NEWSLETTER: SEPTEMBER 2019
A MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTORS
We hope you had a wonderful summer and that your back-to-school season is off to a great start. We here at YCDC, with your strong, on-going and enthusiastic support, have worked to bring dyslexia out in the open. Our goal is to shine a light on dyslexia so that all know:
- The 2018 First Step Act federal law now provides a universal, scientifically validated definition of dyslexia: it is an unexpected difficulty in reading in a person who has the ability to be a much better reader.
- You can be dyslexic and smart, a finding captured by our Sea of Strengths model of dyslexia and validated by published data from our longitudinal study.
- Dyslexia impacts students early - as shown by our Connecticut Longitudinal Study (CLS) data published in the Journal of Pediatrics; by first grade there is a visible and large achievement gap already present between typical and dyslexic readers that persists.
- These data led us to develop an evidence-based, efficient and economical screener, the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen, completed on a tablet by the child's teacher who knows him/her best having worked to help the child learn to read. The screener only takes ten minutes to complete and the teacher immediately learns if the child is at-risk for dyslexia or not at-risk for dyslexia.
- We are working with major cities to urge universal screening of all students in K-2.
- A major step forward is the exciting new partnership between Pearson, the publisher that distributes the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen and states (e.g., the state of Missouri) and many individual school districts to screen all students.
- The ongoing CLS is now carrying out an extraordinary and unique extension - continuing to assess and learn from the same group of men and women whom we have been continuously assessing since they were boys and girls age 5 and entering kindergarten and who are now age 40 years old, a 35 year span. We are examining the relationship between reading when these men and women were children and these same individuals' reading three decades later when they are now adults. Specifically our YCDC team will assess reading in each individual and gather information in other important domains including: educational attainment, labor force participation, occupational category, earnings, behavioral adjustment and mental health, civic participation, reading experience, life satisfaction, poverty/dependence on public assistance, health, quality of life, and family and sociodemographic status.
- For the first time, we will have the unique opportunity to provide an urgently needed understanding of which predictors lead to which adult outcomes of childhood dyslexia. We will be able to understand not only the consequences of dyslexia but those specific factors that may exacerbate or ameliorate outcomes and be in the extraordinary position to act on that knowledge to the immediate benefit of dyslexic individuals. A special shout out to our supporters who make this study possible.
- Strong data show that children who are not identified don't know why they continue to struggle, lose self-esteem, and come to think school is not for them and far too often drop out of school.
- Sadly, very large numbers of these boys and girls who are not screened or identified as dyslexic end up in prison.
- Without identification there is a far too common school dropout to prison pipeline that could be avoided if dyslexia were identified early.
- Data indicate that as many as 50% of prisoners are dyslexic! A finding requiring urgent ACTION!!
- There is now growing support for specialized free schools for dyslexic students such as the Louisiana Key Academy as part of the continuum of intervention services for dyslexia. We are so pleased that a number of school districts are thinking of the benefits such schools could bring to the one in five students in their communities who are dyslexic.
- Through our YCDC website, lectures, newspaper articles highlighting our work in dyslexia, appearances on radio and TV shows and through Sally's book, Overcoming Dyslexia, tens and even hundreds of thousands of parents, educators, policy makers and most importantly, dyslexics themselves have been introduced to the 21st century science of dyslexia. While screening is so often overlooked and parents are given one excuse after another to explain their bright child's reading struggles, we want to share with you what happens when a student is identified, even as she is about to graduate high school. Here is a personal note our directors received from Hallel, a brilliant young woman who went through K-12 not diagnosed and questioning who she was and her ability. Here are her thoughts following her dyslexia diagnosis at our YCDC as she was about to go off to college.
"Next week I will be going to college and the person that is going could only be at the place she is with your help and diagnosis ... Thank you doesn't really begin to describe how thankful I am ... With your diagnosis, I was able to stop telling and believing a story that I felt was true at its very core. I was able to believe that another story could be told. You have changed my life and allowed me to see a different future. A future I am so excited to discover. Thank you for helping me to see myself."
- We also saw an interesting story in the Wall Street Journal about a universally respected high-profile writer-director-producer, Brad Falchuk. The story says: "During his sophomore year at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Falchuk was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. He says it was a 'true catharsis.' Having named the cause of his pain and perceived failures, he could address it. For the first time, he began getting positive feedback from professors, particularly on his writing." See below for more about this extraordinary writer-director-producer who is dyslexic and has an incredible Sea of Strengths in thinking, reasoning and creativity.
- A diagnosis of dyslexia can be made at any age and be meaningful. Our co-directors, not surprisingly, spoke about dyslexia at a conference in Arkansas and were surprised to receive a phone call from a man who identified himself as the great grandfather of a woman who had attended the conference. Following the conference, she had called her great grandfather and told him she had heard us speak and finally she knows what he has - dyslexia and what it was. He was overjoyed and called us. At age 94 years, he at last knew what he had, that he was dyslexic and not at all lacking in intelligence. It's wonderful that these smart, hard-working people were finally given the appropriate diagnosis. But no one should have to wait until he is 94. We have the ability to quickly and accurately screen all students for dyslexia by the first grade. Our children deserve nothing less.
We are very proud to have been selected by the Liberty Science Center as recipients of the 2019 Genius Award, "in recognition of your inspiring accomplishments and your pioneering work in advancing our understanding of dyslexia."
We are so pleased to share with you that we have worked with CBS television and that on Sunday, August 25th, the cover story on the critically acclaimed CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley highlighted a segment on dyslexia that we helped initiate and organize and appeared in. This means that now the show's
six million viewers have seen and heard about dyslexia, learning: that you can be smart and dyslexic; the importance of early, evidence-based screening; the consequences of failure to identify dyslexia; and the importance of having a specialized school devoted to dyslexia where students feel welcome and everyone is on board to teach and appreciate you.
Excitement is building as we look forward to a very special forum on diagnosing and addressing dyslexia in New York State that will take place at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz have been invited to address this event, Early Interventions for Academic Improvement: Detecting Dyslexia, a major focus of both their research and advocacy. They will share the latest scientific knowledge on early identification, evidence-based screening and the 21st century definition of dyslexia.
How a Diagnosis of Dyslexia Leads to Navigating the World Using Your Sea of Strengths
We recently had the great pleasure of speaking to Brad Falchuk, a producer and writer known for such shows as
Glee, American Horror Story, Nip/Tuck
and more. Like many dyslexics, Brad is highly intelligent, extremely creative and has learned to navigate the world using the Sea of Strengths that surrounds his dyslexia.
Brad told us about growing up struggling in school, saying that when he was a young student "the structure was there to encourage you to celebrate people that were better at things that I wasn't good at. And so, it was really hard to find the sea of strengths, when it felt like it was mostly just weakness."
But once he was diagnosed in college, he said that "really the switch went off. Now I see. I'm not dumb; I just have a different way of seeing, experiencing."
"It certainly was a turning point."
Now that he has found tremendous success in the entertainment world, Brad has discovered that his other strengths, like the ability to listen to others, are incredibly useful. "As a writer to be able to cater to people, the way that they talk, and write dialogue and hear great stories" has been key to his work.
Teamwork is also critical, Brad told us. "Dyslexics are really good at enrolling allies. We find people to do the stuff we can't do - the skill set. So, I've collected people over the years who are really good at the things that I'm not good at, and I let them do it."
Not surprisingly, Brad had a wonderful way with words in describing his experiences. He told us that he would describe dyslexia this way:
"Imagine if your version of red was much redder and more vivid than somebody else's version of red. It's like we get to see the red of the world in a totally different way. And our lives interact with everything that goes on in a very special and specific way that makes us exceptional or gives us the possibility to be exceptional."
We're so grateful to Brad for his time and for sharing his story with us.
The generosity of friends of the Center inspires us and has allowed our Center to make major contributions to dyslexia - including that dyslexia is unexpected, that is, you can be dyslexic and extremely intelligent; it affects girls as well as boys; and it is extremely common, affecting one in five.
Most recently, thanks to the support of our loyal donors, we discovered that the achievement gap in reading between typical and dyslexic readers is evident as early as first grade, leading to our development of a reliable, inexpensive screener for dyslexia - one that many refer to as "a game-changer."
Your donations provide the fuel that drives the scientific engine of our dyslexia research and our passionate nonstop advocacy that ultimately benefits the children and adults who are dyslexic. As many of you know and have experienced personally, our major goal is to ensure that all our research and knowledge is acted upon to improve the lives of dyslexic children, adolescents and adults.
You can also mail your donation directly to the Center:
The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
129 York Street, Suite 1P
New Haven, CT 06511
Thank you for your support of this work!