More than 100 parents, teachers, students and dyslexia professionals came to Annapolis on March 1st to talk dyslexia policy and practices in Maryland. Attendees met with their legislators and DD-MD state leaders met with the Governor and Lt. Governor's education staffers and policy directors to offer insight on dyslexia, literacy and educational change for Maryland.
Dyslexia Advocacy Day participants offered unique perspectives on dyslexia, including Betty Weller, head of the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), the largest teacher's union in Maryland. Ms. Weller remarked that although she was a 7th grade teacher for many, many years, she never taught a student with dyslexia. "And if I did, I didn't know it," she said because "I didn't know what dyslexia was and wasn't taught to recognize it." Ms. Weller said that is needed to change and that she stands with DD-MD parents in their effort to ensure teachers learn about dyslexia in their pre-service college education and in their in-service professional training.
The Maryland State Department of Education also attended and announced that they would ensure that all school districts "Say Dyslexia." As many parents know, and teachers too, when a parent suspects a reading problem, the school doesn't identify dyslexia -- they identify "Specific Learning Disability" which means nothing -- it's an eligibility category in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) federal law.
When schools use non-specific terminology, parents, teachers and service providers are not speaking the same language which prevents prescriptive solution finding. Many parents are left with the impression that their child will "catch up some day" and they wait and wait.
Research shows that waiting doesn't work and DD-MD will work with MSDE to ensure that in-service teachers, reading specialists, principals and special education administrators receive the knowledge and practice about dyslexia so that they can identify kids with dyslexia and provide the specialized instruction for dyslexia that research shows works.
Thank you to everyone who attended -- your outreach and advocacy continues to make a difference!
Decoding Dyslexia Maryland
From the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) website, Dyslexia is described as follows:
"As with other learning disabilities, dyslexia is a lifelong challenge that people are born with. This language processing disorder can hinder reading, writing, spelling, and sometimes even speaking. Dyslexia is not a sign of poor intelligence or laziness. Children and adults with dyslexia simply have a neurological difference that causes their brains to process and interpret information atypically.
Dyslexia occurs among people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds. Often more than one member of a family has dyslexia. According to the National Institute of Child and Human Development, as many as 15 percent of Americans have major troubles with reading.
Much of what happens in a classroom is based on reading and writing. So it's important to identify dyslexia as early as possible. Using alternate learning methods, people with dyslexia can achieve success."
The Scientific Definition of Dyslexia
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002. This Definition is also used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Many state education codes, including New Jersey, Ohio and Utah, have adopted this definition. Learn more about how consensus was reached on this definition: Definition Consensus Project.