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SALT LAKE CITY — About 80 percent of people with learning disabilities in the U.S. have dyslexia, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But 75 percent of Utah students with dyslexia are denied special help because they "aren't failing enough" in class, according to Karee Atkinson, president of advocacy group Decoding Dyslexia Utah.
Atkinson said parents and teachers of children with the disability struggle to find resources to help them. Meanwhile, the students' reading ability gets further and further behind.
"We are the parents. We have children who are struggling to read. And as they struggle to read, it's sometimes very, very difficult for them to get help," Atkinson said. "Everything we know says waiting is the absolute wrong approach. … There's no reason to wait. There's every reason to move ahead. Our teachers want this knowledge."
The House Education Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that would appropriate $750,000 to create a three-year pilot program to provide training for teachers and resources to enhance interventions for students in kindergarten through fifth grade at risk for reading difficulties, including dyslexia.
SB117 would allow up to five school districts or charter schools to receive $30,000 per school to invest in training and materials. Schools would apply for the grant through the Utah State Office of Education, which would award the funds.
Bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said investing in earlier interventions for students with reading disabilities would save money that is eventually spent on special education for those students.
"Our state has a growing problem," Osmond said. "We have no real strategy for intervention. So we have a future crisis coming from a budgetary perspective."
The bill passed in a unanimous vote by the committee and now goes before the House. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: MorganEJacobsen