State lawmakers are looking to improve conditions for Missouri school students with dyslexia.

Capitol 5 featA legislative task force was formed last month to deal with the learning disorder.  It’s the product of a measure passed this year which seeks to develop guidelines for screening dyslexic students and provide classroom support for them.

Republican Senator Bob Onder comes to the task force with the experience of having a son with dyslexia.  He says schools currently don’t offer much assistance to such students.  “By and large the school districts do not do anything to recognize it” said Onder.  “When it is brought to their attention, often parents are told that dyslexia is a medical diagnosis, it’s not and educational or learning related diagnosis.  And these kids aren’t given help.”

Onder thinks he knows how the task force will operate.  “To listen to testimony.  To gather evidence about best practices.  (To find out) the things that can be done, the things that have been tried and succeeded in other states.”

The twenty member task force includes a bipartisan group of three state senators, along with people from a range of professional backgrounds.  They’ll advise the state’s education agency (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) on guidelines for supporting dyslexic students.

The legislation calls for a program to be in place by 2018 and for it to be implemented beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.  Included in the measure is a requirement that teachers take two hours of training on dyslexia provided by school districts.

Last month, Republican Senate Pro Ron Richards announced ten members of the task force of which he appointed eight.  Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven will also be a member, as will eight people appointed by Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson.

At this point, Senator Onder isn’t sure what conclusions the group with come up with.  “I can’t say, at this point, I have all the answers as to what the state ought to be doing, or the schools ought to be doing.  But again that’s the purpose of this task force.”