New Congressional Panel on Dyslexia Signals Important Change

May 14, 2012

New Congressional Panel on Dyslexia Signals Important Change

[caption id="attachment_1467" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Image courtesy of pixtawan"][/caption] Dyslexia is a really complex learning disability and one that, more often than not, is misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Children and adults with dyslexia are often just as capable academically as their peers, but the trouble that they have in interpreting words written on a page prevents them from reaching their potential without intervention. Over the years, I have routinely had students in my community college classroom that struggled through high school because of the challenges presented by undiagnosed dyslexia. By and large, once these students receive the help that they need (often in high school) they begin to excel. However, years of not knowing what was wrong with them led to poor grades that prevent them from going to any other school. It’s a tragedy. One that two Congressmen, Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Pete Stark (D-CA), hope to prevent in the future. Cassidy and Stark are both parents of dyslexic children. With firsthand knowledge of the struggles that these students face, they have teamed up to create the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus. This caucus, the first of its kind, aims to promote dyslexia awareness and highlight the issues, opportunities, and challenges that need to be addressed by schools in order to eliminate the current barriers to success in place for students with dyslexia. Support of IDA The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is in full support of Cassidy and Stark’s move citing the many problems that the current education system creates for dyslexic students and their families: Parents of students with dyslexia continually face challenges within our educational system, experiencing frustration, disappointment, and anger due to a lack of understanding about dyslexia.  All too often students with dyslexia are misdiagnosed, misunderstood, or just plain ignored.  As a result, their skills and abilities often are overlooked. These students begin to doubt themselves and their abilities; they feel stupid, lazy, and worthless. This lack of knowledge about dyslexia often means schools do not provide the necessary identification, instruction, intervention, and accommodations that students with dyslexia need to succeed.  From the time a student’s dyslexia is first identified to the implementation of an IEP or 504 plan, it is essential that educators understand the potential of our students when given appropriate instruction and accommodations. It is the hope of IDA that the increased emphasis on dyslexia as a real problem for students, teachers, and parents will change the way that it is treated in the school setting, thus no longer allowing for the tragedy of the undiagnosed teen to happen. [caption id="attachment_1311" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici"][/caption] Dyslexia Today The number of children and adults with dyslexia has often been debated among the medical and special need community. As I mentioned in the introduction, the diagnosis of dyslexia is not always timely, leaving many people who have this disorder to struggle for years, even their whole lives, without the tools they need for success. Some estimates put the number of children currently in school and suffering from dyslexia as high as 2 million. IDA estimates that as much as 15%-20% of the entire population suffers from some symptoms of dyslexia. This includes:
  • Inaccurate or slow reading
  • Poor writing
  • Poor spelling
  • Mixing up similar words
The lack of definitive numbers is therefore easy to understand. Small issues can go unnoticed and often the only students diagnosed with dyslexia are those in which the disorder is so severe that it prevents them from reading at all. Dyslexia is also an issue that causes stress among those struggling with the disorder as well as those with children who are in the same boat. A recent article I wrote for CW News came under attack because of the statistics I quoted from one particular study. Similarly, an opinion piece in the New York Times called “The Upside of Dyslexia” by Anne Murphy Paul was attacked on the grounds that the author was diminishing the struggles of those with this disorder. As the new Congressional Dyslexia Caucus convenes, the hope for the future is bright. The more that researchers and educators understand about dyslexia, the easier it will be to move forward in making positive changes among our educational system that can address reading difficulty and the positive benefits of intervention on the long term success of the students who struggle with dyslexia.



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