It’s being hailed as an important step forward in the campaign to raise awareness about dyslexia in the Garden State.

After years of planning and preparation, the state Department of Education has released a dyslexia guidance and resource handbook for school administrators, teachers and parents.

“People used to think dyslexia was just a handful of people, but now we know it’s 10 to 20 percent of the population,” said Liz Barnes, founder and director of the group Decoding Dyslexia New Jersey, a driving force behind the creation of the handbook.

Barnes said many people think dyslexia is seeing words and numbers backwards, but that’s not correct.

“Dyslexia is a neurological condition where a person’s brain does not process the language components that a non-dyslexic could,” she said.

“They may have working memory issues, which might cause them not to remember the order of the letters in a word, but it doesn’t mean that they see it backwards.”

She said dyslexia can turn into a struggle with tasks like learning to read.

“It can be from the very basics of understanding sound and letter association and symbolism to being able to put words together in a sentence,” she said. “And if it takes so long to decode every word in a sentence, by the time you get to the end of the sentence, you have no idea what the sentence just said.”

She said the point of the guidance handbook “is to really outline for public school systems what they should be doing to help children with dyslexia and other language based learning disabilities.”

Barnes pointed out this information needs to be spelled out in order to help guide school districts to do things correctly.

“The handbook contains information about what a proper screening program should look like, how to screen children properly and then what to do with the child once you’ve raised that flag that they may be dyslexic. And then if they need the intervention program, what your intervention program should include.”

She said the handbook contains charts and checklists, so a school district can compare that information with the program they’re using and see if something should be altered or added.

She stressed the information in the handbook is also for mothers and fathers.

“It can be used by parents so they can know what they should be looking for from their school districts.”

Barnes said once we begin the dialogue about dyslexia, “we can move on to what can we do to help these kids and adults with dyslexia to have a better quality of life, and be able to be better learners.”

She noted right now “parents are running into brick walls in their public schools, where the school does not have the means or the knowledge in order to help their kids.”

“In too many cases, they don’t have the programs, they don’t have the teachers trained, and these kids, these are the ones that are going to fall through the cracks.”


She stressed given the right intervention, kids with dyslexia “can be successful learners."

"They may have to try harder, but they are our future scientists, inventors and business owners, it’s not beyond their reach.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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