Submitted by Deborah Lynam
One of the first things a parent discovers as we begin the journey to learn about dyslexia and to find resources for our children is that there are two distinct worlds. The first is that of the learning disability (LD) community — dyslexia conferences, LD workshops, webinars, and research-based discussions. We read the books, the research papers, and the educational reports. We begin to understand the brain-based science that shows proper intervention can re-wire a struggling reader's brain to more effectively activate its language centers. This is the world that brings us hope and offers our children solutions.
Unfortunately, often times our children are educated in a very different world, that of public schools. It is here where we encounter many roadblocks and have to maneuver around many obstacles. Often times we have to work with intervention teams that do not understand dyslexia and therefore leave our children to languish in inappropriate interventions for years before referrals to special education were made.
It is time for public schools in the US to catch up with the current research. Good things are happening across the country in private schools and intervention clinics focused on students with learning disabilities. Research based interventions are in use, and educators are knowledgeable about what strategies work and what techniques are effective. Yet it is so sad that in spite of this research, children have to spend six hours of each day in a classroom that is not in tune to their needs. This is wasted time. This is precious time lost.
In the state of NJ, like-minded parents connected to form Decoding Dyslexia - NJ (DDNJ), a grassroots movement driven by families of dyslexic children. The mission is to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families with information and resources to support their children, and inform policy-makers about dyslexia, and the need to identify, remediate, and support students with dyslexia in New Jersey’s public school system.
This mission is one that has clearly resonated with parents across the country… the movement is growing at an astounding pace. At the beginning of the new year just a few states had parent led DD Movements. However, things have expanded and now 20 states are active!
Decoding Dyslexia members are connecting and collaborating with professionals, therapists, teachers, and policy-makers in their states. We aim to change the way things are done in schools by encouraging families to share their stories. Individual stories, when shared in unison, have power and Decoding Dyslexia is encouraging families to find their voices.
The time is ripe for families across the country to speak up about dyslexia. There is currently a bi-partisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus in place in Washington DC. Congress will be looking to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the near future and states are adapting to the new Common Core Content Standards. We need to ensure that discussions on improving literacy programs for dyslexics are included on all fronts. As parents we need to insist that this gap between research and practice is addressed!
Deborah Lynam is a parent and member of Decoding Dyslexia – NJ