Warmest wishes for a Happy New Year from all of us at the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.  2018 is off to a busy and very exciting start, and we can only hope to meet as many wonderful people and draw as much inspiration as we did last year. As you read about the incredible events of just the past several months, we think you will understand why we are so excited about the possibilities for all those who are dyslexic, and who care deeply about dyslexia. Below we briefly share some of the events and our experiences during fall, 2017.
D.C. Dyslexia Awareness Month Event
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
In October, we sponsored an extraordinary educational event in Washington, DC that drew members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to learn more about and support an issue that they all agreed on - early screening, identification and support for children with dyslexia.

"This is an issue which is not partisan," Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) told the crowd. "This is an issue about children and there is unity about what we can do that is positive and will help all of them succeed."

Dr. Sally Shaywitz opened the evening with a passionate call to action.  She shared with the diverse audience of educators, policymakers and advocates that the event was part of YCDC's ongoing "bipartisan, cooperative efforts to bring together and educate parents, legislators and educators so that they can fully understand and support dyslexia." She noted that while the scientific knowledge of dyslexia is exceptionally strong, we too often fail to act on that knowledge.  "Rather than a knowledge gap, in the case of Dyslexia we have an action gap."

Other speakers, each passionate and committed, included Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Phil Roe (R-TN), Dutch Ruppersberger III (D-MD) and Bruce Westerman (R-AR).  Dr. Kathryn Bucshon, wife of Representative Larry Bucshon (R-IN), spoke movingly not only about her own dyslexia but that of their daughter, now a freshman at Cornell University.

A White House proclamation signed by President Trump was also released at the event. It states: "During National Dyslexia Awareness Month, we renew our efforts to support people with dyslexia and commit to gaining a deeper understanding of the disability." The proclamation encourages Americans to "learn more about dyslexia and to raise awareness of this disorder. Together, we will ensure that every person suffering from dyslexia reaches his or her full potential and has the opportunity to pursue the American Dream."

One of the evening's speakers working incredibly hard to do just that is Dr. Laura Cassidy, wife of Sen. Cassidy, who founded the ground-breaking Louisiana Key Academy (LKA), a public charter school in Baton Rouge dedicated to children with dyslexia. Dr. Cassidy has devoted herself to ensuring that the school incorporates and reflects the most cutting-edge scientific knowledge of dyslexia. LKA is truly a joyful and inspiring school.

See more pictures from the event below.
Dr. Sally Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity; Tara Oursler, chief of staff for Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD); Rep. Ruppersberger; Dr. Laura Cassidy, co-founder of the Louisiana Key Academy and wife of Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)

Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

Taking Action: 
YCDC's visit to Louisiana 
Dr. Sally Shaywitz speaking to LKA teachers
We had a wonderful visit to LKA in October, and came away deeply impressed.  In this unique school, one of the very first public charter schools in the nation to specialize in educating dyslexic students, we see how the teachers' deep interest and clear understanding of dyslexia positively impacts the student body. 

Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz with Dr. Laura Cassidy and LKA drama and arts teachers
It makes a tremendous difference when dyslexia is the major focus of the class, the teachers and the school. We see how the teachers' focus on supporting the students, supporting their self-esteem and providing positive feedback impacts how the students view themselves, instilling a belief in their intelligence and competence.  

Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz with LKA drama and arts students
A wonderful example is the children's essays, uniformly exemplary and touching, posted outside the class of every grade level. We also observed how happy and proud the children are (see attached video), and the range of activities the school provides, not only academic but art, drama, sports and student government. Here was a real school proudly focused on boys and girls who are dyslexic with empowered, self-confident students rather than the forlorn, defeated dyslexic students far too often observed at other schools.
LKA Resource Event Attendees
Part of LKA's mission is to provide resources to other teachers and parents in Baton Rouge to educate and answer questions about dyslexia and schooling. We were honored to participate in this outreach, speaking to dozens of attendees at an LKA Resource Center event.
Dr. Sally Shaywitz speaking to hospital pediatricians
We had an especially rewarding experience at Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital, where we presented Grand Rounds to pediatricians, pediatric residents and medical students, talking about advances in the identification and treatment of dyslexia. Attendees expressed much interest as they asked questions and shared their experiences, both professional and personal about dyslexia.
Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz and Dr. Laura Cassidy with hospital pediatric staff
An important educational component of our visit was to meet with officials from the Louisiana State Department of Education to discuss the importance of increased awareness among state education department officials - particularly what science has taught us about developmental progression in reading in dyslexia and what constitutes a fair, state-approved standardized test of dyslexic students' progress. Given the very common misunderstanding of dyslexia and its harsh negative consequences, we were grateful to be able to meet and share this scientific knowledge. 
YCDC at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association Convention

In November, we attended the annual convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to discuss the importance of early screening and shared information about the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen.  It was exciting to experience the great interest shown by attendees in this screener. See two attached pictures.  Many remarked this is exactly what they had been wishing for and couldn't wait to bring it to the teachers in their school.

Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz with Professor Hugh Catts

Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz with convention attendees

Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz with Diana Inouye
Learning in Los Angeles

A highpoint of our fall schedule was the opportunity to meet with Diana Inouye, Coordinator, K-12 instruction, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Division of Special Education and learn about the innovative programs that are available to serve students who are dyslexic.  It was truly exciting. We also met with the LA Unified School District Dyslexia working group and spoke to them about 21st century understanding of dyslexia. This was a highly responsive audience, with several sharing their own personal experience with dyslexia and expressing great interest in wanting to learn even more about advances in dyslexia. 
Dr. Toby Cosgrove and Dr. Sally Shaywitz
Celebrating Dr. Toby Cosgrove

And for a fully inspirational culmination of 2017, we were thrilled to attend a December celebration for Dr. Toby Cosgrove, renowned cardiologist and president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland Clinic, who has spoken eloquently about overcoming his own dyslexia.  Seeing and learning even more about Dr. Cosgrove's extraordinary contributions to the patients and staff at the Clinic was both breath-taking and heart-warming. I must admit that I am a great admirer of this man and it was so special to share this event with him, his wife, Anita and two wonderful daughters.
Congratulations Sally! 

Finally, Sally was honored to be inducted to Townsend Harris Society of The City College of New York. 

We, at YCDC, welcome 2018 with open arms and great hopes and plans to bring science even closed to education. We are optimistic!
Remembering Michael Vlock
On a very personal basis, Bennett and I note that our YCDC colleagues and all who care about children and dyslexia have lost an extraordinary, caring and brilliant advocate and supporter, Michael Vlock, whom we think of each day and miss terribly. His memory serves as a constant reminder and strong impetus to march forward and bring about positive change.

Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity   |   dyslexia.yale.edu