The Top Three Changes to the Texas Dyslexia Handbook Schools Should Know Now

On February 10, 2022, updates to the Texas Dyslexia Handbook went into effect. The State Board of Education (SBOE) previously approved the handbook revisions in September 2021. The changes necessitate updates to school district policies, procedures, and practices related to dyslexia.

Because dyslexia remains a “hot button issue” in Texas, including a growing subject of special education litigation, schools should prioritize compliance with the procedures in the updated handbook. To facilitate the updates schools should undertake, here are the three most significant changes from the handbook that Texas schools should know and act on now.

#1: What You Should Know About Evaluations 

Before February 10, 2022, Texas school districts could evaluate students for dyslexia without a formal special education evaluation. The revised handbook now requires school districts to get parental consent for a Full Individual Initial Evaluation (FIIE) under the IDEA any time the school district suspects that a student has dyslexia or a related disorder and may need dyslexia intervention services. School districts must provide prior written notice and notice of procedural safeguards when seeking informed parental consent to evaluate a student for dyslexia.

We have heard concerns from many clients about how this will impact already-overloaded evaluation staff, and evaluation staff members will likely need to develop a plan for the increase in IDEA evaluations. School districts also should take steps to appropriately train evaluation staff members on identifying dyslexia and dysgraphia within an FIIE and, if necessary, communicate with experts in the areas of dyslexia and related disorders to appropriately evaluate students under the IDEA.

#2: What You Should Know About Screenings 

Good news! The updated handbook reduces the number of skills school districts must include on the universal dyslexia screening instrument used to screen for dyslexia. According to the updated Handbook, the screening instruments now only need to include letter sound knowledge or letter naming fluency and phonological awareness for Kindergarten and word reading accuracy or fluency and phonological awareness for First Grade. Review your current dyslexia screening instruments and revise them to reflect these changes if you have not done so already.

#3: What You Should Know About Instruction 

The updated Handbook adds language regarding the requirements for educators tasked with delivering dyslexia instruction. Specifically, the updated Handbook clarifies that a provider of dyslexia instruction to a student who also receives special education and related services does not need to be a certified special education teacher if the provider is the most appropriate person to offer dyslexia instruction to the student. School districts will need to update their operating procedures to include the updated language and communicate this change to staff. Remember that a parent may not demand specific personnel, and an ARD Committee or Section 504 team is not required to (and likely should not) specify personnel who will provide instruction.

School districts must update policies, procedures, including special education operating procedures relating to Dyslexia Services, and practices as soon as possible to comply with the revised handbook. Remember to upload the revised operating procedures to the Legal Framework website to ensure that you remain in compliance with federal and state requirements. For help with updating your policies and procedures or for additional guidance on best practices for complying with the updated handbook, please contact the author of this post or any other member of our special education team.