The State Board of Education on Tuesday, November 12, unanimously approved policies aimed at improving the identification of students with dyslexia, providing them with better services and increasing teacher training. It’s important to note that the curricular changes that are going to be made work for all kids.

“Whether a child is struggling to learn to read, has characteristics of dyslexia, or has dyslexia, all of the implementation recommendations will work for those children,” said Cindy Hadicke, Elementary Program Consultant with the Kansas Department of Education. “The most important thing is that we want teachers to understand how children learn to read, the science of learning to read. We want the word dyslexia to be not a word that teachers or schools are afraid to say.”

The new rules will require each accredited school district to utilize structured literacy by August 2021.

“Structured literacy is about how a child’s brain learns to read,” said Hadicke. “It includes learning things like the alphabetic principle, which is associating letters with their sounds. Also involved is sound manipulation, which is called phonology, or phonemic awareness. We learn how to manipulate sounds in words.”

This is teaching children that the word mop has three sounds and that by changing just one of them, you can change the word, like from mop to pop, for example. They also want to be sure students know what sound corresponds with what symbol automatically. They also want to teach children how to break words into syllables.

“There are six syllables in the English language,” said Hadicke. “They’ll be teaching those directly and specifically, so that when a child comes across a multisyllabic word, they can use those syllabication rules to help decode it.”

They’ll also teach prefixes, suffixes, roots and endings and also be sure that children know syntax, which is what order words should be in a sentence and also semantics, so that kids know what words mean. All of this will be integrated with movement activities as such activities help the information stick for dyslexic kids. The goal is to promote early intervention for students with characteristics of dyslexia by August 2021.