Recently, CBS Sunday Morning Show featured a special on “Cracking the Code of Dyslexia.” The special featured Yale University’s Dr. Sally Shaywitz and Dr. Bennett Shaywitz who found that 1 in 5 students are dyslexic. Their research also showed how dyslexic students are often misunderstood; dyslexia has no relationship to IQ. In other words very, very bright students can become extremely frustrated with school and appear less interested or intelligent. Due to the way so much of learning centers around the ability to read, teachers can misread a dyslexic student’s frustration as apathy, stubbornness or even low IQ.
Given the right set of tools, dyslexic students can learn to read and thrive in the classroom. But the typical classroom setting often cannot meet the needs of these students. Hence, CBS Sunday Morning featured a special charter school, Louisiana Key Academy, a public charter school in Baton Rouge just for dyslexic students.
Dr. Cassidy, who is dyslexic herself, founded the charter school arguing, “If you're dyslexic, and your family doesn't have money, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't get what you need."
The interviewers also spoke with fifth grader, Mackenzye Jupiter, who described what it was like to be in the average classroom before she understood dyslexia herself. She said, "It made me feel, like, a little bit dumb and stupid…”
The interviewer asked her, "But you knew you weren't dumb and stupid, right?"
"Hmm, maybe." She responded.
What happens to children who do not have the opportunity to receive the support they need? Dr. Cassidy also did a study at a Louisiana maximum security prison and found over half of the inmates tested as dyslexic, a finding that echoed another study done in Texas. In explaining her findings, Cassidy stated, “If your self-esteem is battered and you're not really learning, and you have an option to go on the streets, you go to the streets."
This special on dyslexia is another reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum or one-size-fits-all school for students. Students without the right opportunities are not only less likely to succeed personally but they are also less likely to become active citizens in their community. Robbing students of the right school or support is, as clearly illustrated by Mackenzye Jupiter’s response, essentially robbing them of self-esteem.
We’re all about creating opportunities for students to be in the school that fits their needs. Take a look at what we’re up to in neighborhoods across the US.