10.25.18

Doctors Bill and Laura Cassidy: What Our Family Learned about Overcoming Dyslexia

the hill

Dyslexia is more common than society realizes. Here’s what we can do to help children struggling in the shadows.

By U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., and Laura Cassidy, M.D.

October 25, 2018

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Seeing your child struggle in school has to be one of the worst feelings as a parent. For us, it was heartbreaking. Our daughter could not read. It was first grade, but things were not clicking. Her self-esteem plummeted, and pretty soon she didn’t want to go to school at all. We were desperate to help her, but weren’t sure what was wrong.

After lots of research and doctor visits, we finally identified the roadblock: dyslexia. Knowing was such a relief, because it meant we could get to work on solutions. With help, we learned about dyslexia, found a specialized school, and our daughter started making progress. What had seemed like an invisible wall was now something we could overcome together.

One thing we learned during our journey was that the traditional approach to teaching reading fails far too many children. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test is the nation’s reading report card. Despite states and local school boards spending huge amounts of money to improve reading, NAEP shows that 30 percent of all fourth graders, 20 percent of white fourth graders, and 50 percent of African American and Hispanic fourth graders read below “Basic,” the lowest reading level. For families who can afford a specialized education and tutors, helping a child overcome dyslexia is far from impossible. But what about for families who can’t?

This has tragic consequences. Children with dyslexia who are not properly diagnosed or who do not receive an education tailored to dyslexia often drop out of school. They have lower high school and college graduation rates, and an increased risk of incarceration. There is a huge toll on self-esteem when a bright child struggles in school and cannot understand why.

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