Tennessee has a New Dyslexia 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. 


3 thoughts on “Tennessee has a New Dyslexia Law!

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

    1. 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.

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