Last week, President Obama signed the READ Act. This new law is the result of more than a year of hard work by groups supporting kids with learning and thinking differences. It gives a funding boost to research on dyslexia and other .
READ is short for “Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia.” The law directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to spend at least $5 million every year on research on specific learning disabilities. And at least $2.5 million of that money must focus on dyslexia.
The goal is to support research that would lead to:
- Early identification of dyslexia
- Dyslexia training for teachers
- Better curriculum and tools for children with dyslexia
The law doesn’t just cover dyslexia. It also funds research into other learning differences. That includes specific learning disabilities like and . Many kids have more than one learning difference.
“I have great expectations for this bill,” says Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who helped introduce the bill in Congress last year. “We want to help young students who have dyslexia achieve absolutely all that they have the potential to achieve.”
The new law makes dyslexia one of NSF’s research priorities. “It is not an increase in spending—just a prioritization,” Smith says. “It’s a guarantee that NSF will spend a minimum on dyslexia research.”
Smith says he hopes to meet with NSF Director France Córdova soon. He also hopes the NSF will start funding research before September. But first, it must review applications for funding. NSF will post information online on how to apply.
The READ Act has had great support in Congress. Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) cosponsored the bill along with Smith. They lead the bipartisan Dyslexia Caucus, which includes more than 100 members of Congress. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a longtime advocate for dyslexia, also supported the READ Act.
The passage of the READ Act is the result of many groups working together. They include Understood founding partners the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) and the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Also part of the coalition: Decoding Dyslexia, International Dyslexia Association, Learning Ally and Dyslexic Advantage. The groups spread the word last year in Washington, DC, about the need for the law.
According to NCLD Executive Director James H. Wendorf, the READ Act was passed more quickly than most laws. “It’s wonderful to see how a strong partnership between advocates and allies in Congress can create new opportunities for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.”
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Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for