As a child, I faced a formidable challenge that shaped my educational journey - dyslexia. While some students effortlessly grasp the skills necessary to learn to read, others, like myself, require explicit and unique instruction to grasp it, or they may never fully grasp it. For us, becoming skilled readers necessitates the type of instruction that historically is seldom implemented in the average elementary classroom. Unfortunately, like most students with dyslexia, I never received this instruction.
Dyslexia is not always apparent until students fall behind in reading, as was the case for me in second grade. The sad reality is that most students with dyslexia go undiagnosed and struggle within the education system. My teachers and parents used the tool most commonly employed when students fall behind - they held me back a grade. I do not place blame on anyone; it was the norm rather than the exception, especially 40 years ago when I was in second grade. Despite the difficulties, I managed to find ways to cope and eventually achieved academic success. But today, we have the opportunity to do better.
The number of students grappling with dyslexia is significant. According to Sonya Yates, Associate Policy Director for Early Literacy at ExcelinEd, dyslexia affects up to one in five students and does not discriminate based on socioeconomic status, zip code, ethnicity, or ability level.
I witnessed this firsthand. As a junior high history teacher, I encountered numerous challenges in the classroom. However, one particular difficulty stands out: educating students who, like me, had undiagnosed dyslexia. These students had struggled with reading and writing for years, but their condition had gone without intervention during their early education.
As an educator, I witnessed the frustration and self-doubt these students experienced. They often felt overwhelmed by the demands of the curriculum and struggled to keep up with their peers. Simple tasks like reading aloud or writing assignments became sources of anxiety and embarrassment. These students, who possessed immense potential and unique strengths, were dragged down by an education system that failed to identify and address their specific needs.
Thinking back, I cannot help but wonder how different their educational journey could have been had their dyslexia been identified earlier and had they received the support that is crucial in mitigating the negative impacts of dyslexia. Support necessary to empower students to develop effective reading and writing strategies.
Now, envision a world where children with dyslexia, like myself, had access to additional resources and support through an Educational Savings Account (ESA) program. ESAs could provide the necessary financial assistance for private tutoring, dyslexia-specific interventions, or assistive technologies, effectively leveling the playing field and empowering students to overcome the challenges that I faced as a child. It would enable them to achieve even greater academic success.
ESAs offer parents the freedom to choose educational resources and services that align with their child’s unique strengths, weaknesses, and learning preferences. By expanding school choice and affording families the opportunity to explore various intervention options, ESAs have the potential to bring about a transformative impact on the educational outcomes of students with dyslexia.Every child, regardless of their learning differences, deserves an equal opportunity to succeed academically. ESAs represent a powerful tool in our arsenal to ensure that no child is left behind due to dyslexia. We should recognize and embrace the potential of ESAs in supporting students with dyslexia and advocate for their implementation. Let us work towards a future where all children have the opportunity to unlock their full potential and thrive in their educational journey.