Monday, 8 July 2019 was a hot and swampy day on the Hill, but inside the Library of Congress the temperature was cool as experts discussed “The Science of Reading” at the House Dyslexia Caucus briefing.
Chaired by US Rep. Bruce Westerman, House Dyslexia Caucus co-chair, the panel included Mr. Brent Sopel, NHL Stanley Cup winner and Sopel Foundation founder, Dr. Christy Havanetz, ExcelinEd Senior Policy fellow, Dr. Gina Forchelli, child psychologist at MassGeneral Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Brett Miller, NICHD Learning Disabilities Program director, and Lab’s own Head of School Ms. Katherine Schantz. The panelists — coming from different fields of expertise and with different experiences — addressed key issues around dyslexia research, its effect on psycho-social issues, and educational strategies. The event was planned as a bipartisan, educational briefing, seeking to inform policy staff on the struggles youth with dyslexia face, the science behind dyslexia (and the science of reading), the educational and community needs of these students, and what the Hill can do to help these individuals.
To launch into her remarks, Ms. Schantz began, “What can we do to improve outcomes for students and adults with dyslexia and related learning difficulties? I have two recommendations: the first relates to providing an appropriate and well-deigned educational experience and the second to the need for accommodations later in life.”
Ms. Schantz focused on various important points including the need to train educators in the neuroscience of dyslexia as well as with intensive training on how to identify a student challenged by dyslexia and how to employ an explicit, systematic, and structured approach to reading; the importance of access to accommodations across all levels of education and in the job force; and the importance of focusing on arts integration when teaching students with dyslexia.
“This was a powerful panel of scientists, neuropsychologists, educators, and people with dyslexia speaking about, as Congressman Bruce Westerman put it, ‘changing the way we understand dyslexia and teaching youth how to read.’ The panel addressed the common failings of the public schools in our country for students with dyslexia and the need for early, intensive, and individualized intervention, ideally before grade 3. Katherine spoke articulately about the many misperceptions about students with dyslexia and emphasized the importance of educating teachers in the multi-sensory, systematic, sequential remediation techniques for these students, as well as reinforcing the power and potential of these students,” say Lab’s Director of Speech, Language, and Literacy Melissa Wood, who attended the event. “It was a pleasure to speak to some of the parents and students, both from Lab and around the country, who attended the panel in support of congress exploring next steps to better support students, families, and teachers in educating students with dyslexia.”
Following the event, Legislative Assistant, Office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, Nicholas Lisowski, sent an email to the panel: “Thank you SO MUCH for participating in the Congressman’s briefing on dyslexia. I know it was on such short notice, and your remarks contributed so much to the conversation. As I’m sure you could tell, much of the audience were parents and students with dyslexia, and it was so important and meaningful to them to hear from experts like yourself on the issue. We can’t thank you enough for the work you do. If you’re interested, you can view the livestream of the briefing below. It’s reached more than 35,000 people, and the media hit from Nexstar has had a few hundred — yes hundred — thousand views all across the south!”