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To Proudly Declare: I Have Dyslexia

Categories: Activities, Disability Type, Learning Disabilities, Public Policy/Advocacy

Dyslexia Awareness Day at the Pennsylvania state capitol. Over the past few years, the quiet rumble of individual parents has grown into a thunderous national movement with a unified purpose: to raise awareness and gain educational support for those with dyslexia. Members of parent groups such as Decoding Dyslexia, organizations like the IDA and Learning Ally, authors, politicians, students and more have joined forces. They’re standing up and speaking out about the issue, and people are listening. One of many events to come from this growing movement was the Dyslexia Awareness Day on October 1st at the state Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania -- an event sponsored by Learning Ally, the Pennsylvania Dyslexia Legislative Coalition, and Decoding Dyslexia PA.  We were fortunate to attend in the company of dyslexic children and their parents, adult dyslexics, and other supporters who were all there to stand proudly in front of the podium and declare, “I am dyslexic.” The positive change in mindset that is separating dyslexia from stigma and shame is a significant one.  People all over are embracing the term "dyslexic" in a way that says, "This is part of my identity and what makes me unique, but it does not define me." Student with dyslexia proudly attending Dyslexia Awareness Day.A parent in attendance, having taken her young son out of school for the day, said, “I thought it was important for him to come to this event and see that he’s not alone; there are so many people out there like him, including adults, and even more who want to help him succeed.” Guest speaker Nelson Lauver, author of Most Unlikely to Succeed, told his story of growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia in the 1960s, and the resulting label of “the dumb kid.” His tale took a turn for the better when at age 29 he finally had a name for his struggles and was able to get proper support. Today, he’s a successful writer, broadcaster, and speaker who shares his experiences as a way to inspire others. Many more from the sizable group that had gathered for the rally approached the microphone. One mother battled to get her daughter accommodations all the way to court-- and came out victorious. An adult man with dyslexia told of how a childhood friend, who also had the reading disability, had tragically taken his own life due to bullying, isolation and stress. He described himself as a survivor, explaining how he hopes the awareness movement can make a difference for kids going through this today. Another woman approached the podium to tell of how her father, brother, and son all have dyslexia. Though she said the reading disability had made life hard for her family at times, she's optimistic that for every generation, there are advancements.

Members of the nationwide dyslexia advocacy movement. Eventually, the rally ended. People packed their signs, exchanged phone numbers and handshakes, having grown their personal support network a little larger. Throughout a day of high emotions, stories of triumphs, failures and declarations, one thing was clear -- a community had formed, and we were all a part of it.