Dyslexia laws: What they are and how they work

At a glance

  • Some states have “dyslexia laws” that outline how schools should help students who have dyslexia.

  • Dyslexia laws aren’t the same in all states.

  • The state laws are more in-depth than federal special education law.

Schools may differ in how they identify and help kids with . Some states have passed “dyslexia laws” to regularize what their schools do. Here’s what you should know about these laws.

State dyslexia laws are more in-depth than IDEA

The (IDEA) lists 13 conditions that can make students eligible for special education. One of these is , or SLD. And IDEA lists dyslexia as a type of SLD.

IDEA is a national law. States can implement it in different ways. State laws do have to give students all the rights and protections that federal laws do. They can’t give less protection. But they can provide more.

But IDEA isn’t always specific about everything. It doesn’t define dyslexia. It also doesn’t tell states how schools should address it.

The result is that there are many differences from state to state in the special education services provided for kids with dyslexia. Even different schools in the same state may do things differently.

Not all kids with dyslexia need the same type of support and intervention. But they should have the same level of support. That’s true no matter what school they go to or what state they live in.

That’s what state dyslexia laws aim to manage. By providing more detail than IDEA, these laws try to give students with dyslexia added rights and protections. And they want to make sure that the schools within a state operate the same way.

The purpose of dyslexia laws varies from state to state

Dyslexia laws focus on different things in different states. In general, they address one or more of the following issues:

  • Defining dyslexia and other conditions that affect language learning

  • Early screening and identification of students with dyslexia in grades K–3

  • Procedures for states/schools for screening and intervention (known as “dyslexia handbooks”)

  • Training and professional development for current teachers so they’ll understand how to teach children with dyslexia

  • Education about dyslexia in teacher preparation programs

  • , support, and early intervention for kids identified as having dyslexia or being at risk

  • Funding for programs

Dyslexia laws can take new research into account

In the decades since IDEA passed, there’s been a lot of research into dyslexia. Researchers have learned more about the different ways kids with dyslexia struggle with reading.

There’s also more information about what types of intervention and reading programs help. And we know more about how to recognize dyslexia and screen for it in the early grades.

Many of these discoveries predate IDEA. But states can include current research in their guidelines. The laws can use it to outline specific ways for schools to evaluate, identify and teach students with dyslexia.

Not all states have dyslexia laws. To learn if your state does, contact your school or your state’s department of education.

In the states that do have dyslexia laws, parents have often spearheaded the efforts to pass those laws. Find out more about how one mom became an advocate for kids with dyslexia.

Key takeaways

  • Dyslexia laws may cover ways to evaluate, identify, teach, and/or support students with dyslexia.

  • Some states have dyslexia handbooks. These handbooks help teachers and parents know the procedures for helping students.

  • Efforts to pass dyslexia laws are often led by parents.


Read next