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Schools will test kids for dyslexia under new Oregon laws

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon has new laws now to help children with dyslexia, a learning disorder that can make kids struggle in school and even drop out if they don't get help.

The governor signed two bills into law this summer that are designed to get kids diagnosed early and train teachers how to help them.

"Dyslexia causes a lot of shame sometimes. Kids get overwhelmed," said Diana Sticker, one of the people who worked to get the bills passed.

She and Jen Cappalonga work with Decoding Dyslexia Oregon, and both have children with the learning disorder.

They said that as many as one in five kids may have some level of dyslexia, which can make it very hard to read, write and spell.

They said the new laws will require schools to test children for dyslexia in kindergarten or first grade, and share the results with parents. They said the laws also require each school to have a teacher who is trained in dyslexia education, so the children who are tested can receive the best tutoring program for their needs.

"With early intervention, college or even graduate school are within reach. With late intervention, really finishing high school is an extreme challenge," said Cappalonga.

One of the laws will change education for future teachers.

Vickie Chamberlain, with the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, said schools that educate teachers will have to add dyslexia training to their curriculum for teachers who work with readers.

"You don't forget kids and you don't leave them behind and you don't just let them struggle on their own. That's unconscionable," said Chamberlain.

There was a surprise for Sticker during her child's testing. She said found out she, too, was dyslexic.

"I remember feeling dumb or feeling like I didn't measure up or could do as well as other people. And I had no idea why," said Sticker. "By the time of high school graduation, a guidance counselor suggested that I just wasn't college material."

Sticker went on to college and received a graduate degree, despite the counselor's statement about her abilities. She said she wants to help other children, so they do not suffer in the same way.

"I became very interested in making sure kids today didn't have the same experience that I did," said Sticker. "We can work together to help make sure they get the help they need before they feel failure."

Sticker and Cappalonga said their children are now doing well, after receiving tutoring that addressed their learning style.

It may take years for the state to implement these laws, so parents may want to look into dyslexia themselves, to see if their children have the disorder.

Here are some resources if you are interested in learning more:

--- http://www.decodingdyslexiaor.org/

--- http://www.webmd.com/children/helping-children-with-dyslexia

--- http://theblossercenter.org/

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