Katy and Gabe Huling

Katy Huling and her son, Gabe, pose for a photo at Wheeler High School in Marietta. Katy Huling says she believes universal screening would have helped them identify Gabe’s dyslexia sooner.

MARIETTA – Gov. Brian Kemp has signed off on a measure that requires new teachers to be trained how to spot signs of dyslexia and mandates that – eventually – all kindergartners will be screened for the language disorder.

“Today is a great day. It’s a day that we finally acknowledge dyslexia in our Georgia code,” said state Sen. P.K. Martin, a Republican from Lawrenceville, speaking at a bill-signing event held Thursday at the Wheeler High School library in Marietta. 

“From this day forward, we will begin the process of making sure that all students receive the tools that they need to succeed,” Martin said. 

The measure, which passed easily through the General Assembly this year, sets up three pilot programs across the state. Those programs will explore ways to screen students for dyslexia and which reading remediation programs work best. Lawmakers set aside $100,000 for the initiative. 

In five years, all kindergartners will be screened for dyslexia. 

Future educators will also have to undergo training to help them better understand the disorder and how to identify the characteristics in students.

And the state Professional Standards Commission, which regulates the teaching profession in Georgia, will create a special “endorsement” for teachers who are trained to recognize and respond to students who show signs of the disorder.

Tina Engberg, who is the state leader for the parent advocacy group Decoding Dyslexia Georgia, which was formed in 2013, said she was elated to see years of hard work at the state Capitol culminate with the bill’s signing.

“We’re the parents who know our children are dyslexic,” said Engberg, whose teenage son is dyslexic. “There are vast numbers of people who don’t yet know that about their child, and this is why (the bill) is so important.” 

Between 190,000 to 380,000 Georgia students likely struggle with dyslexia, according to the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta.

Katy Huling, a high school math teacher from Charlton County, said she believes universal screening would have helped them identify her now third-grade son’s dyslexia sooner. 

Her son, Gabe, was diagnosed with dyslexia after the south Georgia mom took her son to Jacksonville for testing.

“He’s one of the lucky ones. He’s going to be fine,” said Huling, who traveled five hours to Marietta to see Kemp sign the bill into law. “But it’s going to be life-changing for just thousands of kids across Georgia.”

Jill Nolin covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at jnolin@cnhi.com.

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