Like other state handbooks, Arizona’s Dyslexia Handbook helps families and teachers better recognize students with dyslexia. It has three sections. The first defines dyslexia and its characteristics. The second provides information on how kids learn to read. And the third lists helpful resources. These include websites, books and articles for teachers and parents.
Meriah Houser, an Arizona parent and advocate, helped lead the charge. She and other parents worked with Arizona State Representative Jill Norgaard (pictured here with kids from the community) to pass a law authorizing the state to create the handbook. The actual process of creating it took almost nine months, Houser says. That’s what was needed to get input from parents, teachers and education officials across the state.
The handbook is meaningful for Houser. She’s the founder of Decoding Dyslexia Arizona, a parent-led organization that raises awareness about dyslexia in Arizona. She’s also a mom of two school-age kids with dyslexia. Over the years, she’s had to work hard to make sure they get the right resources in their public school.
“I think the handbooks are one piece of recognition,” Houser says. “It’s validation that dyslexia exists and we’re not going to sweep it under the rug anymore.”
Understood founding partner the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) believes these handbooks can be valuable. Meghan Casey Whittaker, NCLD’s policy and advocacy manager, says they can be a resource for both families and teachers. A handbook also helps provide clarity on what can be a complex issue, she adds.
“For so many states to have dyslexia handbooks is significant progress,” says Whittaker. “It was only two years ago, in 2015, that the U.S. Department of Education reminded states they can say the word dyslexia. And now, parents, educators and other professionals have worked together, found agreement, and created a useful resource for Arizona.”
Soon, more states may have dyslexia handbooks. Parents and advocates are working on dyslexia laws in all 50 states. Houser hopes Arizona’s work can inspire others.
“The dyslexia handbook is a conversation starter,” says Houser. “I think our handbook will give people another tool to push for progress in their states.”
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Tara Drinks is an associate editor at Understood.