Dyslexia Comes to Congress: A Call to Action

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By Elenn Steinberg, M.Ed. and Charlotte G. Andrist, Ph.D., NCSP, Co-chairs of the IDA Government Affairs Committee

Legislative UpdateIt takes the tenacity of a parent to do whatever is necessary to support a struggling child; it took the tenacity of two such parents to move the issue of dyslexia to the forefront of the United States Congress.

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.

Representatives Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Pete Stark (D-CA), both parents of students with dyslexia, are proposing a bipartisan dyslexia congressional caucus to bring about awareness of dyslexia and the challenges, opportunities, and issues that must be addressed to eliminate the barriers to success for students with dyslexia.

“I am excited to be joining with Congressman Cassidy to form the dyslexia caucus. We will be working to raise awareness and educate others about dyslexia and pursuing policies that will allow people with dyslexia to reach their full potential. As a parent of a child with dyslexia, I understand the struggles that millions of parents and children face, as well as the triumphs that are possible when dyslexia is correctly diagnosed and an individual’s creativity and ingenuity are [sic] allowed to flourish,” shared Representative Stark.

“I’m proud to join Representative Stark in chairing the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus. Raising awareness of dyslexia is very important to me, and I am excited to be a part of this effort. In the coming months, I hope many members of Congress will join our caucus and support this critical issue,” said Congressman Cassidy.

There is much work to be done to raise awareness and educate the public about dyslexia and to make the necessary policy changes to insure implementation of quality instruction, create opportunity for all people with dyslexia, and remove barriers to success. For example, in December 2011, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report (GAO-12-40) showing that many students with learning and other disabilities, including dyslexia, are not receiving accommodations, such as extended testing time, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), when they take high-stakes examinations, such as the SAT, GRE, LSAT, or USMLE. Further, GAO found that the Department of Justice is not adequately enforcing ADA and protecting the rights of students. The result is that highly qualified individuals are locked out of professions and unable to achieve their career goals.

When people with dyslexia break through barriers placed in their paths by our educational system, their contributions enrich all our lives. Novelist John Irving, financier Charles Schwab, actor Orlando Bloom, Nobel Prize winning biologist Carol Greider, renowned cardiac surgeon and CEO, Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, and many other highly regarded entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and scientists have struggled with dyslexia. Each of our children has the potential to make a difference in the world, and we need to stand together to ensure that they are not limited by their dyslexia and the challenges and opportunities it brings.

Get InvolvedJoin with us!

We need your help to support these two tenacious parents in their battle to make a difference for children with dyslexia. Reach out to your US Representative and encourage them to join the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus:

Are you in the D.C. area?

Representatives Cassidy and Stark will be having a special presentation of the Sundance film The D Word – Understanding Dyslexia with guest speakers David Boies and Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Tuesday, May 8th, 6 – 8 p.m. at 2123 Rayburn. Washington, D.C. Click here for more information and to RSVP, as space will be limited.

Give Thanks!

Please remember to take a moment to say “Thank You” to Representatives Cassidy and Stark for their relentless efforts to make a difference in the lives of those with dyslexia.

Click here to contact Representative Cassidy (R-LA)

Click here to contact Representative Stark (D-CA)

Charlotte G. Andrist, Ph.D., NCSP, President of the Central Ohio Branch of IDA and Co-chair of IDA’s Government Affairs Committee is an educational consultant who resides in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Andrist is also Liaison, Ohio Board of Regents Dyslexia Task Force. She is the parent and grandparent of children with dyslexia.

Elenn Steinberg, M.Ed., is President of the Rocky Mountain Branch of the IDA, Co-chair of the Government Affairs Committee, founding member of Literate Nation, a Wilson certified tutor, advocate, and a parent of a child with dyslexia.

Copyright © 2012 International Dyslexia Association (IDA). We encourage sharing of Examiner articles. If portions are cited, please make appropriate reference. Articles may not be reprinted for the purpose of resale. Permission to republish this article is available from info@interdys.org.