Decoding Dyslexia

Quick Facts about Decoding Dyslexia:

  • A U.S. parent led grassroot movement aiming to raise awareness, empower families and inform policy makers on best practices for students with dyslexia
  • Started by a group of parents from New Jersey in October 2011
  • Objectives include: establishing a universal definition of dyslexia, mandatory teacher training, early screening and access to assistive technologies
  • Has successfully lobbied for legislation at the state level and is currently advocating for a federal resolution on dyslexia
  • Has now spawned groups in all 50 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces as of spring 2016. 
  • Actively uses social media to inform and engage. Facebook pages exist for every participating state
  • Has recently spread to Canada with the creation of Decoding Dyslexia British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Manitoba

New Jersey beginnings

Founded by a group of passionate and frustrated parents in 2011 who met en route to a learning disability conference in New York City, the organization describes itself as a network of parent-led grassroots movements across the country concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within the public education system.

Since its humble beginnings in 2011, DD groups have been sprouting up all around the United States, and now sports a group in every state.

Deborah Lynam describes the origins and purpose of Decoding Dyslexia

Each group builds its local movement by networking with families and professionals to gain support for the Decoding Dyslexia mission, tapping their collective voices and talents to advance school and state services for dyslexics.

In June of 2014, Decoding Dyslexia went international with a branch in British Columbia Canada. Shortly after groups popped up in Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. A Canadian wave has clearly started. 

Decoding Dyslexia goals

The DIY Guide to Growing Grass Roots

The New Jersey Decoding Dyslexia group has produced a guide to help parents and professionals in other states to grow their own Decoding organization. Check it out.

Decoding Dyslexia aims to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children and inform policy-makers on best practices to identify, remediate and support students with dyslexia. 

They advocate for the following policy goals: 

  • A universal definition and understanding of “dyslexia” in the state education code
  • Mandatory teacher training on dyslexia, its warning signs and appropriate intervention strategies
  • Mandatory early screening tests for dyslexia
  • Mandatory dyslexia remediation programs which can be accessed by both general and special education populations
  • Access to appropriate “assistive technologies” in the public school setting for students with dyslexia

Legislative success

Several Decoding groups have been advocating for legislation in support of the groups goals. The New Jersey group, for example, succeeded in getting a piece of legislation passed that supports early dyslexia screening in public schools. The Bill was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie in January of 2014 and requires that students with reading difficulties in the earliest grades be screened by their schools for dyslexia and other reading disorders. Truly, a remarkable accomplishing for such a young group. 

Key sections of the Bill can be found below, or you can read the full text.

Three Sections of the New Jersey Bill:

The Commissioner of Education shall distribute to each board of education information on screening instruments available to identify students who possess one or more potential indicators of dyslexia and or other reading disabilities pursuant to section 2[3] of this act.

A board of education shall select and implement age-appropriate screening instruments for the early diagnosis of dyslexia and other reading disabilities.

A board of education shall ensure that each kindergarten student enrolled in the school district who has exhibited one or more potential indicators of dyslexia or other reading disabilities is screened for dyslexia and other reading disabilities using a screening instrument selected pursuant to section 1[2]  of this act no later than the student’s completion of the first semester of the second grade.

Federal resolution

Recently Decoding groups, supported by the Yale Center for Creativity and Dyslexia have been lobbying for a federal resolution on dyslexia. Resolution 456 would call on “schools and state and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed.” Below is the full text of the resolution:

RESOLUTION

Calling on schools and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed.

Whereas, defined as an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader, dyslexia reflects a difficulty in getting to the individual sounds of spoken language which typically impacts speaking, reading, spelling, and often, learning a second language;

Whereas dyslexia is highly prevalent, affecting one out of five individuals in some form, and is persistent;

Whereas dyslexia is a paradox, so that often the same individual who has a weakness in decoding or reading fluency also has strengths in higher level cognitive functions such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, and problem solving;

Whereas great progress has been made in understanding dyslexia at a scientific level, including its epidemiology, and cognitive and neurobiological bases;

and Whereas diagnosis of dyslexia is critical, and must lead to focused, evidence- based interventions, necessary accommodations, self-awareness, self- empowerment, and school and life success: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives calls on schools and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed.

Over 100 representatives have already signed on as co-sponsors, though the future of the resolution remains uncertain.

How to Get Involved

There are lots of ways to get involved:

  • Check out the home page for Decoding Dyslexia and their list of key contacts for each state and provinnce.  
  • Search Facebook for your state's/province's branch and introduce yourself there
  • Search Twitter for #decodingdyslexia and you will be off and running. Start following active tweeters from your area and of course start tweeting yourself
  • Living in a Canadian province or territory without a branch? Consider starting one today!

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