LINCOLN — Christopher Holtzclaw can talk at length about the gravitational forces of different planets and successfully tackle his eighth-grade sister’s geometry homework.
But put a reading book in front of the 8-year-old and a different child emerges, a legislative panel was told Tuesday.
“He struggles mightily with reading, writing and spelling,” said his mother, Emily Holtzclaw.
He would try to avoid reading — “as if it was painful,” said his 14-year-old sister, Virginia. The boy would come home from school, pounding his forehead and screaming, “I’m an idiot,” his mother said.
Three years of asking teachers about the possibility of dyslexia got nowhere, said the boy’s parents, Emily and David Holtzclaw.
It was not until they pushed the matter, after going to a private consultant, that their son was given the tests needed to be diagnosed with the learning disorder.
That’s why the Omaha family joined several other testifiers in urging the Education Committee to support Legislative Bill 1052, introduced by State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln.
The bill would require that every student identified with dyslexia be provided reading and writing instruction using an evidence-based approach backed by dyslexia experts. Pansing Brooks said the approach is laid out in a technical assistance document on dyslexia put out by the Nebraska Department of Education.
The bill calls for distributing that document to all teacher education programs, educational service units and school districts across Nebraska and incorporating it into rules and regulations for school accreditation, teacher education and special education.
The bill spells out that students would not need a medical diagnosis — only an educational one — to get help with dyslexia.
Finally, it would require that teacher education programs include instruction in dyslexia.
Pansing Brooks said the bill builds on 2017 legislation, which defined dyslexia in state law, and an interim study of Nebraska schools that she undertook with Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Omaha.
Among supporters were the State Board of Education and State Education Association. There were no opponents.