Nebraska Legislator Suggests Funding AI Solutions to Address Dyslexia

LINCOLN — In second grade, Janae Harris, a junior at Millard North High School, struggled to read to a kindergarten class. The teacher constantly corrected her and told her she needed to learn how to read before reading to another class. Janae still struggles with reading out loud today due to her dyslexia. Janae testified in front of the Legislature’s Education Committee on Monday in support of Legislative Bill 1253. The bill aims to create a Dyslexia Research Grant Program for new technologies. Janae wants to minimize the struggles of dyslexic students and believes the grant program could make a difference.

Janae Harris of Millard North High School testifies in front the Nebraska Education Committee on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, in Lincoln. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, who has dyslexia herself, introduced the bill. The proposed research program would allocate $1 million for Nebraska businesses to research artificial-intelligence-based writing assistance for individuals with dyslexia. Linehan has long fought to support dyslexic students and believes this research can have a huge impact. According to the International Dyslexia Association, 15%-20% of the world’s population has dyslexia.

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, center, talks with State Sens. Fred Meyer of St. Paul and Danielle Conrad of Lincoln. Dec. 7, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Dyslexico, a startup created by University of Nebraska-Lincoln college students, has developed a corrective writing tool for individuals with dyslexia. The Dyslexico software is powered by AI and helps students improve their spelling and grammar without rewriting their sentences. The software aims to provide support to dyslexic students while allowing them to maintain their original voice and actively participate in the learning process. Dyslexico has already launched with a public beta version and is in talks to partner with Services for Students with Disabilities at UNL. The company hopes to help an estimated 295,000 Nebraskans with dyslexia.

Megan Pitrat, a special education teacher, testified in opposition to the bill, stating that there are already systems in place to support dyslexic students. However, Janae Harris and other supporters believe that Dyslexico’s software has the potential to be “game-changing” and help students who struggle with dyslexia. The Legislature’s Education Committee has yet to take action on LB 1253.

Millard Education Association President Tim Royers, seated, testifies before the Education Committee. Jan. 17, 2024. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

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