Supporting those with learning disabilities

by Sen. Mark Messmer

According to the most recent data available, 6.7 million public-school students in the United States receive special education services, and up to 17% of the population has dyslexia.

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, making this the perfect time to learn about special education resources and Indiana legislation that benefits Hoosier students with dyslexia or other learning disorders.

Public schools are required by federal law to provide all students with a free and personalized education. This includes a comprehensive evaluation to determine the nature and extent of the services your child will need as well as an Individualized Education Program, a written document that is fitted to your child’s unique needs in the classroom.

To help ensure each student’s needs are being met, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 217 in 2018, which requires schools to screen kindergarten, first, and second grade students for dyslexia. Using a quick, cost-effective and accurate test, at-risk students are identified and referred for further screening. This process allows both parents and teachers to cater to a child’s needs, creating a thriving learning environment both at home and in the classroom. 

SEA 217 also requires school districts to employ at least one dyslexia specialist and outlines Individualized Education Program content for dyslexic students to ensure they are supplied with the appropriate resources and services.

While many children are not diagnosed with a learning disability until they start school, there are several programs designed to help younger children. Indiana First Steps, administered by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, is one of them.  Indiana First Steps partners with Hoosier families whose young children are experiencing developmental delays and connects them with services to help their children progress.

In addition to the resources highlighted above, you can go online and find information from the Indiana Office of Special Education, which ensures Indiana is in compliance with the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. I also recommend, which equips families with professional assistance, ensuring their special needs child realizes and reaches their full potential.

As always, feel free to contact my office directly with your questions and concerns by email at or by phone at 800-382-9467.

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