New Jersey families and educators might soon have a new set of tools to help children with reading disabilities. The New Jersey Reading Disabilities Task Force, appointed by Governor Chris Christie, recently issued a report detailing their recommendations for improving the diagnosis, treatment, and education of children experiencing reading difficulties.
The Task Force Report lists the following recommendations:
- The New Jersey Administrative Code for Special Education (NJAC 6A:14-3.5c-12) be amended to include the definition of dyslexia. The Task Force further recommends that the definition be the definition adopted by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) in 2002.
- The NJ Department of Education requires that all New Jersey students be screened using a research-based assessment for potential indicators of dyslexia at kindergarten entry and at point of entry into school and district, unless screening results have been previously reported for the student. Further, it is recommended that these indicators be used to identify those students who would benefit from research-based multisensory structured language interventions that address all components of reading instruction, i.e., phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension and that such intervention be implemented.
- By 2015, New Jersey require that all instructional pre-service teachers and newly certified Reading Specialists pass a written test on the foundations of teaching reading, the basic rules of phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics of the English language, the diagnosis of reading difficulties, development of reading comprehension, and reading assessment to obtain P-3 or K-5 certification. These requirements should be in addition to the PRAXIS and all state requirements for certification.
- New Jersey offers a new instructional certification at the post baccalaureate level concentrating on dyslexia.
- By 2015, New Jersey require that a minimum of 20 hours of the required 100 hours of professional development hours for educators (required every five years) be devoted to professional development on research-based methods of screening, interventions, accommodations and use of technology for reading disabilities, including dyslexia.
- All divisions within the NJDOE continue to collaborate to provide professional development, potentially through the Regional Achievement Centers, about literacy issues for teachers in general education, special education and bilingual/ESL education, and for administrators, supervisors, instructional support staff, child study team members, and speech/language specialists.
“We are pleased to learn that the recommendations outlined in the NJ Reading Disabilities Task Force Report directly support the set of bills introduced last month to the State Assembly by Assemblymen Albano, Dancer and Milam,” says Deborah Lynam of Decoding Dyslexia-NJ. The report helps to bridge the gap between what is known about reading disabilities, such as dyslexia, and the interventions that are implemented in schools. “Decades of research exist into reading disabilities and effective reading programs. Unfortunately, many NJ parents find that their local public schools have very limited knowledge into this research, making it difficult to access effective assessment and intervention for their children with dyslexia. The thought of being able to have conversations with public school educators about our children with dyslexia knowing that all parties are working from the same knowledge base is very, very exciting,” explains Lynam.
Dyslexia is a common language problem that affects 80 percent of students with learning disabilities, according the University of Michigan Health System. Early diagnosis and intervention is very important.