslexia would receive intervention or treatment.

Senator Joyce Elliot (D-Little Rock) says cost concerns will not hold her bill back this year, unlike in 2012 when she proposed similar legislation.

"I think there's a lot of anxiety that the bill might not pass," said Elliot. "It's going to and we're going to work it out."

A first draft cost estimate concluded the bill would cost the state approximately $3 million to implement her changes. In 2011, the cost to the state was estimated at $11 million, leading to that bill's withdrawal.

She says she is working on bringing cost estimates even lower before bringing the item back to committee.

Still, Elliot notes the overwhelming support she gets from affected parents has become so great she has not been able to respond to all emails.

It's estimated one out of five students suffer from the hereditary disorder.

For Shelly Chandler, she says she's now fighting for the future.

"The chances and the probability of my son or one of my other son's children having dyslexia is high," she said. "I don't want them to go through what we've had to go through."