Allison Quirion: The Accidental Community Organizer

A QuirionA lot can change in a year! As a parent of a child with dyslexia, I felt alone in the “dyslexic jungle.” Like many parents of children with learning disabilities, I was looking for answers on how to support my child, while at the same time looking for systemic change for all students with dyslexia in my state of Connecticut.

During the course of my research I learned that Connecticut schools do not always provide early identification of dyslexia, and sometimes do not identify dyslexia at all. I also found that few districts within the state appropriately implement evidence-based programming.

A Movement Is Born

So in February 2013, I founded Decoding Dyslexia – CT (DD-CT), a grassroots movement driven by Connecticut parents, teachers, and advocates concerned with the limited identification and evidence-based interventions for students with dyslexia.

I began to receive weekly calls and emails from parents across the state who expressed the same concerns I had for their children. With these allies we initiated a Dyslexia Awareness Campaign. DD–CT members met with legislators and emailed and wrote letters to policymakers sharing personal experiences and calling for policy change.

Last spring Governor Dannel Malloy signed Dyslexia legislation. Our collective voices were heard! Public Act 14-39, Sections 1 and 2 are beginning steps in our efforts to support our children with dyslexia. Section 1 amends the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Form. This form is required to be filled out by school districts when referring a child to Special Education. It will now include a box for “Specific Learning Disability/Dyslexia.” Previous referrals were made under “Specific Learning Disability” and didn’t allow for a discussion specific to the needs of a student with dyslexia. By identifying dyslexia as the disability, it allows for targeted evidence-based interventions. Section 2 adds dyslexia awareness and professional development for new teachers.

Governor Malloy, dyslexic himself, understands that when he went to school there was not a lot known about dyslexia. But today we have the knowledge, except, as he said, “that knowledge is not as widely distributed as it needs to be.” He further remarked that the sooner we diagnose a condition, such as dyslexia, the more likely we are to help a child.

In addition to Gov. Malloy, we owe our gratitude to Senator Catherine Osten, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, our Connecticut Legislators, and all of Decoding Dyslexia-CT’s supporters.

Although the path out of the jungle is beginning to clear, there are still obstacles ahead. We need to address early assessments and identification along with appropriate evidence-based programming for all Connecticut students with dyslexia. We look forward to working with our legislators and administration on these issues.

For more information about Decoding Dyslexia-CT, visit their website, www.DecodingDyslexiaCT.org, find them on Facebook Decoding Dyslexia-CT, on Twitter @DDyslexiaCT or email: [email protected] To view the Faces of Dyslexia Video on Youtube, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WCqx_R3XdU

Personal Experiences • Parent Advocacy • Dyslexia