Bill makes way to Senate, gives mom hope for education for children with dyslexia

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) – Sherrie Hickey has been fighting for her daughter's education for years, and she's starting to see a glimmer of hope after a bill that would require the South Carolina Department of Education to provide screening tools to school districts to help identify characteristics of dyslexia.

Hickey's daughter is dyslexic and was actually provided screening in sixth and seventh grade and she said it's helped. Her daughter has always been in special education and Hickey said she was told she wouldn't get a real diploma, but because of that screening now she's on track to getting one.

The bill would require the state Department of Education to provide a universal screening tool that local school districts can use to screen students in kindergarten through second grade and figure out if they have characteristics of dyslexia. If it passed it would be effective for the 2019-2020 academic school year.

The bill goes on to say parents would be able to request screening for their student. School districts would also have to bring together school based problem solving teams to analyze the data that comes from the screening, then come up with ways to help teachers plan the right teaching methods for students who may need it.

Rep. Gary Clary, a sponsor of the bill, said if characteristics of dyslexia are identified early on, that will help teachers determine exactly how to teach and meet the needs of children who may be struggling.

Hickey and other mothers are helping to push this bill and Hickey said some are heading to Columbia Thursday to rally.

"It's been difficult, it's been a fight,” she said, “The school really isn't allowed to diagnose dyslexia so it was hard for me to convince them she had something when they're not even allowed to tell me she does. So, that was difficult because that’s what the bill is going to change. For the schools to be able to - not really diagnose it - but be able to identify the characteristics of dyslexia."

Hickey said her daughter mainly struggles in reading and math, but now that the PSAT allows the test to be read to students taking it, Hickey said her daughter could have the opportunity to go to college. She'll have the chance to do well on the test since she struggles with reading.

Since her daughter has gone through screening, Hickey said school has been a lot easier.

"She's getting ready to turn 13,” said Hickey, “She's doing really good in school. Ever since this changed, her attitude towards teachers has changed. Now, she likes her teacher the teacher likes her. Before it was always an argument."

The bill has passed the House and currently sits with the Senate's K-12 subcommittee. Clary said there could be a hearing in the Senate within the next week or two and he hopes this could go on the Senate calendar for action by the late to end of March.

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