While visiting schools over the past few years and working to identify and address literacy rates, I became aware of a population of students who were falling through the cracks.
These were students with dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that makes it difficult for people to read. It is the most common learning issue, although it is not clear what percentage of people have it. Some experts estimate as much as 17 percent of the population shows some sign of a reading issue.
With the goal of identifying guidelines for early detection, I put together a group of stakeholders to address this issue. Parents, pediatricians, teachers and subject matter experts volunteered for this task.
Immediately, we conducted a review of what Arizona was doing statewide to address dyslexia. It was discovered that efforts in detection and intervention varied from district to district and school to school.
Together, the team successfully developed a dyslexia handbook for teachers and parents. We attended the First Thing First/Read On Arizona summit last year to test some of the initiatives that we were evaluating.
Our extensive findings and recommendations were presented to the State Board of Education and Department of Education, who subsequently became key stakeholders in the process.
After the handbook was completed, I obtained private financing and reached out to the Kyrene district to see if there was an opportunity to launch the program at one of our local preschools. Children as young as 3 years old can be diagnosed.
We chose two in Tempe, as proximity to ASU helps facilitate using the graduate students as volunteers.
A great partnership was forged with the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at ASU. We benefit from their most current techniques, and they obtain crucial classroom experience.
This past spring, we were pleased to observe the program in action. The Wellington-Alexander team introduced us to the students they had identified, and the techniques they were using to teach them.
Such energy and engagement were inspiring. This program will be used as a template to duplicate in other schools and districts throughout the state.
I have been humbled to work with such amazing teachers, ASU graduate students, and many stakeholders throughout this process and am very excited to be part of this program, the first of its kind, in Arizona.
For more information on the handbook: azed.gov/mowr/dyslexia.