MDAI at The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity
Education for all is the civil rights issue of today. We need to improve literacy levels in the multicultural community through increased education and awareness of dyslexia, the most common reading disability.

Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative


The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity created the Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative (MDAI) in order to provide awareness of dyslexia to communities of color and those of Latino heritage through dyslexia-focused advocacy, education and knowledge sharing with the student, parent, and education and legislative communities.

While there are numerous curricula and programs designed to increase literacy, dyslexia is often overlooked when searching for causes of illiteracy.  Dyslexia is the most common reading disability with approximately 1 out of every 5 people struggling with dyslexia.  More than 20% of the population is dyslexic, yet many remain undiagnosed, untreated and struggling with the impact of their dyslexia.

Dyslexia crosses racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines, and with proper instruction and accommodations, it can be remediated.  However, the diagnosis and treatment remains elusive in public schools, and even more so in urban school populations, African American and Latino communities.  Children who cannot read are marginalized and left to struggle and ultimately risk falling completely through the cracks, dropping out of school and facing dismal futures. With proper identification and intervention, this is preventable.   More awareness of and testing for dyslexia, along with remediation for those diagnosed with dyslexia, especially in minority communities, can improve literacy.  Considering the struggles and marginalization of many dyslexic children—and those children who remain undiagnosed—and all of our shared vision for a more inclusive and innovative world, it seems natural to reframe dyslexia as a civil rights issue.

 

Want to learn how you can get involved in MDAI's efforts? Have questions?
Click here to contact YCDC's Multicultural Dyslexia Awarenes Initiative.

 

MDAI aims to support children and youth with dyslexia to understand that they are in good company, while helping adults with dyslexia learn, and continue, to navigate beyond the barriers.

Dyslexia is universal, affecting individuals of all backgrounds across the globe. The impact of dyslexia is seen at all levels of literacy including those struggling to read and those who can read accurately, but not automatically, that is they must read slowly and with great effort. Our mission is to bring understanding, support and better lives to all those who are dyslexic.

Objective:

  • Educate the larger African American and Latino communities, in particular, and communities of color in general, about dyslexia.

  • Mobilize a public awareness (grassroots) effort to engage educators, legislators, policy makers, scholars, and philanthropist, to impact policy.

  • Connect Dyslexics to resources in their communities.

  • Collaborate and partner with organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Association for the Education of African American Children with Learning Disabilities, National Alliance of Black School Educators, American Association of Blacks in Higher Education, White House HBCU Initiative, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Dyslexia Caucus, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund,  African-American Affairs Commission, and the Children's Defense Fund.

  • Engage successful Dyslexics: athletes, celebrities, scientists, lawyers and judges, entrepreneurs, doctors and other professionals to the effort and encourage others to overcome the shame.

Leadership

Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D., the Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at the Yale University School of Medicine, is the Co-Director of The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. She is also the author of the widely-acclaimed national best-seller, Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level (Knopf, 2003; Vintage, 2005) which received the Margo Marek Book Award and the NAMI Book Award. Dr. Shaywitz is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and is annually selected as one of America's Best Doctors.

Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D., the Charles and Helen Schwab Professor in Dyslexia and Learning Development, is the Chief of Pediatric Neurology and Co-Director The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity at the Yale University School of Medicine. The author of over 300 scientific papers, Dr. Shaywitz has received many honors for his contributions to the understanding of the basic neurobiology of reading and dyslexia. Dr. Shaywitz is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and is annually selected as one of America's Best Doctors.

Reverend Keith L. Magee, Th.D. work is interwoven in his commitment to social justice and the cause of the poor. He has intersections with various universities, museums, and non-governmental organizations to illuminate and interrupt the cycle of global poverty by addressing issues of inequality, literacy, public policy, and how to build sustainable communities. Keith brings both the academic, having trained at Harvard Divinity School, and practical background, having served in various roles as nonprofit executive, social historian, pastor of two an inner city congregations, and as a senior advisor to the President Obama's campaign and his African American Clergy Network.

Lynn Waymer works as Director, Domestic Distribution for HBO. She also is the mother of two teen-aged daughters, one who is dyslexic. Over the past several years, Lynn has volunteered and led fundraising campaigns to provide awareness and resources for children who are dyslexic and who learn differently. Currently she is a Board Member with IDA, Atlanta and a Fundraising Captain for the Renwick Student Services Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Lynn is thrilled to be engaged with the Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative and the Yale Center for Creativity and Dyslexia.

Amber Bobin is a strategic visionary, bringing creative ideas and people together to affect positive change in the world. As a Program Consultant for American Program Bureau, one of the world's leading speakers bureaus, she connects speakers and performers with organizations, facilitating creative programming and events. In her role, she particularly enjoys fostering fresh talent by uniting them with colleges, universities, and global organizations. Through these relationships, they have a platform to share their message and work toward their goals of making a difference on the global stage.

Supporters

Sheila Jackson Lee has served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the past 18 years, representing Texas's 18th congressional district centered in Houston. In the midst of her ninth term, Jackson Lee is considered by many to be a “voice of reason” and is often tapped to appear on CBS’s Face the Nation and MSNBC. Congresswoman Jackson Lee has been honored as one of the "100 Most Fascinating Black Women" (Ebony), “50 Most Effective Members of Congress” (Congressional Quarterly) and “10 Most Influential Legislators in the House of Representatives " (U.S. News and World Report).

Barbara Lee worked her way up the ladder from a congressional intern to the California State Assembly, Senate, and since 1988, as the Democratic U.S. Representative for California's 13th congressional district of Oakland/East Bay California voters. She is a forceful and progressive voice in Congress, yet skilled in forging coalitions that get her legislation signed into law, and has been the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. Additionally, she co-founded the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus that seeks to eliminate poverty in the United States by involving lawmakers, organizations, community leaders, and other key. Her dedication transcends boundaries, having been involved in ending the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Her work on the international project 1000 Women for Peace earned her a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nomination along with women from 150 countries.

Marcia Fudge, the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 11th congressional district since 2008, has dedicated herself “to do the people’s work.” She is a democrat who represents those living in districts from Cleveland to Akron. Because her congressional colleagues respect her insight, wisdom and honesty, she was unanimously elected her in 2012 to serve as the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. On the Education and the Workforce Committee, the Congresswoman is a strong advocate for policies to strengthen our education system and promote job creation for underemployed, unskilled, and undereducated.

Carol Moseley Braun is known for breaking barriers within her 30 years in public service. She was the first woman and the first African-American to hold executive office in Cook County government, as the Recorder of Deeds. After only two terms in the Illinois House of Representatives, Carol was the first African-American woman to serve as Assistant Majority Leader. But she is most famous for becoming the first African-American woman elected to the United States Senate. She was also a candidate for the democratic nomination for the presidency in 2003 and in 2011 ran to become major of Chicago. In 2005 she entered the private sector, launching the organic food company Good Food Organics™.

Henry Johnson Jr., known to all as Hank, is in his 4th term as the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 4th congressional district made up mostly of suburban counties outside of Atlanta. He took over this position in 2007. He is a democrat and one of only three Buddhists to have served in the U.S. Congress. Although he grew up in Washington, D.C., Congressman Johnson graduated from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) and then earned a law degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Congressman Johnson champions working American families, having introduced, co-sponsored, and most importantly passed legislation to level the playing field and create opportunities.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is defined by an unexpected difficulty in learning to read. Said another way, dyslexia is a paradox, the same person who struggles to read quickly often has very high intelligence. Science and experience have shown that "dyslexics think differently. They are intuitive and excel at problem solving, seeing the big picture, and simplifying" (S.Shaywitz, Overcoming Dyslexia, 2003, p. 366).

How many people does dyslexia affect?

1 in 5 people will have dyslexia. This percentage is virtually the highest among all neuro-cognitive disorders. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability.

Why should we care about dyslexia?

Often dyslexia goes undiagnosed which means that smart kids are missing out on opportunities to succeed. Worse yet, they (and often their teachers) think of themselves as dumb and unable to have a bright future, thereby giving up on themselves. Identification brings with it, self-awareness and self-empowerment, as well as proven interventions. We owe our children, their families and society a real opportunity to succeed and realize their potential.

Why do dyslexics need advocacy?

Education for all is the civil rights issue of today. Dyslexia takes away an individual's ability to read quickly and automatically, and to retrieve spoken words easily, but it does not dampen their creativity and ingenuity. Science has now demonstrated a neurobiological basis for a dyslexic's slow reading; given additional time, their comprehension is very high. Today, many students with dyslexia, are not receiving accommodations, such as extended testing time, required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they take high stakes examinations such as the SAT, GRE, LSAT, or US Medical Licensing Examinations and others. Advocacy is important to level the playing field to insure that science and the law are reflected in decisions involving accommodations so that all have equal access to demonstrating their true ability.

What can I do to help?

There are several simple ways that you can help.

  1. Urge your congressional representative to join the Bipartisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus.
    a. To find your congressperson go to: www.house.gov/representatives/find.
    b. Tell your representative to contact the Dyslexia Caucus co-chairs to join. Click here.

  2. Add your name to the petition for dyslexia. Click here.

  3. Speak up for dyslexia: Advocate for accommodations, use the word dyslexia, insist on identification, and learn more about dyslexia.