New dyslexia bill would help Tennessee students

(WBIR-Knoxville) Tennessee lawmakers will soon consider a bill designed to improve learning for children with dyslexia.

Supporters plan to put the finishing touches on the "Dyslexia is Real" bill this week.

It would formally recognize dyslexia as a learning disability.

The bill has strong ties to East Tennessee. Emily Dempster of Knoxville has been involved with the bill since the idea started more than a year ago. State Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, filed versions of the bill earlier this month.

The bill focuses on three components:
1. To define what dyslexia is: a condition that makes it difficult to recognize words and as a result, read, write, and spell.
2. To have some teacher training on dyslexia to be included in already required in-service days.
3. To get the Department of Education to work with colleges and universities to address dyslexia with teachers in training.

"The reason I can read now is because I had people who believed in me who were able to give me the interventions I needed at a young age," said Sean Ochsenbein, of Johnson City.

Ochsenbein is dyslexic. He is also a second year medical student at East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine and class president.

"Just because I couldn't read when I was in the third grade, it did not link up with my IQ," he said.

Special Education Teacher Martie Wood agrees. She teaches students with dyslexia, one-on-one.

"We need to get it done. We've been on it for a long time," Wood said.

Lynn Faust of Knoxville has two sons who are dyslexic. They are now grown-up but she remembers how they struggled with school.

She still keeps a piece of paper that she recovered from her son's room when he was in third grade that reads, "I am the spuped kidintheworld" that translates to, "I am the stupidest kid in the world."

"It just broke my heart because he was just screaming for help but he didn't know how," Faust said.

The "Dyslexia is Real" bill will be read by legislatures in Nashville on March 5.


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