May 11, 2016

ICYMI: Cassidy Chairs Senate Education Hearing on Dyslexia

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. chaired a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee hearing yesterday titled “Understanding Dyslexia: The Intersection of Scientific Research & Education.” The goal of the hearing was to gain a better understanding of what Americans need to know about dyslexia and to raise awareness in Congress about the parents and children affected by this disorder.

Read excerpts and see pictures from the hearings below:


“Dyslexia is the most common learning disability. According to NIH sponsored research, nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia.

“There are good schools for kids with dyslexia; almost all are private. If you can’t afford the $10,000-$50,000 in tuition the family’s options are limited. This means, if the family is less wealthy, they quite likely cannot afford to have their child’s needs met.

“Why shouldn’t a child attending a public school have the same opportunities as the child in a wealthier family? This is not about designer label clothes, it is about the ability to graduate from High School and get a better paying job.

“If there is a call to action in this hearing it’s that science should begin driving policy. We have the dots, now let’s connect them.”

Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (read full testimony here)

HELP Committee on Dyslexia

“Our nation is in the midst of a national nightmare where substantial numbers of children are not learning to read, especially boys and girls from disadvantaged families.

“Increasing scientific evidence strongly points to dyslexia as the explanation and potential solution to our education crisis.

“A GED teacher noticed that I struggled with phonics and had me tested. He asked if my siblings read well. I told him they went to college. After testing me, he said I had a reading disability and it could be corrected if I was willing to work hard.

“I worked for four years trying to attain my GED. My reading ability had surged and I was ready for the test. I passed and started helping others in math and vocabulary.

“At age 23, I entered into a prison correctional facility reading at a third grade level. I didn’t feel so bad because many of the men there were just like me. We all read poorly.

“Today there are schools available to help kids fight and defeat Dyslexia. Schools, such as the one Senator Cassidy and his wife have created, provide a model for what could be a solution.

“In my opinion we can stop people from allowing the Dyslexia to rob them of all that this great nation has to offer. If we understand this enemy, we can work to prevent it from stealing our most Fundamental asset, our youth.”

Mr. Ameer Baraka, Actor (read full testimony here)

“Dyslexia is the most common learning disability. According to NIH sponsored research, nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia.

“Dyslexia represents 80 to 90 percent of all learning disabilities and differs markedly from all others in that dyslexia is very specific and scientifically validated.

“Dyslexia has often dire consequences. Dyslexic students drop out of high school at a significantly greater rate than their typically reading peers.”

Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Co-Director, Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity (read full transcript here)

“Over 2 million children have learning disabilities, most of whom struggle with reading. And the National Center for Learning Disabilities estimates that another 15% of students struggle in school due to an unidentified learning or attention issue.


“My daughter, Jocelyn is proof that when you hold students with dyslexia to high standards and provide them with the tools they need to succeed, they are able to fulfill their goals and dreams.

“Looking back, I wish Jocelyn’s needs were addressed earlier than 4th grade, a time when reading is an integral part of nearly every class in school.

“These last 13 years taught me that while the educational system is not created with dyslexics in mind, with the right information, training and support students with dyslexia can thrive.”

Ms. April Hanrath, Parent Advocate, Understood (read full testimony here)

“Millions of children and their family members suffer from the consequences of dyslexia. Most of those consequences are unnecessary; they are the result of a failure to timely recognize and properly treat those children.

“Recognizing dyslexia early has another, perhaps even more important, benefit. One of the most corrosive consequences of dyslexia is that its effects (difficulty in reading, poor scores on standardized tests) are often misinterpreted as low intelligence.

“The ability to read becomes both the gateway to how students do on the tests by which they are judged by their parents, peers, teachers, and themselves and itself a marker for their success.

“Recognizing the real issue can enable the child to receive the help needed to improve reading skills and to learn to use alternative means for acquiring information. Even more important, it enables everyone to understand that the problem is largely temporary; success in life depends on judgment, intelligence, integrity, and commitment — not on how fast a person reads.

“We need to recognize this reality. We need to enable children, teachers, parents, and test administrators to recognize this reality. And we need to provide the resources and guidance that will help, not impede, children from reaching their potential. They deserve it. And our country needs it.

“While dyslexia is a permanent condition, it does not have to be a permanent disability.

“Dyslexia is an input problem, it makes it difficult to get information in a particular way, but there are alternative ways to get information.”

Mr. David Boies, Chairman, Boies, Schiller, & Flexner, LLP (read full testimony here)  

“In other words, as teachers are bringing about critical literacy skills in children through formal education, the children’s brains change above and beyond the changes that occur based on maturation.

“Using brain imaging, researchers have also examined the impact of intensive reading intervention. We have learned that adults with dyslexia not only make gains in reading, but also show brain plasticity, as demonstrated by increases in brain activity.

“Interestingly, through brain imaging research we sometimes encounter brain based observations for which there were no obvious indications from behavioral studies. For example, we found that the brains of females with dyslexia do not conform to the neurobiological model of dyslexia that was largely derived from studies of males. This might have important implications for diagnosing and treating females with dyslexia.

“Overall, the science of dyslexia has made significant advances. However, academic researchers, even those working in classrooms, are bound by academic practices to publish in specialty journals, which in turn can be inaccessible, physically and conceptually, to those who directly operate as educators in the field.”

Guinevere F. Eden, Ph.D., Director, Center for the Study of Learning

Georgetown University Medical Center  (read full testimony here)

“If teachers are trained in evidence-based practices, they will use them. If they enter the field without this training, they will need access to professional development programs, along with supervision and mentoring, in order to use these programs with accuracy and fidelity.


“It is critical for the scientific and educational communities to work toward a common language and a common set of procedures for identifying dyslexia, with efforts aimed toward more specific terminology.

“For the purposes of my testimony, I consider dyslexia to be equivalent to (or interchangeable with) a developmental learning disorder (or specific learning disability) in reading.”

Dr. Mark Mahone, Director, Department of Neuropsychology Kennedy Krieger Institute (read full testimony here)