We are very excited to share a very special event that took place in Congress on Wednesday, November 13, 2013. Sponsored by the Bipartisan Dyslexia Caucus, the event aimed to help raise awareness of dyslexia within Congress and was well attended by Congressional representatives, their aides, and interested members of the dyslexia community. The enthusiasm began even before the event started—initially oversubscribed, the event moved to a larger room to accommodate all those who wanted to attend—and it only increased further with the passionate and articulate welcomes given by the Caucus Co-Chairs, Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
We were honored to present the keynote address, “The Science of Dyslexia: Translating Scientific Progress in Dyslexia into Policy and Practice,” which was very well received. The Caucus put together a wonderful panel consisting of Ben Cooper, a student at the Gow School; Madalyne Marie Hymas, a young adult who had to wait until she was a college student to experience the great relief that comes with a dyslexia diagnosis and self-understanding; and Kathy Stratton, the dedicated mother of a high school senior who is dyslexic. With humor, insight, some pain, and well-thought out suggestions, the members of the panel responded enthusiastically to the well-chosen questions posed by moderator, Lab School Director, Katherine Schantz.
Panelist Ben Cooper’s described his love for, and impressive skills in, math, especially algebra. However, he also talked about the sadness and difficulties he experienced when his public school, because of their misunderstanding of dyslexia, did not permit him to enroll in Algebra at the school. There is good news, though: Ben was able to transfer to the Gow School, a school that understands and supports students who are dyslexic. At Gow, Ben was not only permitted to take Algebra, but also given the space and support to excel and finish first in his class.
Madalyne Marie Hymas, a recent college graduate, eloquently described how painful and difficult it was for her to go through her entire primary and secondary school years without a single teacher recognizing that some of her challenges were directly related to dyslexia. Her life-changing moment was when a faculty member in college recognized and understood her dyslexia, and she also found a valued mentor.
Parent advocate Kathy Stratton spoke from the heart about her experiences attempting to obtain services for her son and brought vivid proof in the form of his IEPs and their inappropriate language and plans for him. So dedicated is Stratton that she is the co-founder of Decoding Dyslexia-NJ, a grassroots parents advocacy group.
This event highlighted to us that there is great interest in dyslexia, and we hope it emphasized to attendees that dyslexia affects so many in every walk of life and in every corner of this great country. We know so much about dyslexia, but we need to continue to build awareness—there is still too much unnecessary pain and human cost inflicted by the seeming misunderstandings and inappropriate actions made by many in our public school systems. Given that teachers want their students to learn and succeed, it is our hope, and the hope of so many in Congress, that action and events such as this Congressional Caucus event soon will result in greater awareness and understanding of dyslexia and the powerful scientific knowledge of dyslexia will be translated into policy and practice.
We at The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, and all those who care deeply about dyslexia, are extremely grateful and appreciative for the exceptional leadership and deep commitment shown by the Bipartisan Dyslexia Caucus Co-Chairs, Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).
Sally Shaywitz, MD and Bennett Shaywitz, MD
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