Decoding Dyslexia VA

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First Step Act of 2018, S. 756: Enacted, Dec. 21, 2018

Link to Congressional site.

On December 21, the U.S. Congress passed and the President signed a bill that includes dyslexia screening and interventions for all federal and state incarcerated inmates.

Dyslexia is a leading cause of illiteracy, so to address illiteracy and incarceration, we must better address dyslexia.” Senator Bill Cassidy.
A study found that 80 percent of prison inmates at the state prison in Huntsville, Texas, were functionally illiterate and 48 percent were dyslexic.


Section language from Title I, Subchapter D that include dyslexia are listed below:



(a) IN GENERAL.—Chapter 229 of title 18, United States Code,

is amended by inserting after subchapter C the following:



‘‘3631. Duties of the Attorney General.

‘‘3632. Development of risk and needs assessment system.

‘‘3633. Evidence-based recidivism reduction program and recommendations.

‘‘3634. Report.

‘‘3635. Definitions.

Title I: Section 3631: Duties of Attorney General

‘‘(B) to address the specific criminogenic needs of the

prisoner; and

‘‘(C) all prisoners are able to successfully participate

in such programs;

‘‘(6) determine when to provide incentives and rewards

for successful participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction

programs or productive activities in accordance with subsection


‘‘(7) determine when a prisoner is ready to transfer into

prerelease custody or supervised release in accordance with

section 3624; and

‘(8) determine the appropriate use of audio technology

for program course materials with an understanding of dyslexia.

In carrying out this subsection, the Attorney General may use

existing risk and needs assessment tools, as appropriate.

Title I: Section 3632: Development of Risk and Needs Assessment System


‘‘(1) SCREENING .—The Attorney General shall incorporate

a dyslexia screening program into the System, including by

screening for dyslexia during—

‘‘(A) the intake process; and

‘‘(B) each periodic risk reassessment of a prisoner.

(2) TREATMENT .—The Attorney General shall incorporate

programs designed to treat dyslexia into the evidence-based

recidivism reduction programs or productive activities required

to be implemented under this section. The Attorney General

may also incorporate programs designed to treat other learning


Title I: Section 3633: Evidence Based Recidivism Reduction Program and Recommendations

‘‘(C) the addition of any new effective evidence-based

recidivism reduction programs that the Attorney General



MITIGATION .—In carrying out subsection (a), the Attorney General

shall consider the prevalence and mitigation of dyslexia in prisons,

including by—

‘‘(1) reviewing statistics on the prevalence of dyslexia, and

the effectiveness of any programs implemented to mitigate the

effects of dyslexia, in prisons operated by the Bureau of Prisons

and State-operated prisons throughout the United States; and

‘‘(2) incorporating the findings of the Attorney General

under paragraph (1) of this subsection into any directives given

to the Bureau of Prisons under paragraph (5) of subsection


Title I: Section 3634: Report

‘‘(iii) promote crime reduction programs using evidence-

based practices and strategic planning to help

reduce crime and criminal recidivism.

‘‘(8) Statistics on—

‘‘(A) the prevalence of dyslexia among prisoners in

prisons operated by the Bureau of Prisons; and

‘‘(B) any change in the effectiveness of dyslexia mitigation

programs among such prisoners that may be attributed

to the incorporation of dyslexia screening into the System

and of dyslexia treatment into the evidence-based recidivism

reduction programs, as required under this chapter.

Title I: ‘‘§ 3635. Definitions

‘‘In this subchapter the following definitions apply:

(1) DYSLEXIA .—The term ‘dyslexia’ means an unexpected

difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence

to be a much better reader, most commonly caused by a difficulty

in the phonological processing (the appreciation of the

individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability

of an individual to speak, read, and spell.

‘‘(2) DYSLEXIA SCREENING PROGRAM .—The term ‘dyslexia

screening program’ means a screening program for dyslexia

that is—

‘‘(A) evidence-based (as defined in section 8101(21) of

the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20

U.S.C. 7801(21))) with proven psychometrics for validity;

‘‘(B) efficient and low-cost; and

‘‘(C) readily available.


DDVA Dyslexia Advocacy Day 2019


Join DDVA on January 29, 2019 for a day of dyslexia advocacy work. On our 6th annual organized advocacy day, we will bring the community together at the Richmond General Assembly Building (Pocahontas Building due to construction for 2019) to visit legislators in their offices to educate them on dyslexia by sharing our stories in order to direct their attention toward the almost 1 in 5 Virginians that are affected.  We’ll be asking them to support our dyslexia legislation.

Come early to join us on the evening of January 28, 2019 in Richmond (restaurant location to be determined) at 5:30pm to introduce ourselves, learn about the next day’s advocacy work, and visit with new an old friends!

Learn more here!

PALS Screening in Virginia





In an attempt to understand our publicly funded Virginia Universal Screener and the impact it has on our children in the classroom, Decoding Dyslexia Virginia began requesting data that is required by our universal screening law to be collected on our children in grades K-3.  

To provide background:

  • We understand that our state has mandated that a universal screener be administered to every child ages kindergarten through third grade.  
  • We are aware that the PALS assessment is the screener that the state has made available through public funds to our districts and if a district chooses to use an alternate screener, there must be an approved waiver.  
  • At this time, every district with the exception of Fairfax County, has committed to using the PALS screener as their fulfillment of the universal screener mandate.

Decoding Dyslexia Virginia has a mission to raise awareness and connect families to information and resources.  In our work to understand the issue of dyslexia and how it is intrinsically connected to literacy in Virginia, we believe it is important to understand everything about initial literacy screenings, appropriate interventions delivered by qualified educators, and access to assistive technology and accommodations.  

In an effort to increase transparency with our community, we would like to share information about our efforts to obtain the PALS data in the last few months. Please consider completing this informal community survey to enrich our understanding of screening in the state of Virginia.

If you’d like to help cover the cost for this FOIA request, please DONATE here.

Timeline for obtaining PALS data:

September 19, 2018 – A DDVA parent sent an email to the VDOE requesting information on how to access the data collected from our publicly funded state screener.   

September 19, 2018 – VDOE response was that the data was accessible to vetted researchers only through the VLDS (Virginia Longitudinal Data System).

September 19, 2019 – DDVA parents respond that they are not vetted researchers and unable to access PALS data.

September 20, 2018 – VDOE informs us that suppressed data is available to the public through an FOIA, Freedom of Information Act request.  Easy how-to-do-it-yourself instructions available here!

September 21, 2018 – DDVA parents submit an FOIA request asking for state data.  This request was for information over multiple school years, to include grades K-3 and both subtest and composite test scores.

September 26, 2018 – VDOE issues the following response and invoice:

“VDOE staff has determined that it will take approximately 68.5 hours for staff to search, review, and produce the requested information.  VDOE policy provides that a $19.98 per hour fee shall be assessed for staff time to respond to FOIA requests, and waives the first $20.00 of charges. Therefore, your total estimated cost to respond to this request would be $1348.63.“  Invoice available here

September 26 – October 4, 2018 –  DDVA founding members conducted discussions regarding next steps. Outreach to additional experts in the field for guidance on our efforts to collect PALS data that was not readily accessible with our initial parent request

October 11, 2018 – DDVA submitted the $674.32 deposit (link google doc of invoice) through the mail to move forward with the data request.

October 18, 2018 – VDOE receipt of deposit begins the work on the DDVA FOIA request.

October 18, 2018 – VDOE files for an extension, new due date October 31, 2018

October 31, 2018DDVA receives answers to specific questions from VDOE.  Raw data for dollars that districts have received through the publicly funded Early Intervention Reading Initiative, EIRI

November 1, 2018 – DDVA sends the remaining balance of $674.32 to VDOE through the mail.

November 1, 2018 – Present  – DDVA begins analysis of data.

November 6, 2018 – DDVA developed an informal community survey to gather additional information.  
For a deep dive on Virginia literacy, we provided some additional resources HERE.

2018 Decoding Dyslexia Hill Days – July 11th – Washington DC

This Wednesday Decoding Dyslexia families from around the country will meet in DC to elevate dyslexia awareness. Information on the days events below.

Wilson Language Training Scholarship for Virginia Teachers

DDVA is pleased to announce one scholarship available for a Virginia teacher or tutor interested in the Wilson Reading System Introductory Workshop offered in Sandston, VA (near Richmond, VA) on September 25th, 26th and 27th.
Training details available here:
Scholarship applicants can apply once during the month of July 2018 by completing this form. Our Wilson Reading System Scholarship winner will be chosen in a random lottery during the first week of August and contacted immediately.
All applicants must be able to commit to all three days of training, as well as cover their own travel and accommodations costs


Apply here:

DDVA Dyslexia Advocacy Day 2018



Register HERE

Date of Meeting: Tuesday, 1/30/2018

Time of Meeting: 9:00am – 3:00pm

Location: General Assembly Building Under Construction (new address to follow)

Join DDVA on January 30, 2018 for a day of dyslexia advocacy work. On our 5th annual organized advocacy day, we will bring the community together at the Richmond General Assembly Building to visit legislators in their offices to educate them on dyslexia by sharing our stories in order to direct their attention to the almost 1 in 5 Virginians that are affected.

Let us know if you have an appointment with your legislator here:

Advocacy Day Canvassing Efforts – Log your appointment here soon!

Join us on January 29th at the Legend Brewing at 5:30pm to introduce ourselves, see old friends and learn about the next day’s advocacy work!

321 West 7th Street, Richmond, VA 23224


How can you help?

Reach out to your representatives TODAY to schedule a visit in your district office in the coming month or for a sit down in their office in Richmond on January 30th as the date grows closer. Our lobbying consultants have shared that a legislator with prior knowledge of dyslexia will be much more likely to vote for a proposed bill!  This means we need to make our introductions now so that our time in Richmond will be used for further education and (hopefully) an introduction to the proposed legislation we would like to get passed.

What is ‘The Ask”?

Call your legislators and ask them to CO-SPONSOR our dyslexia bills.  Specific bill number and patrons coming soon.

And ask them if they would like to write a draft bill to support our efforts. If not this year, then next year! DDVA will be happy to share some suggestions on areas to focus if the interest is there. If not, ask them to support the proposed bill(s) we hope to have during the 2018 legislative session.

DDVA Dyslexia Advocacy Day 2018

Contact DDVA with questions at



Symbol of the Dyslexic Journey


Before I head into the lazy days of summer, I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of the people who have taken the time to reach out about the pqbd symbol. What started as an emblem to provide strength in IEP meetings has blossomed into a deeper symbol of the dyslexic journey. Once again I am humbled by the ways that art can lift and carry us to places that words are unable to achieve. Some of you have told me about your pqbd tattoo, the pqbd jewelry you wear or give, the conversations that were started, but most of all how this dyslexia symbol relates to you. I have received the most inspiring letters and phone calls about how the pqbd symbol has been meaningful on this personal journey. Hearing these stories keeps providing me encouragement for positive change. I thought I would share some simple excerpts. I am collecting these stories and always find them powerful!
Please share yours at

Rebecca Warner

“Love your work and so glad that you have created something to start the
conversation of dyslexia. My 8 year old was diagnosed 2 years ago. I see it
as a gift, but I also know that it truly is a fight to get the help they need. ”

“All of my life I have dealt with dyslexia and I wanted to put your symbol on my wrist… A sign of being a dyslexic and embracing it. ”

“I really want this for my daughter’s teacher who fought to get her identified. We got an
IEP today!”

“Nothing makes me feel more connected to the power of the common voice for awareness and change (and to my own son’s tiny voice hugging my heart), then when I feel the smooth weight of this shiny symbol against my skin.”

“My son was so excited to explain the symbolism of the pqbd to his teachers. It was the first time I had told him he might have dyslexia.”

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