Teen Lobbies Lawmakers to Change Proposed Dyslexia Bill

Teen Lobbies Lawmakers to Change Proposed Dyslexia Bill

A teenager urges legislators to broaden screenings for learning disabilities in a proposed education bill.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - More people are voicing concern about a bill that could impact the way thousands of students are educated. Families are pushing for the Senate Bill 33, known as the "Dyslexia Bill", but a teenager with a similar learning disability is pushing for more to be done.

Mary Katherine Keller, a recent high school graduate, wrote a poem about her experience growing up with a learning disability, when she was 15 years old.

"Whizzing, processing, flying, ideas," she recites. "You can't imagine how that feels, to have an idea and not be able to share it."

Now 18 years old and out of school Keller says still vividly remembers how she felt as a bright student whose light dimmed when her grades declined.

"I had these really huge aspirations," she says. "I was constantly behind and I just felt like a failure."

Emails from her parents and teachers show they were as confused as she was. Her junior year ACT score put her at the top 99 percentile in Reading. At the same time, she had a "D" in English and the difference prompted her to go for testing.

"Getting diagnosed with Dysgraphia was probably the best thing that happened in my life," she says.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that makes it difficult for people to express their thoughts through writing.

It's similar to and often accompanies Dyslexia, which impacts reading ability and is at the heart of Senate Bill 33.

Parents across the state are rallying behind the bill hoping to get mandatory Dyslexia screening for all children.

When Keller saw Dysgraphia mentioned in but not specifically addressed through screening, she took her story and a homemade cake with her phone number on it to the state capitol hoping to encourage lawmakers to change the bill and the lives of people like her.

"It made my life make sense, it made me realize I wasn't lazy. I wasn't stupid," she says of her diagnosis.

State Senator Joyce Elliot is sponsoring the bill and says they're in the middle of making amendments and discussing implementing some of the changes Keller brought to the table.

The bill is supposed to go back before the senate education committee this week but Senator Elliot says it will be postponed while they make changes.

A fiscal impact study from the Bureau of Legislative Research estimates the bill will cost $11 million in it's first year and $3 million in annual costs, but Senator Elliot says the changes they plan to implement will lower costs significantly.


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