New legislation would help Wisconsin students struggling with dyslexia

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- A new proposal will be introduced in Madison on Thursday, to help students and families in Wisconsin who may be struggling with dyslexia. It would put together a committee to form a guidebook for parents, teachers and administrators on how to detect and assist students with dyslexia.

State Rep. Bob Kulp of Stratford is introducing the proposal, and said the resources will help students and families.

"There are so many teachers in Wisconsin that are already doing a phenomenal job, and are curious about this. We just want to be able to give them the resources, and especially the parents, who have kids that are losing out and possible starting to act up because they have lost out, we think that this guidebook will give them a resource to work with," said Rep. Kulp.

Current law does not require districts to work with dyslexic students, so parents need to turn to outside resources.

Local teachers and parents are pushing for this legislation, saying it's needed both in classrooms and homes.

"You know you'll see a word an average person will read it just fine. I'll flip the letters or stuff like that," said Turner Erath, 17, who has dyslexia.

"I don't like reading in front of people cause I don't know what words I will have to read, and it kind of gets embarrassing if I stumble over words," said Hope Erath, 10, who also has dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, and is more common than people may realize.

"Dyslexia in our state is something that is not acknowledged in schools, and the intervention for a child who's dyslexic is not necessarily provided because there's still a lot of misinformation out there about just what dyslexia is," said Michele Raasch, who is both an elementary school teacher and a parent of a child with dyslexia.

The proposal would form a committee that would make a guidebook to help both teachers and parents.

"This guidebook is the first step for us to start working towards us all having a clear definition of what it is. This is dyslexia, this is what it looks like," said Raasch.

Joy Erath is a parent of several children with dyslexia. For her family, it's been an emotional struggle.

"He could see the words in cat, he could see a 'c' and say 'kuh,' and see an 'a' and say 'ah' and a t 't', but he could not combine the word to make it read cat, and that's as a second grade student. That's how severe he was," said Joy.

"Definitely been really hard. I guess just not knowing, reading, as far as reading goes it's been really challenging. Spelling has been very difficult," said her son, Turner.

Raasch said the proposed legislation would benefit both teachers and families.

"And if you have that guidebook to reference, and there's resources with that, now as a teacher you can look to that, or even as a parent, because that might help give you the answers to questions you have," said Raasch.

"This legislation can be a first step in helping other kids that are having the battles that our kids had, it would just be a blessing to them," said Joy.

Wisconsin is one of three states in the country that does not have any legislation regarding dyslexia.

Both Joy and Raasch will head to Madison on Thursday to give testimony during the hearing. After that, the proposal would move to a committee and eventually make it to the governor's desk.