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Mississippi legislature considering bill that would provide more instructors for dyslexic students

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Legislation that would open the door to providing more specially-trained teachers to assist students with dyslexia has passed both chambers of the Mississippi legislature and is back in the Senate for concurrence.

Traci Barrientos, the executive director at Lighthouse Academy for Dyslexia in Ocean Springs, says it is past time for there to be a larger presence of instructors who can educate dyslexic students in the Magnolia State.

Barrientos cited a study from Psychology Assessment Resources, which shows that nearly 50 percent of the U.S. prison population consists of people who have dyslexia. She sees that alarming statistic as evidence that the education system needs to step up and provide more resources and attention to those struggling with dyslexia.

“It’s something that has nothing to do with reversing your letters. To be dyslexic, you must have average to above-average intelligence,” Barrientos said on Coast Vue with Ricky Mathews. “So, when you stop to think about our prison systems [which] are filled with people of average to above-average intelligence, that are illiterate, I think that’s a very condemning statement on where we are in education and how, as a society, there’s a certain population that we have failed.”

With dyslexia being unaddressed for many at a young age, Barrientos is now encouraging state lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 2333, which adopted language from House Bill 1200, which died in committee, that would widen the net of those qualified to tend to students who struggle with dyslexia.

Mississippi law requires for teachers to possess a “AA” Teaching License in Dyslexia Therapy, which is granted after holding an “A” teaching license and completing master’s degree in dyslexia therapy.

If SB 2333 is passed, instructors interested in teaching students with dyslexia will no longer be required to obtain a second master’s degree. Instead, they would be able to acquire a special license through the Academic Language Therapy Association.

“This bill says if you already have a master’s degree or a specialist degree, it is unnecessary to go back and receive a second master’s or an additional advanced degree to receive this in your licensure,” Barrientos continued. “You merely need to go through the CALT (Certified Academic Language Therapist) training program.”

The CALT program is a two-year one that requires a potential instructor to hold master’s degree in order to take the course’s final exam. A minimum of 700 practicum hours overseen by a qualified instructor are required and participants will have to take 200 classroom instruction hours in language remediation in order to complete training.

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