Legal and therapeutic changes affecting conditions from dyslexia to ASD have been in the news this month, as well as growing calls for more recess time in schools and a glimpse at how the court system is affecting families fighting for their children’s educational rights in Maryland. Here’s a closer look at some of this month’s trending neurobehavioral topics:
Changes in Dyslexia Screening Laws: The Ready to Read Act
Up to 15 percent of Americans are estimated to have dyslexia, a brain-based disorder that affects a person’s ability to read and write.(1) With so many people experiencing dyslexia, it’s quite shocking to learn that many schools are not screening for the condition — at all.(2) In fact, schools have become increasingly resistant to label a child’s reading condition as dyslexia, thereby preventing the child access to special education programs that could actually help the child learn to read in a way that best works for their specific needs.(3) Instead, children with undiagnosed dyslexia often continue to struggle throughout their entire school career, even though research has shown that students who haven’t been given appropriate reading interventions by third grade are less likely to ever read well and even less likely to finish high school.(2)
The methods used to help children with dyslexia (involving a phonics approach) have been demonstrated through studies to actually be helpful to all children learning to read — an important realization, since reading achievement, in general, is a problem in the United States. Less than 40% of American fourth graders are even considered to be proficient in reading.(3) For the schools who do recognize the reality of a problem like dyslexia, even fewer of these schools have staff who are trained and equipped to properly teach a child with this reading disorder.(3)
There is clearly much work to be done in this area, but the May approval of the Ready to Read Act by the Maryland government is giving families, students, and dyslexia advocates hope. The Act is meant to ensure that proper reading screening is provided in kindergarten and first grade, and it mandates schools to intervene when a learning difference like dyslexia is identified.(4)
Parents Advocating for their Children with Disabilities Face Problems in Maryland Courts
Every child has the right to a free, appropriate education with the right to specialized education or therapies when needed. Unfortunately, as many area families know all too well, advocating for this education isn’t always easy when it comes to students with disabilities. When students aren’t receiving the supports to which they are entitled, families have a right to file a formal complaint in a court of law. Although this isn’t remotely an easy decision for these families, only around 15 percent of cases that go before a judge are actually won in favor of the family. Instead, judges have almost always sided with the school systems, according to a recent report from The Baltimore Sun.(5)
School systems speaking with The Baltimore Sun said that they try to resolve cases outside of court and defended their accommodations, while judges note that each case is simply different and can’t be compared to another.(5) Still, families who have had to turn to private schools and other resources outside of public education to help their children are disturbed by the clear fact that most court cases regarding special education in Maryland are ruled in favor of the public school districts.(5) This is especially concerning since many low-income families cannot even attempt a legal battle due to the cost and time involved. Such consistently negative rulings make all families less likely to feel confident fighting for the services that their children have the rights to receive.
The Microbe Might Hold the Key to New Autism Therapies
Gut bacteria has been a trendy topic in regards to a variety of different conditions over the past couple of years. We are beginning to see that the natural bacteria within the digestive tract doesn’t only affect the digestive system, but potentially impacts the body and the brain as a whole.
Previous research into the gut bacteria of children with autism spectrum disorder has shown that children with ASD have markedly different types of this bacteria when compared to children without ASD. The question has always remained — is the bacteria merely a symptom of ASD or is it actually a contributor or even cause of autism spectrum disorder?
A recent study involving mice has demonstrated that perhaps this gut bacteria is actually influencing the behaviors of people with ASD, leading researchers to wonder about a future of therapies that include probiotics and related healthy bacteria. Of course, it’s always important to remember that animal studies don’t necessarily translate into human results.(6)
No Recess Makes Behavior Problems Worse
A familiar punishment in school systems involves taking away recess from students. However, research is showing that keeping kids from being active actually hurts more than it helps, particularly for students with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, who may be more likely than their peers to miss out on recess. Children perform better in all areas of their cognitive development when they are given ample, unstructured physical breaks during school. For students with ADHD who are already having a difficult time conforming to the standards of increasingly rigid educational settings, which already require long days of sitting and focusing, this lack of recess is even more detrimental to their success.(7)
In the past few years, many states have begun requiring recess during the school day for children.(8) A bill that would have required 90 minutes of weekly recess time for all Maryland students failed earlier this month. Montgomery County Schools, meanwhile, has been looking at ways to increase recess time for students anyway, after examining the research showing the benefits of physical activity.(9)
Neurobehavioral Associates: Your Special Needs Advocates
The team at Neurobehavioral Associates can attend IEP meetings and help you to ensure that your child receives the education that is appropriate and specialized for their needs. We also have a wealth of resources for Maryland families. Join us on the path to success with a comprehensive assessment for your child.
- Dyslexia: What Brain Research Reveals About Reading. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from http://www.ldonline.org/article/10784
- Abamu, J. (2019, May 20). Many School Districts Hesitate To Say Students Have Dyslexia. That
- Can Lead To Problems. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://wamu.org/story/19/05/20/many-school-districts-hesitate-to-say-students-have-dyslexia-that-can-lead-to-problems/
- How American schools fail kids with dyslexia. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.apmreports.org/story/2017/09/11/hard-to-read
- Hogan to Sign Bills That Expand Health Care, Increase Age to Buy Tobacco – Maryland Matters. (2019, May 12). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.marylandmatters.org/2019/05/12/hogan-to-sign-bills-that-expand-health-care-increase-age-to-buy-tobacco/
- Richman, T. (2019, May 04). ‘Why would we even try?’ Parents of disabled students almost never win in fights against Maryland districts. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-due-process-hearings-20190502-story.html
- Study in Mice Says Gut Microbes Might be Directly Linked to Autism – D-brief. (2019, May 31). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2019/05/31/study-in-mice-says-gut-microbes-might-be-directly-linked-to-autism/#.XPGVb2WRGcg
- Teachers Withholding Recess as Punishment Does More Harm Than Good. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-are-teachers-punishing-kids-with-adhd-by-taking-away-recess
- Kirby, A. (n.d.). States slowly embrace mandatory recess. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://cabinetreport.com/curriculum-instruction/states-slowly-embrace-mandatory-recess
- MCPS Examining Ways To Increase Recess Time. (2019, May 13). Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://bethesdamagazine.com/bethesda-beat/schools/mcps-examining-ways-to-increase-recess-time/