Decoding Dyslexia VA

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Virginia Dyslexia Advisors in Every District

DDVA SB1516 Dyslexia Advisor 2019

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Does your Virginia public school district have a Dyslexia Advisor?

Help us encourage every district to hire a Dyslexia Advisor during the month of October 2019 in celebration of October being Dyslexia Awareness Month!

Check the link to confirm for your district!

(Districts self report names and contact information for their dyslexia advisors. If a name is missing, it does not mean that they don’t have an advisor.  Use the tabs on the bottom of the spreadsheet to find your region and district.)

IF YES, send an email to them in October to say thanks for taking on this role in your district. Make a connection and see how you can help them support your student and their peers.

If NO, send an email to your school board representatives and ask them if they have hired a dyslexia advisor for your district. SB1516 went into effect on July 1, 2017.

SB1516 information on VDOE website

SB1516 information from VA General Assembly


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.

New Dyslexia Resolution Fresh off the Presses!

New dyslexia resolution from Senator Cassidy’s office  was just released Senate Resolution 275!

oct 2015 res from cassidy page 1 oct 2015 res from cassidy page 2

What can VA do??? Reach out to our Virginia State Senator’s:  Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine

Let them know Dyslexia is an important issue to your family and urge the office to sign on as a cosponsor of Senate Resolution 275, the Cassidy/Mikulski resolution.

2015 DDVA Session Update

Hello all,
DDVA is preparing for the 2015 Session.  We have done our very best to educate the state representatives on our issues and what we believe those solutions should look like in terms of law.  We have been reminded over and over by our champions at the state level that the goal is to get our issue on the floor.  We will have little control over what may be presented but what we WILL be able to do is, we will be given the opportunity to address our issue in front of our representatives at committee and to keep the dyslexia discussion alive.
I wish I had a bill number or two to pass along at this time but as of today, I do not.  I am confident we will see something.  But I do have an ask…. with the anticipation of bills being introduced, we will need to be prepared to give public testimony.  If each of you could prepare your public comment and have it ready, we will be prepared when the time comes.  
Whether the bills that are introduced are perfect or not, we can share our experiences in that testimony, driving home the need for change.  If we have the opportunity to submit written comment, to flood the committee with stories of dyslexia will make an impact and support those who are able to make the trip to Richmond in person.  If you would like to send any testimony to me, I will get a file started for the 2015 session, please include your name and address.
Please share this email with any and all families who have expressed an interest in seeing change for our dyslexic children. please see below a sample of a public comment to help.  As always please feel free to reach out for further discussion.
Kristin Kane

Public Comment Sample:

My name is Jane Doe and I am from Anytown, VA.  I currently have three children attending public schools in Any County Public School System.  My second child is a middle school student and is currently being served by an IEP for SLD.  My son is dyslexic, the dyslexia that is defined in our Virginia State Code.  He is well above average in intelligence and yet struggles with his ability to read, write and spell.  This deficit, in turn, negatively impacts his access to information he should be receiving in his curriculum.  He currently reads at a 4th grade level, three plus years below his peers, and after recent evaluations done by the school this February, he is in the 2% for his spelling and 17% for his writing.

Every year we meet with each of my son’s teachers to start the year off “right”.  Along with labeling a child for services, comes very real misconceptions of the child’s ability and disability.  As parents, we have found it helpful to advocate for our son in a manner that we hope helps both the team and the student.  And yet I feel compelled to bring to light that this disability, dyslexia, is the most wide spread and accounts for 80% of all SLD IEP’s in the state.

Year after year we do our best to educate the staff that will work with my son and year after year I am amazed at the lack of understanding or even base knowledge of the most common learning disability identified for services.  I want to use the word, “injustice”.  This is an injustice for the families relying on the schools for help, and this is an injustice to the teachers and staff who want to help educate our students.

As a public school mom and member of Decoding Dyslexia VA, I am asking for a plan for Virginia to implement:

  • Teacher/staff training on dyslexia, its warning signs and appropriate intervention strategies
  • Early screening tests for dyslexia
  • Evidenced-based dyslexia remediation programs implemented with fidelity which can be accessed by both general and special education populations
  • Access to appropriate “assistive technologies” in the public school setting for students with dyslexia

Thank you for your time.

AIM VA and Decoding Dyslexia VA


Seen above from left to right. Ian Moore, AIM VA trainer; Shannon Duncan, DDVA Parent; Joyce Sharp, AIM VA trainer



We here at DDVA believe that getting a child and parents to the appropriate resources and information as fast as possible along their journey helps both the parents and the child.  What we are so excited about sharing with you here is that this resource and opportunity will help families of children with dyslexia served by IEP’s in VA AND help schools and faculty where training and information may also be diffucult to locate on AIM VA, Accessible Instructional Material in VA.

If you are not familiar with AIM VA, here is a link and a quick overview:
AIM-VA provides accessible instructional materials at no cost to Virginia K-12 students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP). Accessible instructional materials are alternative print materials, (e.g., Braille, electronic files, etc.) that can be delivered to and used by students who are not able to use traditional print formats. AIM-VA staff provide teachers with training and technical assistance on how to select and use accessible instructional materials with students.

AIM VA recently reached out and asked if we could help connect their trainers with VA families and educators. They will come out and train at Parent Resources Centers, SEAC meetings, PTA hosted events, Parent coffees, faculty meetings and just about anywhere there might be a need.

Here is a list of topics too!

AIM-VA Training Topics are below.

General Overview: What is AIM? What do we provide? (new users)
Features (accessibility of formats)
Laws, rules, and regulations
AIM updates (existing users)
Site navigation/use/features
Portal navigation/use/features
Use of Partner Sites (Learning Ally and Bookshare)
Use of assistive technology programs (DJ R:OL and Read Hear)
Administrative roles and responsibilities as they relate to AIM-VA
AIMVA seminar (guided by user questions)

We would like to say thank you and DDVA is super excited to be part of this conversation with AIM VA!

Please feel free to contact the awesome folks below with questions or ideas.  It would be wonderful to spread the word about AIM VA and get more children to the assistive technology they need.

Ian Moore, AIM VA Trainer
Joyce Sharp, AIM VA Trainer
Stacey Schwartz, AIM VA Trainer

What is an Ombudsman?

Thank you group

First, we would like to take a minute to thank John Eisenburg and Pat Abrams of the ‪‎Virginia Dept Of Education‬ Special Education Dept for taking time to sit down with DDVA earlier this month!

Second, Resource Alert!!! DDVA families who are struggling in school, we (VDOE and DDVA) encourage you to reach out to the state ‪ombudsman.

Q: What is an Ombudsman?

A: “Ombudsman” is a Swedish word meaning citizen representative or advocate. An ombudsman is a person who serves as a ‘designated neutral’ who advocates for a fair process.

Q: What does an Ombudsman do?

A: The ombudsman acts as a source of information and referral, aids in answering individuals’ questions, and assists in the resolution of concerns and issues. The ombudsman serves as a resource to parents in non-legal special education matters.

How do I contact the ombudsman?

Gloria Dalton, Parent Ombudsman
Phone: 804-371-7420 or 800-422-2083

For more information please visit the VA Department of Education Website here:



IDA offer for Decoding Dyslexia Families

We at Decoding Dyslexia have recently received a letter from IDA President Hal Malchow and we wanted to be able to share with all of you!


 ida blog.jpg

Dear Decoding Dyslexia Supporters,

At the International Dyslexia Association we are excited about the Decoding Dyslexia movement. Your engagement and activism is helping all of us accomplish more in the cause we share. Over the last few months I have had the privilege of meeting with a group of Decoding Dyslexia members in Virginia and Maryland to hear your concerns and shape a better IDA parent program.
To say thank you, IDA is offering to all Decoding Dyslexia members a free trial parent membership in IDA. All parents who sign up for the free trial membership will receive “Pushing Back: What to Say When Your School Gets It Wrong.” This document, which arose from the stories of Decoding Dyslexia parents, helps you set the record straight when your school is not complying with the law or recommending the wrong strategies for your child.
In addition to receiving this document, IDA membership gives you access to a number of publications.
Dyslexia Connection: This monthly electronic newsletter for parents focuses on public school advocacy and other issues facing parents with children who have dyslexia and related learning disabilities.

  • The Examiner: IDA’s monthly e-newsletter will keep you abreast of happenings at IDA and on dyslexia and literacy-related events around the world.
  • Perspectives: IDA’s quarterly, full-color publication, Perspectives on Language and Literacy discusses educational best practices, curriculum methods, case studies and first-person application of multi-sensory structured language teaching techniques.
  • Annals: IDA’s tri-annual Annals of Dyslexia is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the scientific study of dyslexia and related language disabilities.
  • Reading and Writing: Reading and Writing is an interdisciplinary journal containing articles on the processes, acquisition, and loss of reading and writing skills.

Your IDA membership will also connect you with the IDA Branch closest to your home and you will receive local information, access to workshops and events and full membership in the branch. You will gain access to IDA’s listing of professional service providers in your area.
All this for free. And at the end of August, if you want to continue your parent membership the fee is only $45 per year. So try us out.
Unlike past IDA presidents, I came to IDA, not as a professional but as a parent like you. Beyond my own experience, I have learned so much from my conversations with Decoding Dyslexia parents and these conversations have made me even more determination to bring better reading instruction into America’s classrooms. I also know that we need a stronger voice Decoding Dyslexia inside IDA.
Thank you for all you are doing for the cause we share. I hope that your membership will help us do even more to serve all students with dyslexia.
Hal Malchow
IDA President
PS We are also surveying parents and teachers about assistive technologies. You will be able to participate in these surveys and view the results.

For your Free four month IDA membership follow this link:

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