Tennessee has a New Dyslexia Law!

Update May 25, 2017

After our TN Dyslexia Advisory Council worked hard for the past year, we now have offical guideance for districts on the law.

June 9, 2016

It’s a historic day in Tennessee! A new dyslexia bill, called the #SayDyslexia bill, was signed into LAW by Governor Bill Haslam!

This law was the brainstorm of several parents and teachers across the state, sparked by the movement that is Decoding Dyslexia-TN, parent-led and grassroots.

So, what does the law do? 

Read it in its entirety here:

TN Dyslexia Bill

Download MTSU’s identification-guide-version-6 for Schools

We also recommend PRINTING IT OFF and TAKING IT TO YOUR SCHOOL. Our next step is to make sure our schools are aware of this new law and its components.

Okay, we know the law has a lot of legal speak, so let us break down some key points:

This bill amends the original 2014 “Dyslexia is Real” bill, which defined dyslexia to now address (new law):

Section 1(a):
Key points:
– LEAs (districts) SHALL (must) use a universal screener that includes phonological and phonemic awareness, sound symbol recognition, alphabet knowledge, decoding skills, rapid naming and encoding skills. 
– This screening will be part of the standard universal screening procedures that the DOE already uses (this was to be fiscally responsible as we are a fiscally conservative state, but they MUST add in the above areas if those are not already being addressed by the LEA). Also, we added the words “or other available means” so the LEA is not tied down to RTI2.
– HOWEVER, in addition to the standard screening times, we also made sure that a parent/guardian, teacher, counselor or school psychologist can request this screening at ANY time. 

Why does it say characteristics of dyslexia? 
– Schools don’t diagnose anything, but they can screen/evaluate to see if a child qualifies for services. Thus, we used the terminology “screen for characteristics of dyslexia.”

If a child shows these characteristics, what happens next? 
Section 1(c) says:
The LEA shall:
– Notify the student’s parent/guardian
– Provide the student’s parent/guardian with information and resource material about dyslexia
– Provide the student with appropriate dyslexia-specific intervention (more on this in a moment)
– Monitor the student’s progress

* What is dyslexia-specific intervention? This law says: Section 1(f)(1): Dyslexia-specific intervention means evidence-based, specialized reading, writing and spelling instruction that is multisensory in nature, equipping students to simultaneously use multiple senses, such as vision, hearing, touch and movement. Dyslexia-specific intervention employs direct instruction of systematic and cumulative content, with the sequence beginning with the easiest and most basic elements and progress methodically to more difficult material. Each step must also be based on those already learned. Components of dyslexia-specific intervention include instruction targeting phonological awareness, sound symbol association, syllable structure, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

This law also: 

Section 1(d): The DOE SHALL (must) provide appropriate professional development resources for educators in the area of identification of and intervention methods for students with dyslexia.


Section 1(e): (This part is HUGE as this advisory council will shape the future):
Create an advisory council for the purpose of advising the DOE in matters related to dyslexia. The council shall consist of 9 members as follows (to serve 3 year terms):
– The Commissioner of Education
– And Education Specialist from the DOE
– A Representative from a Dyslexia Advocacy Group
– A special education teacher WITH AN UNDERSTANDING OF DYSLEXIA
– An elementary school teacher
– A middle school teacher
– A high school teacher
– A parent of a child who has dyslexia
– A licensed speech-language pathologist

This law takes effect July 1, 2016! Now it’s our job to raise awareness and make sure our schools are following the new law. Join DD TN for more details. 



22 thoughts on “Tennessee has a New Dyslexia Law!

  1. Debbie Messer

    Dyslexia is so real that it puts many students and parents on their knees in prayer. As a parent of a 9 year-old dyslexic I know first hand the mental, emotional, and spiritual damage that can be done to a child when a school refuses to do the appropriate testing.

  2. Holly

    This would of helped my son so much! I tried so many times to get him help at a young age. He would of been swept under the rug had I not stayed on the school. He still never got the help from the school. A lot of heartache and stress on my son and us that could of and should of been prevented!

  3. Katie Prothro

    I just emailed a picture of my little girl with our story to about 20 legislators! Who can deny a sweet face??

  4. Sarah Schwalb

    Thank God this bill passed. My son was diagnosed in January of this year at age 8. When he began working with a dyslexia tutor and curriculum for dyslexia we finally began to see progress with his reading. This has been completely out of pocket for my husband and me. Now other students should not have to wait until they are failing reading to uncover it’s dyslexia that is the culprit. Additionally, the expense will be paid by tax dollars parents of dyslexic students are already paying.

  5. Stephanie Lancaster

    I urge parents and school personnel working with any children identified as dyslexic to request an assistive technology evaluation be conducted by a professional trained and credentialed as an A.T. specialist as part of the assessment and intervention process.

  6. Leslie

    So thankful for this! My child has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia and it is heartbreaking seeing him struggle at school!!!

  7. Lisa Ward

    My child just graduated high school and has dyslexia. I am so glad to see this new law, but what about him. The system failed him, is there any help from our state for him since he is not in public school?

  8. Margie swabe

    Wonderful.I have a 11 year old son who has dyslexia. His mother being a teacher knew something was wrong with her son and she fought to have him tested early. I pray there will be more help for him and all the other kids in the future.Thank you.to parents and teachers for putting this bill into effect. Thank you Gov..Haslam..

  9. Kathy Sunderland

    My child goes to a small private school in Knox county. We live in Anderson county. How do I go about requesting my child be tested for dyslexia? I’ve been trying for 2 years. Any info would be appreciated. Thank you

  10. joannevalentinesimson

    Dyslexics are often very creative, so I wouldn’t want to see them treated with drugs. They just need more time to process things. And a lot of understanding from teachers about “creative spelling.” I believe that it’s more common (or maybe more serious) in boys, and this may be part of the problem that many women teachers have with teaching boys. However, girls can also suffer (I and one of my three daughters also suffer from it, inherited from my father, a brilliant engineer.)

  11. Dee Bedwell

    Previously, I have had several students who were most likely dislexia and no services were offered because of the liability of cost to the district to use expensive screening modules to identify students as dislexic. This appears to be a wonderful and much less costly way to identify students under the presentation of “characteristics of dislexis.” Cudos to those who fought to get this in place. It certainly could be a lead for other states to utilize such a bill.

  12. MaryEllen Zimmerman

    While I’m leery of any new law that requires schools to do anything more than they are already doing (money is ALWAYS lacking) I agree that we need testing specifically for dyslexia in addition to just a reading disability. People who have dyslexia need specific kinds of intervention that is not effective with large groups of students. Intervention must be done with individuals or a very small group. After testing, schools will have to figure out how to provide this type of intervention on their current budgets.

  13. Dena Comden

    How do I apply to be on the advisory council? I am a special education teacher and I have dyslexia.

  14. Dina Francisco

    Is Dyslexia now approved for special education services in Tennessee or this is all required by general education teachers?

    1. Jules Johnson Post author

      Hi Dina! Dyslexia has always been included in special education services in Tennessee. It’s listed in Federal (US) IDEA law under “Specific Learning Disability.” However, this new law is targeting those students who don’t quality for services via IEPs, so they can also get help via general education.

  15. Kelly

    Do the reading programs used to meet this law just have to have evidence showing that they are multi sensory in their approach or more specific evidence to show that they specifically work for a students with dyslexia? I am wading through research for the programs my daughter’s school uses. I want know for sure what I should be looking for.

  16. Jennifer

    My son has a diagnosis of dysgraphia (learning disability and written expression). I am wanting him to be tested for dyslexia.we are currently on the waiting list for MTSU to test. He reads well it is his writing that suffers with the Letter exchanges etc. also math, copying things from the board etc. I was recently told that dyslexia is not considered a learning disability in Tennessee and the only intervention he could get was with reading which he doesn’t need. With this new law can he now get interventions or IEP for dyslexia with writing?

  17. Kristin Willocks

    This is a great move forward for awareness and intervention. Curious as to why a licensed School Psychologist is not on the advisory council.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s