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
Tracie Luttrell, the principal of Flippin Elementary School in Arkansas, just posted this – and gave me permission to share it.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if students who attended summer school everywhere made such great gains.
Before school ended, we screened all K-12 students in our district whose teachers felt had markers of dyslexia. We found 107 students who “fit the dyslexia profile.”
So we hired 13 teachers to provide each student with one-on-one tutoring for an hour, twice a week, for 7 weeks during June and July using the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
These students made TREMENDOUS gains. The difference in their writing and spelling from the beginning of summer to now is unbelievable!
It got really exciting when their parents noticed the difference. Many parents did not understand the science and logic behind the Barton System, so they did not know what to expect. Parents shared their child’s confidence and reading skills improved, and their children were starting to read billboards and items around the house.
During those 14 one-on-one tutoring sessions, none of our students finished Level 3. But they all made amazing gains. In fact, some of our youngest students are now reading words WAY above their grade level.
These 107 students now feel smart and successful. They are going to SOAR this year in school because they will continue to receive Barton tutoring during the school year.
As soon as school starts, we will screen all students in 1st and 2nd grade who have not already been screened. We will also screen all of our kindergarteners after they have had some instruction.
The key to helping dyslexic students is to catch it early and INTERVENE.
The only requirement of our new Arkansas Dyslexia Law this first year is to screen. But we can’t stop there. We must also provide the help that they need!
When schools and teachers know better . . . we DO better!