Parents and advocates ask MT legislature for help to keep kids with dyslexia on track

Posted at 4:00 PM, Dec 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-25 17:41:01-05

BOZEMAN – According to the National Institute of Health, one in five people across the nation has dyslexia. That’s equivalent to 200,000 Montanans.

Parents of students with dyslexia, like 8-year-old Jack Heicher, constantly feel conflicted and have to decide whether or not they have the resources to help their kids receive the one-on-one tutoring they can’t get in Bozeman public schools. This issue has propelled people in the community to look for a solution.

As of 2018, there are 42 states across the nation that have passed dyslexia laws mandating screening and intervention by the schools. Montana is not one of them.

“We are failing them, and we know better. So the question is why aren’t we doing better,” said Decoding Dyslexia Montana Representative Kelly Fedge DuBose.

Even though there are national educational laws like Child Find that require schools to identify children who have disabilities or are in need of extra care, such laws do not mandate that each individual student has to be screened. Fedge DuBose said this can cause serious problems for students’ state of mind once they fall behind.

“They are just thinking, ‘I don’t want to go to school. It is like prison. I hate being there,’” said Fedge DuBose. “They think ‘I am stupid. I have to go to a special room’ and there is a huge stigma, so that has to change.”

Gallatin Valley Learning Center has five tutors to work one-on-one with more than 30 dyslexic children not receiving the extra help they need. The demand has been growing for the program, which is why parents are put on a wait list until a spot opens up.

“It takes a community of people to fight for these kids,” said Gallatin Valley Learning Center Tutor Sara Bernall. “Our doors are busting at the seams with kids who need help. We have to be able to say, ‘Here are the resources, here is what you do. Your kiddo is going to be okay.’”

Homeschooling and private tutors at places like the Gallatin Valley Learning Center and Thinking Cap are outlets parents use to get their kids reading and writing level up to par, but it isn’t feasible for everyone.

Often these programs come with a large financial burden that some parents cannot afford. For this reason, Fedge DuBose and other Montanans across the state have been working on the Montana Dyslexia Screening and Intervention Act. More than 100 people from across the state plan to testify on behalf of the bill when it is proposed during the 2019 legislative session.

“So I am really hopeful,” said Fedge Debose. “There are people, individuals, that make a difference and we are just trying to unite the individuals so that we can really show that this really needs to happen.”

-Reported by Mederios Babb/MTN News

PART ONE: Kids with dyslexia struggle to stay on track while parents find outside resources