MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Beau Terry is a bright student who “absolutely loves” school. However, it did not always come easy for him. Beau has dyslexia and struggled to read but did not get the help he needed in public school.
“It was actually pretty much torture. It was not easy,” Beau said. “It was like giving a first grader algebra and telling him to read it to everyone when he doesn’t know what a single symbol means or what the numbers are and can’t even say them out loud.”
Beau’s mom, Christie Aitken, said there were public school teachers who wanted to help, but said there were not intervention programs in place at the time ten years ago when Beau was younger.
“As a parent I felt really helpless,” she said. “There was a time in Alabama where we would be told ‘We just don’t do dyslexia here.’”
Aitken said Beau transferred out of public school and into private school where he got the individualized attention he needed. She is now celebrating the passage of an Alabama law that she says will give the additional help students need.
The law would require all students K-3 struggling to read get an individual reading plan to help them become proficient readers. Those with dyslexia would also participate in specific intervention programs aimed at helping with areas like language development and fluency, according to the new law.
Studies have shown around 10 to 20 percent of the population show some signs of dyslexia.
“The dyslexia families have been huge supporters this entire time because they do feel like they’ve been left out,” said Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who sponsored the legislation.
It is called the Alabama Literacy Act. Collins said it will ensure students are getting the extra help they need before third grade. The new law would require third graders to pass reading benchmarks before moving to the fourth grade. If not, they would be held back for one year.
The law will roll out over the next few years. It should be fully implemented by the 2021-2022 school year.
“If this had been in place for either of my boys, we would have stayed for the interventions,” Aitken said. “I love public education and support it fully.”