By Nicole Mitsakis
"You have to do the right thing...You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result." —Mohandas K. Gandhi
The quote above explains the very personal and passionate commitment I have to establishing Decoding Dyslexia in Massachusetts (DD-MA) as a relevant and effective means to improve the school experience of students with dyslexia. The struggle for my own child’s positive outcome in a public school was a work in progress, full of frustration and stress. DD-MA is a constructive outlet that allowed me to take some action.
or me, one of the most relevant opportunities was on June 17, 2015, when I testified before the Massachusetts Education Committee to share why dyslexia legislation is so necessary (HB 463 and SB 312). DD-MA has worked with neuroscientists and legislators to initiate legislation that will guide public school policy makers to better outcomes. What I’ve learned about the legislation process is invaluable, but the most important lesson I have learned is that by taking steps and creating the opportunity for others to join in those steps towards change, Massachusetts is closer to a result that would benefit all public school students struggling with dyslexia. As a new parent in the Landmark community, I’d like to share the mission of Decoding Dyslexia MA.
Who is DD-MA and what do they do?
Decoding Dyslexia Massachusetts (DD-MA) is a grassroots movement to raise awareness of the research-based interventions that are effective in overcoming dyslexia and opening the doors to academic success. We aim to influence families, educators, and legislators and our motto is: Make time to create change or the time for change will never be now.
Together, committed parents and professionals have joined us over the few short years since our beginning in 2013. I am grateful to all the parents, professionals, legislators, and dyslexia experts that I have had the privilege of meeting and learning from on this journey. The process of advocating for any child with a disability is difficult and it’s even more challenging when that disability is often not acknowledged or supported appropriately. DD-MA allows me to direct my energy in a positive way to create better outcomes. Below is a list of a few highlights accomplished by our group:
- Meeting with neuroscience researchers at the McGovern Institute of Brain Researchers to promote dyslexia awareness
- Advocating as part of the National Decoding Dyslexia Network in Washington D.C.
- Dyslexia awareness lectures with Dr. Nadine Gaab, Dr. Elizabeth Norton, Dr. Stephanie Gottwald, Dr. Matthew Schneps, Dr. Roberto Olivardia and other experts
- Documentary movie showings (both The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia and Dislecksia the Movie) with panel discussions for Dyslexia awareness
- Providing our 1700+ followers with an active place to learn about and discuss dyslexia
- Engaging Massachusetts families in legislative or community action that will improve outcomes for students with dyslexia
There is still work to be done!
The current legislation includes two bills as drafts in the Joint Committee on Education, HB 463 and SB 312. At the Hearing, DD-MA families were accompanied at the hearing by experts like Dr. John Gabrieli and Elizabeth Norton of the McGovern Institute of Brain Research at MIT, Dr. Charles Haynes of MGH Institute of Health Professionals, and Dr. Roberto Olivardia, Harvard Medical School. Many members of the International Dyslexia Association also signed a joint letter submitted as testimony. Though the hearing is past, testimony can be submitted by anyone who wants to offer their opinion and story to the Joint Committee on Education. I encourage all families who are experiencing the challenges that come with dyslexia—academic, financial, social, and emotional - to contact legislators to support legislation.
Can you make time to create change?
Nicole Mitsakis, Landmark Parent and DD-MA Co-Founder & Director of Operations