YOUNG ADULTS LEARN HOW TO TRANSITION, WHILE NEW DYSLEXIA LAWS HAVE AN IMPACT
New legislations for children with disabilities
The start of a new school year is a great time to highlight some new developments for those with special needs. There is a much-needed program for young adults transitioning to independent living, as well as recent dyslexia legislation being implemented in our schools.
LEARNING LIFE SKILLS
With an anticipated fall opening, the Life Skills Development Center at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades is going to fill a void and help many young adults who are anticipating transitioning to independent living in the foreseeable future.
“The Life Skills Development Center is designed to provide teens and young adults with the opportunity to socialize, learn and grow. The center will foster independence, pro-social skills and behaviors, and friendships,” says Shelley Levy, director of JCC’s Guttenberg Center for Special Services. “Participants will experience the richness of community while focusing on three critical components, including daily independent living skills, social and recreational opportunities, and job sampling and community outreach opportunities.”
There will be a washer and dryer, a television and all the comforts of home. Participants will be taught how to maintain an apartment, how to make a bed, set and clean up a table, and do laundry. The teaching kitchen at the JCC will be used to learn light meal preparation. In addition, health and wellness activities and community-based outings will be components of the new program.
NEW DYSLEXIA LEGISLATION
Back in 2014, three new dyslexiarelated laws were passed in New Jersey, which was the first state to have dyslexia- specific laws. Now, more than 30 states have passed or have pending legislation relating to dyslexia. The three laws are as follows: DYSLEXIA SCREENING LAW This law says that the indicators of dyslexia or other reading disabilities can no longer be ignored by the school, and any child exhibiting these warning signs has to be screened by the end of the first semester of second grade. If the screening shows that the child may have dyslexia or another reading disability, the child will receive a comprehensive assessment. If the assessment confirms a diagnosis of dyslexia or another reading disability, the child will receive appropriate evidence-based intervention strategies.
DEFINITION OF DYSLEXIA Practically speaking, a child with dyslexia will still be classified as having a “specific learning disability,” but parents can no longer be told that dyslexia does not exist because it is now defined by the legislature.
DYSLEXIA PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT LAW
Certain teachers, such as those in kindergarten and first grade, special education teachers, and reading specialists, are now required to complete two hours a year of professional development on dyslexia and other reading-related disorders.
Although these laws were rolled out during the 2014-2015 school year, there has been no additional guidance from the Department of Education, which has resulted in mixed results in the implementation of the laws in the schools. Decoding Dyslexia NJ is a parent-led grassroots advocacy group that was very involved in the legislative process that led to the passage of the dyslexia laws.
Liz Barnes, founding member of Decoding Dyslexia NJ, singled out Haworth as being one of the schools embracing the laws and putting them in place. As for other school districts, “We have opened the door, and we are starting to see movement in the right direction, but we are far from there,” says Barnes.
The New Jersey Department of Education, with input from Decoding Dyslexia New Jersey and other wellrespected dyslexia experts, is working on a Dyslexia Handbook, which should be ready in September.
“The handbook should be a big help to get the rest of the districts on board and inform parents,” says Barnes.
“WE ARE STARTING TO SEE MOVEMENT IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.” Liz Barnes, Decoding Dyslexia NJ