Dr. Sheldon Horowitz recently asked readers what might happen if parents and other advocates set out to raise public awareness through an "Occupy LD" campaign. We asked NCLD's Parent Leaders to share their suggestions on how to accomplish this. Below is one of the inspired ideas we received.
As the father of three dyslexic children, I understand how difficult (and frustrating) it can be to secure the support children like mine need from their public schools. My wife and I eventually decided we had to move to private school (and to "occupy" two homes for awhile) to see our children's needs met. But our story doesn't end there. We wanted to advocate for other families still struggling with this journey.
Last fall, I joined several other parents to form an advocacy group called Decoding Dyslexia -- NJ, a grassroots movement driven by New Jersey families concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within our public schools. We aim to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children and inform policymakers on best practices to identify, remediate and support students with dyslexia in New Jersey public schools.
Our group is as organized as it is passionate about the cause. We meet monthly and deliver a unified, consistent message to the local and state policymakers with whom we meet. Our mantra when it comes to public schools consists of four key talking points:
All children should be screened for dyslexia in kindergarten or first grade.
Schools should use research-based interventions proven to help students with dyslexia.
Teachers should be fully trained and certified to deliver such interventions.
Technology should be made available to assist students with dyslexia.
When meeting with policymakers, we hammer home the legal rights of our children. But we also put a human face on our message by telling legislators and other officials our family's personal stories -- stories of our children's struggle and success.
Some educational administrators and their staff require more education on this topic than others, like the Special Services Director who stated to me, "…dyslexia, doesn’t exist in this district!" I try to embrace those (discouraging) moments by seizing the opportunity to educate someone.
As members of Decoding Dyslexia – NJ, my fellow parent-advocates and I learn from each other and draw strength from one another. What we're doing matters, and we're making progress as we build momentum.