Burton: Continuing support for Hoosier students with dyslexia

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Thursday, April 11, 2019 12:09 pm

When making decisions at the Statehouse, I always consider the needs of our community first. Several years ago, it was brought to my attention that children from our area and across the state struggle in school due to a learning disability called dyslexia. At the time, I was not particularly familiar with the disorder, and conversations I had with fellow Hoosiers led me to pursue legislation to address some of the challenges these students face.

As I researched more about this learning disorder, I found that it is common in many people. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans struggle with dyslexia to some degree, and I discovered that I also have dyslexia. This language-based learning disability affects an individual’s ability to read, write, spell and pronounce words. Students – especially elementary students – whose teachers are unaware of their learning challenges are impacted the most. When educators are not prepared to meet the unique needs of these students, they are often left feeling they are not as intelligent or capable as their peers, which is simply not true.

Erin Groce, a student from east central Indiana, visited the Statehouse in 2015 to advocate for my legislation defining dyslexia and ensuring educators are trained on how to more effectively teach children who have it. Erin shared with me that before she found out she had dyslexia, she thought she was “stupid.” Now she knows she just learns differently. This young lady continues to advocate for students at the Statehouse.

Last year, I sponsored a law so students in kindergarten through second grade are screened for dyslexia. Without intervention, these students are at risk of falling behind during the early stages of learning and often struggle to catch up. Once these students are identified, we can provide them with the tools needed to learn.

While dyslexia does not hinder a student’s ability to think or be creative, it does offer a unique set of challenges requiring specific teaching strategies. Educators need to adapt early, so children with dyslexia have the opportunity to learn at the same pace as their peers. Because this disorder impacts the way a person learns, it is imperative that these students are identified as early as possible. 

Recently, I discovered that students with learning disorders have not received appropriate accommodations when they took statewide assessments like ILEARN. Because of this, I worked on an amendment to ensure every reasonable attempt would be made to provide voice-to-text, screen reader or human reader accommodations for students who have an individualized education program when they take these exams. These accommodations match how students with learning disabilities receive instruction in the classroom, and not providing this support can hider a child from performing well on a test. This legislation is still being considered by lawmakers. 

I will continue working to ensure every child with learning disabilities, regardless of their educational needs, has equal opportunities to learn. Visit www.dyslexia.com to learn more about dyslexia and the signs of the learning disorder. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact me at 317-234-3827 or h58@iga.in.gov. I am happy to discuss this topic and others with members from our community.



State Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) represents House District 58,

which includes a portion of Johnson County.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.