Defeating Dyslexia

Posted by: Jay Wood  | Thursday, February 5, 2015

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Every Feb. 14, it is customary to give your sweetheart a card or perhaps a nice handwritten note that expresses the sincere love and affection you feel for your significant other. Imagine if this joyous tradition was a struggle because you had difficulty writing the words you wanted to express or reading the words that someone you love had written.

For approximately one in five Americans, who struggle with some degree of dyslexia, reading, writing, spelling and the pronunciation of words can be a daily challenge. Since dyslexia varies in degree, its impact on each individual is different, and although it is fairly common nowadays, misconceptions still exist that people with the condition somehow lack intelligence. That is completely untrue.

Dyslexia does not stifle creativity. Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso proved that. Dyslexia does not halt innovation. Alexander Graham Bell and Steve Jobs proved that. Dyslexia cannot crush people’s desire or ability to be the best. Steven Spielberg and Muhammad Ali are perfect examples of that. As you can see, dyslexia does not inhibit people from accomplishing great things, and our nation’s legacy was established, in part, due to their lasting achievements.

In Indiana, we need to do everything we can to ensure that those impacted by dyslexia have every opportunity to succeed. The Indiana Code does not currently have a definition for dyslexia, which is something I’m working to address this session. I co-authored House Bill (HB) 1108 which defines dyslexia as a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin and is characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition, as well as poor spelling and decoding abilities.

By providing a clear definition for dyslexia, teachers can more easily identify students who may struggle with the condition. HB 1108 means that new teachers will be trained in techniques that will help them teach students with dyslexia more effectively. It also requires individuals who are pursuing an elementary teaching license to demonstrate proficiency in recognizing that a student, who is not progressing at a normal reading rate, may need to be screened for special learning needs, including those related to dyslexia.

If teachers do not have the necessary training, I fear that dyslexic students may not be receiving the assistance they need. However, I believe that if teachers are able to identify dyslexia at an early age, students would be less likely to fall behind their peers. Although dyslexia presents certain challenges, students that are affected are not inhibited, they just learn differently. Designing different teaching methods to serve these students can have a lasting, positive impact in their lives, both inside and outside the classroom.

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Rep. Cox represents a portion of Allen County.