Legislator works on dyslexia

BY GINNY MILLER
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Concerned parents call Brian Aldridge every day about dyslexia, but the reading disorder already is close to his heart.

“My wife is dyslexic,” said Aldridge, the District 17 legislator in Mississippi's House of Representatives. “Therein lies my passion. Our child has a 50-50 chance of being dyslexic.”

Last year, the Tupelo Republican held a dyslexia hearing at the State Capitol with representatives from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“Our goal was to begin coming up with a solution for serving children with dyslexia,” he said. “There's no one single test, but you can screen for the characteristics.”

Aldridge drafted legislation modeled after a program in the Lee County Schools that screens children in grades K-2. With statewide screening of K-3 students, he said, “you're able to identify a wide range of learning disabilities.”

Although the legislation was approved, Aldridge declared the results of his efforts to be “a half step in the Legislature” because lawmakers were unable to agree on funding.

“It's a law, the governor signed it,” he said. “But the law does not take effect until we have the funding.”

Kristopher J. Kaase, associate superintendent of the MDE's Office of Academic Education, said dyslexia grants funded by the Mississippi Legislature already provide school districts with funds to implement multi-sensory reading programs.

The MDE is exploring possible assessments for students in K-2, Kaase said, noting, “This information will be shared with the Legislature and may lead to funding to support these assessments.”

Aldridge estimates the screening program will cost between $1.8 million and $3 million, and he said chances are good the funding will come through next year.

Contact Daily Journal education writer Ginny Miller at ginny.miller@djournal.com or 678-1582.