WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. chaired two Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Hearings in New Orleans and Baton Rouge yesterday. Dr. Cassidy was joined by six witnesses and Dr. Bennett Shaywitz and Dr. Sally Shaywitz of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity by video conference.
The hearings follow the passage of a bipartisan resolution in the U.S. Senate designating October 2015 as “National Dyslexia Awareness Month,” recognizing that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed. The Resolution, S. Res. 275, can be read HERE.
Read excerpts from the hearings below:
“A couple of years ago, my youngest daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia. Prompted by concerns about my daughter and my constituents’ children, I set out to learn as much as I could about dyslexia and was amazed at how much is known and yet, far too often, not incorporated into public policy and education…
“There are schools in Louisiana, like Louisiana Key Academy in Baton Rouge and the Max Charter School in Thibodaux, that specialize in teaching dyslexic students. For college, Nicholls State University has the Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders which provides an extensive list of support services to students, comprehensive assessments to determine eligibility for accommodations, and training for professionals in all aspects of student learning. Through all of these services, schools remove barriers to learning that can cripple the student experience. But these schools are too few and far between. We need more schools to embrace and replicate this model so students can reach their full potential.”
Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (read full testimony here)
“As a young kid living in abject poverty, it was hard on my mother who was trying to raise three kids. My two siblings effortlessly excelled in school and there was joy around their accomplishments. But for some reason I wasn’t able to understand what was being taught. My mother and my siblings couldn’t understand why school didn’t come as easily for me…
“I was introduced to a drug dealer by another friend who also had given up on school. This was my solution because dealing drugs required no reading…
“I took another kid’s life because he was dealing in my projects and that was a no no if you weren’t from my projects. After serving a year for manslaughter as a juvenile, I was released. I still couldn’t read so I got right back into that lifestyle of dealing drugs. As time went on, I was getting deeper into this life and was eventually caught with a lot of drugs and was facing 60 years in prison. With God’s help I was found guilty of a lesser crime and given 4 years instead.
“That’s when my metamorphosis took place. I wanted to learn to read. My GED teacher in prison realized that I was reading poorly and had me tested for a learning disability. Dyslexia was a word I had never heard of until I was in prison… But my teacher helped me get through it and after 4 years I attained my GED.
“If someone detected this problem earlier in my childhood education it would have saved me a lot of suffering and possibly my time in jail…
“To reduce incarceration, let’s get ahead of this epidemic and turn lives around early. If it wasn’t for that teacher in prison and God’s mercy, I would be dead or in prison with no chance to return to society.
“Reading set me free to dream of becoming an actor, producer and author…”
Mr. Ameer Baraka, Actor (read full testimony here)
Sen. Cassidy and Ameer Bakara
“The one thing I would really like for you to walk away with today is an appreciation for the fact that those with can and in deed do learn. We just learn differently. The cookie cutter, assembly line method of education simply does not work for a kid with Dyslexia. A system or methodology is needed that will not only recognize the existence of dyslexia, but provide for a set of accommodations and remediation that will allow for the child to realize their full potential.”
Mr. J.J. Buquet, President Buquet Distributing Co. (read full testimony here)
“One way students with dyslexia can succeed in spite of their reading challenges is to provide them with accommodations. In addition to effective teaching, accommodations are the key to dyslexics’ success in school. Some of the most common accommodations are tests read aloud and extended time for tests and assignments.”
Ms. Karen Chauvin, Director, Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders, Nicholls State University (read full testimony here)
“One frequent accommodation for the student with characteristics of dyslexia is extended time… Another accommodation needed to support most students with characteristics of dyslexia is tests read aloud.
“In order for the dyslexic student to be successful, they must be given accommodations that allow them to access education in the same way a non-disabled student accesses education. In this way, support leads to success, which leads to self- confidence, which leads to the achievement of a personal goal.”
Ms. Margaret Law, Dyslexia/504 Coordinator, Central Community School System (read full testimony here)
“I am a senior at Louisiana State University. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having academic accommodations throughout my life. Before being diagnosed with dyslexia, I struggled with academics in kindergarten and was beginning to fail the first grade. As a consequence, I suffered from low self-esteem and was frustrated with my inability to learn. Thankfully, my mother had me tested for a learning disability, and I was diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade and began Project Read and a program called Resource in second grade. Without this diagnosis, I would not have been able to enter these programs and get the help that I needed. I watched friends who were not tested and did not get help struggle throughout their school years, which is something that could have easily been avoided…
“What can Congress do for students like me? First and foremost, I would like to stress the importance early testing for children who struggle. Second, all students with dyslexia should have access to programs like Project Read so that they do not fall behind in their studies. Finally, the public as a whole should be better informed about dyslexia and other learning disabilities. A learning disability is not a symptom of low IQ or insufficient effort. The public needs to know that learning disabilities are beyond the students’ control but can successfully be treated.”
Ms. Allyce Trapp, Student (read full testimony here)
“Because of my 6th grade teacher’s training, she was able to not only identify the symptoms of
dyslexia, but also made away for me to receive the proper accommodations needed to graduate
high school, become a college graduate, than business owner and well respected community
Rev. Derrius M. Montgomery, Associate Minister Greater King David Baptist Church (read full testimony here)