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Advocacy Abroad: Dyslexia in Kyoto

Categories: Learning Disabilities, Public Policy/Advocacy

Stephanie Llorente, dyslexic student Dyslexia advocacy across borders! Guest blogger Therese Llorente shares how she and her family brought awareness into the classrooms of Japan, where dyslexia traditionally isn’t even acknowledged. Therese is a Learning Ally board member, mom of a daughter with dyslexia, and an active parent advocate in the learning disability space. Therese and family are involved in the Denver-based YES! program, a group that trains students with dyslexia to self-advocate, and brought their enthusiasm for advocacy across the sea on a trip to Japan.

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Good morning. It is 6:25 a.m. and we are in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. My daughter Stephanie and her brothers attended a private high school for girls two days ago in Nagoya. She had created and sent a dyslexia PowerPoint  presentation ahead of time and this opened a whole discussion with the administration and faculty about dyslexia, learning disabilities, acknowledgement and existence of dyslexia, testing and, of course, shame, embarrassment and denial.   Basically the whole can of worms. Everything we have tackled and continue to tackle in the YES! program. Days before the visit to the school, Stephanie was told that they don't really acknowledge dyslexia. They said she would not be able to meet with girls who have dyslexia because, even if they exist in the school, they would not want to come forward because of the embarrassment and shame. Well this caused Stephanie to move a few steps backward and she did not want to even mention her dyslexia. We chatted a bit and came up with a new strategy. As she included in her opening speech, she said, "Maybe if I speak up, I will help the quiet child in the back of the classroom who needs help with their dyslexia." Advocacy trip to Japanese classroom   On July 7th, she and her brothers hopped on the subway to Ohka Gakuen High School. The first stop was to meet the faculty and then the principal. Stephanie presented a beautiful photo book of the Rocky Mountains and then spoke about her work with dyslexia advocacy and the YES! program. She then told the  principal (there was a translator there to ensure complete understanding) that the YES! program had two honorary YES! Ambassadors in the USA. One was the Governor of Colorado and the other was author and inventor Ben Foss. She wanted to make him the third, hoping to have  him raise awareness about dyslexia. He was very honored and enthusiastically accepted the YES! t-shirt. He then invited the three Llorente children to have tea with him--a sign of great honor that is usually not offered to students. This was definitely tackling  dyslexia  one step at a time. -Therese Llorente

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