On this historic today, in the honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought for our freedoms, I believe he would stand beside us in our advocacy for educational justice in literacy.
In a world where 15-20% of our population has dyslexia, a condition of difficulty in accurate, word recognition, poor spelling and inadequate decoding ability. Dyslexia disrupts our children’s ability to read and write in relation to his or her peers. It is seen in all states, in all ages, and in all ethnic groups.
We live in a world where the word dyslexia is considered profanity, and if given the opportunity it would be bleeped out at every school, administrator’s office and school board meeting. Those in use of such a profane word would be given detention and surely be expelled for repeated use. We have been told by teachers, principals, and administers it doesn’t exist, and that it has no meaning.
We live in a world where “special education” no longer refers to education, but to behavioral services, to mental health, and classroom management. Dyslexia is a disability that can only be addressed by the realm of education. It is not a mental health disorder. It is not a behavioral disorder. It is not a medical problem. It needs to be dealt with not only in the education system, but in the public education system.
We live in a world that passed a law 40 years ago affording persons will disabilities the right to free, appropriate public education, but today in 2015, we are still fighting for the ability to exercise our right. Parents are being told on a daily basis that their child with dyslexia does not qualify for specialized education services. Parents are being told their child will not be tested because they will be receiving RTI, albeit separate education services; they are neither special education nor appropriate. Tell us this is not a Jim Crow approach to education. Parents are told daily that their school does not have the researched based structured literacy programs necessary to teach their child. Parents are told daily that their child doesn’t need those structured literacy programs and their general education approach is adequate.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s federal education code: “Each State must ensure that free and appropriate education is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade and is advancing from grade to grade.”
I have a dream that one day any child of this America can sit on the field of his school under a tree and have the capacity to read the great literature of our nation.
I have a dream that my son and his friends with dyslexia processing will not be judged by the speed of their reading, the inadequacy of their spelling, nor the difficulty of their word retrieval, but by their extra-special abilities afforded to them by these dyslexic genes.
I have a dream that the blind educational administrators who vow to disregard dyslexia and the struggles of dyslexic students, those that deny the young 7 year old of specialized educational services will be granted sight. That one day the administration will see, actually see, these students who have word blindness. That not only will they be seen, but that they will be worthy of specialized appropriate reading education as afforded in our federal education code.
I have a dream that students will not be put down for their reading skills. That their teachers will not call them lazy or tell them to “try harder.” I have a dream that when teachers start their teaching career, they know the word dyslexia, it’s meaning, see it in the classroom and know how to teach them. That this newly trained teacher can join with his student’s parents in their deepest concerns for their child and truly help their child to read the great stories availed to them in this free nation and to be able to write the wonderful stories from their own minds.
I have a dream that our educational system will employ the specific teachings shown through research that will actually teach our child to decode and encode, to read and write. That they will be taught by multi-sensory structured literacy program, such as Orton-Gillingham, Slingerland, or another research based program. I have a dream that every teacher in America whether they just graduated yesterday or 40 years prior, that they too will know and embrace this way of teaching that is more than 30 years old yet has barely seen the inside of an American public school room.
I have a dream that every child in this great nation will learn to read. That we will live in a society where our prison population’s literacy is 100%, not 30%. I have a dream that if our literacy rates rose, it would give great hope to the young people of this nation. That hope would fill their souls, instead of despair and when it was time to make a choice that might carry them to prison, that they would choose otherwise, because they would have hope for their future because their ability to read.
I have a dream that other parents will not shake their heads and tell me that my child just “needs to read more.” I have a dream these fellow parents will join with me to see that the education system needs change. That “reading more” is not effective if these young people have not been adequately taught to decode so they can read the words on the page. I have a dream that all Americans will demand 100% literacy for all of America’s children whether they have a child with dyslexia or not, and whether they even have have children or not. We must cross the Edmund Pettus bridge together.
I have a dream that all of America’s children will receive free and appropriate education.
Let appropriate education reign.
Let appropriate education reign.
God almighty, we need appropriate education at last.