A dyslexia specialist wrote this powerful letter in support of California’s Dyslexia Bill, AB 1369.
Dear Assemblyman Levine,
I am a mother of two (ages 7 & 10), and a resident of Nxxxx, California. I am also a former classroom teacher, Dyslexia Specialist, free consultant, and private tutor.
As I sit to write this letter, you are in Sacramento listening to stories being told from some faces of Dyslexia.
I wish I could have been there in person today, but I was at work, tutoring an 8 year-old boy who happened to be born with a Dyslexic brain. He is struggling to read, write and spell. My job is to remediate him. My job is to educate his teachers on how to help him. My job is to calm and reassure his family that everything will be okay. My job is to build this little boy’s self-esteem back up again so he can believe that he is smart, talented and able.
I am writing to you because I would like to be out of a job.
Years ago, when I was first teaching third grade, I began to notice patterns within a few children in my class. It happened every year, class after class, without fail. There were about 3 or 4 of them who could not read, write or spell – no matter what we tried. I sat in endless SST and IEP meetings, alongside a team of caring parents, administrators, specialists and teaching professionals – as we all brainstormed, time and time again, how to best reach these children so they could “catch up” and learn like the rest of the class.
I made the grave mistake of bringing up “The D Word” in front of my principal and resource specialist one day. They both whipped around and my principal sternly warned me, “Erin, it’s a good thing you didn’t say that in front of the parents! Don’t EVER say that word again. We could be liable for that. The district could be liable.”
Then the special education director schooled me, “Yes, he’s right. And besides, Dyslexia doesn’t even exist. It’s just a broad term that was brought out in the 70’s, but there isn’t actually a learning disability called ‘Dyslexia.’”
Believe me—I got the message loud and clear and never said that word again… until I left the classroom and went out on my own. And now I am one of thousands of teachers standing before you announcing, “Dyslexia does exist.”
I have been studying Dyslexia since 2006. In 2009, I took a graduate course entitled, “Screening for Dyslexia.” It was through the University of San Diego, taught by my mentor, Susan Barton. I have learned a great deal about Dyslexia in the past nine years. But what I have learned the most is not from what I’ve seen in lectures or conferences. I do not attribute it to reading countless books and articles. I did not hear it from the mouths of doctors and scientific researchers. I did not watch it in documentaries.
I have seen it in the hundreds of fearful eyes into which I’ve looked. I have heard it within the frantic voices of parents who call me on the phone. I have experienced it sitting in tear-filled, angry IEP meetings. I have felt it in the thankful hugs families give me after I have helped them.
What I have learned the most in the past decade is that there is a monumental need for professional, educational support in the field of Dyslexia. We need to do something to help these people so they will have an equal opportunity to learn like the rest of us.
I do not have Dyslexia. My children do not have it either. But thousands of Californians are being affected by this learning difference. They are desperate. They are angry. They are frustrated and sad. They feel ignored and alone. And I believe that every single one of them is justified in their thinking. We must help them. You must help them.
Please make it mandatory that teaching credential programs include education on Dyslexia. Please give current classroom teachers training on Dyslexia. Please screen children early so we can detect Dyslexia and give them the appropriate education they deserve.
Please pass AB 1369 so I do not have to continue crusading and working with Dyslexics by myself. These children need an army of people around them for support. I am but one person. We need help. I need help.
CA Credentialed Teacher, Multiple Subject
Dyslexia Specialist, Consultant, Tutor
yes I would like to make a comment to about thisolder people with dyslexia it’s very hard to make a living who wants to be without a job its not fair it’s not right we need to make it a law that people that are older did not get treated right through the system when they went to school they were pushed through it we should be allowed to use any program this out there to better our lives so we can get on with our lives and be able to read to have a better job how this can continue going on in our world I don’t know there is lots of programs out there that it failed me over the years I’m 52 years old I feel sorry for anyone out there is struggling to try to learn how to read this past the age of 18 and maybe please push through school and did not get treated right through the system this system failed nada we shouldn’t be the one to get pushed aside we should have a right to secede in life when you have I feel that is abused adult reviews I’m cleaning to make a living and barely making it its not my fault I have a to do still but I can’t afford to pay the for the right program so what happened in my world and my life the world in our presidents has failed has abused us as dyslexic in the world it needs to stop and we should stand up and say that the programs are out there we should have a right to have them freely people say all my program is the best after you paid 22,000 dollars to him then it’s ok if it fails you than your money’s gone to that’s not how America should be we should have a right to use the programs when you pass through the school when your past the age of 18 you considered adult if you’ve been through the system Inis failed you then you should have the right to use the program freely whatever one is out there that should be a lawI think we would see our school system are not the best too many people are being pushed through that have learning disabilities there’s too many programs out there and if you have dyslexia or any other disability and you’re the age of 18 you should have a right to be able to use whatever programs out there to help you defeat in life this frustrates me on the person its been fell through the system I call it AB you I’m tired of struggling and tired of trying to make a living and nobody cares it’s a sad sad world can I afford insurance know why cuz I have dyslexia I’m on a fixed income it’s tough she died the fall through the system because of the school that didn’t care to test me to make sure that I was learning they did not care someone should Lindamood Bell and other programs that are out there why can’t those programs be free I’m past the system this system stinks now we need to change the law and people the age of 18 they did not make it then have dyslexic and have other problems of learning disabilities should have a right to have whatever program is free for you to learn and that’ll put jobs on the market and put people back to work you get them off of social security and no longer have a reading disabilities no such thing and make it a world that we can live in to help our children and younger adults you need help you have a spokeswoman here that would be glad to help my name is Kathryn Robinson I was fell through the system my opinion the system stinks let’s get a new one thank you
It has been so difficult for these past five years even after my son was diagnosed w/Dyslexia! It would be helpful if Dyslexua was not considered a disability. It’s a gift, a learning difference. Our colleges/universities need to be taught his to teach this 20% of the population. We need to screen our kids in kindergarten so these children have a fair chance to learn properly from the beginning. These kids need to know how they learn differently and then parents also won’t be frustrated trying to figure out”what’s wrong” w/their kid. Is he/she lazy? Is she/he mentally handicapped? Is she/he a behavior problem? It’s “no” to all of the above. As a former gym teacher I taught everything visually. I was not a classroom teacher. I didn’t see or understand the symptoms of my sons educational differences AND neither did the school counselor, teachers and or speech therapist. My son was even tested by an independent specialist for ADD/ADHD after his first grade teacher persisted there was “something wrong” with him. Guess what? He didn’t test out as ADD/ADHD and he didn’t catch on that had Dyslexic tendancies as well!! It took eight full years to figure out and finally get diagnosed. I became obsessed when he went to middle school and most of his 7th grade teachers were on board to help a mom w/her sons education asking ahead for weekly lesson plans and a ” heads up” when he was beginning to slack off a little and or only have half his test review sheet done so to prepare for a test. There were SO MANY red flags and still couldn’t figure it out until my son needed surgery and I was just worried and nervously talking to his surgeon how worried I was about his physical ailment and then on top of that his educational needs and as I was explaining my sons educational symptoms, he replied that those symptoms sounded a lot like his daughter and she was diagnosed w/Dyslexia! What?!!! It was like bells were ringing, ding, ding, ding! The doctor gave us the name of their educational specialist to get our son tested shortly after his surgery. My son is Dyslexic! He is gifted! He is a top athlete in his sport. The last five years have been hell since finding out his diagnosed!!! I tske that back. This last year my son has gone to school in Canada, where he plays in the OHL, and he is FINALLY getting proper instruction! I still worry, but his 12th grade year has been much better. Canada and the UK are light years ahead of the US educational system! Please wake up and help these people w/educational differences.
For many years, when I was in private practice, I attended Individual Education Planning meetings with clients and their parents. On many occasions I came armed with testing that supported reversal and distortion in visual perception. I also used the “D” word and met with resistance and denial. As an advocate who has a MA in education prior to receiving a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, I would connect unsatisfied parents with a state district ombudsman who could start the very cumbersome and difficult road to receiving necessary services. On many occasions I was asked to join in with the special ed plan for a dyslexic child to be classified as Emotionally Disturbed. I refused to support this and pointed out that it was likely that any emotional issues in these children were most likely due to poor self esteem and trauma in the classroom and at home because they were seen as willfully not achieving.
The lack of correct diagnosis (I am not totally comfortable with a word that implies illness but is the best possible), in my estimation, is due to financial concerns not a lack of understanding. I think we all need to remember that, by state law, education needs cannot be determined by cost.
Possibly today, with more focus on the profound effects of trauma, we can see the adverse effects of denial of such a challenging, and remediable, learning disabilities. If dyslexia is more clearly understood parents can be educated and supported in their task.
As the clinical director at Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma, CA. I see boys come in with emotional issues related to an un-diagnosed learning disabilities such as dyslexia. While I cannot present empirical evidence I can certainly describe anecdotal support of students coming into the program with behavior problems who, after appropriate special education intervention, become well adjusted and successful students enjoying good grades, sports, and family support in ways never before imagined.
One of our case-workers is dyslexic and helps the entire staff maintain sensitivity to this specific issue. Keep up the good work Erin!
This letter is so well said. I hope it reaches into the ears of my state’s legislators as well as our nation’s too.