Albany, NY – On May 12th, 2022, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn), Senator John Brooks (D-Long Island) and their colleagues hosted the 7th Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day. Teens, parents, advocates, educators and legislators from across New York State highlighted the need to address dyslexia in students, the most common learning disability in kids. NYC Mayor Eric L. Adams and NYC Education Chancellor David Banks also attended, after announcing a historic initiative to screen students for dyslexia and provide targeted interventions.
The event featured teens with dyslexia sharing their experiences, parents sharing advocacy strategies, and experts creating inclusive learning environments for everyone. Legislators highlighted solutions including evidenced-based teacher training to improve literacy rates (S1376/A2217), early dyslexia screening for students (S1293/A2283), a dyslexia task force (S441/A2185), and dyslexia screening for those who are incarcerated and lack a high school diploma or GED (S307/A2062).
“Dyslexia is the most prevalent learning disability in children, and yet it is woefully misunderstood, unrecognized and just plain ignored. Every child should be screened for dyslexia and related learning disabilities and get the interventions they need before they fall behind. We also must provide teachers with training in multi-sensory sequential phonics that work for all learners. I’m encouraged by the Mayor’s historic dyslexia initiatives, and I’ll keep pushing for dyslexia bills on a state level,” said NYS Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, who started Dyslexia Awareness Day and who has represented dyslexic students for decades, including a landmark disability rights case on behalf of a dyslexic law school graduate.
“As a student, I struggled with identifying my dyslexia until long after leaving the public school system. Raising awareness helps to identify dyslexia and creates a supportive environment for dyslexic students. It also gives every public school student a chance to read at a high level,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “I’m thrilled to join Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon on the 7th Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day to advocate for policies that will impact New Yorkers and give every child a chance to succeed in the career of their choice.”
Senator John Brooks said, "As someone who struggled throughout school due to undiagnosed dyslexia, I understand the challenges one faces when they have a learning disorder. Awareness is key to letting every boy and girl who has dyslexia know that they aren't less capable or less intelligent than their peers, and they should never be discouraged. There are countless individuals who have gone on to have great success in their careers -- governors, CEOs, artists, state senators, movie directors and more -- because dyslexia doesn't limit your potential or prevent you from changing the world."
"By ensuring we screen more New Yorkers- including and especially those who are being incarcerated- for dyslexia, we can ensure we're able to provide more young people with the resources they need to improve their literacy and their prospects. I'm grateful to the advocates and my legislative colleagues, especially Assembly Member Simon, for prioritizing awareness of dyslexia and related learning needs," said Senator Zellnor Myrie.
Charlotte Thompson, age 17, student at Mary McDowell Friends School who participated in the event as a teen panelist, said, “There’s a lot I’d like people to know about me, especially that I’m a creative person, and I’ll always be creative despite my disability. I’m an artist and I also love to write. I love bringing things to life through my art.”
"Today is a historic day for our city. It is not enough to just identify students at-risk – we must be able to fully support students and provide the interventions they need to succeed," said Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. "We are excited to take action alongside our state partners to ensure that every child learns to read."
“It’s been proven repeatedly that early screening for dyslexia is one of the best tools we have to set students up for success by ensuring they have the resources they need to do their best work. This is a great step towards enhancing our school system’s responsiveness to the needs of all children. I want to thank my colleagues for their dedication to improving the lives of New York residents, schoolchildren, and incarcerated people, who have dyslexia. I look forward to passing this package of legislation and empowering New Yorkers with dyslexia to succeed in our schools and beyond,” said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.
"Every child deserves a chance to have a sound, basic, high-quality education. With that in mind, we have to create a culture of dyslexia awareness, where public school students with dyslexia and related language-based learning disabilities will be provided the opportunity to thrive and learn in their neighborhood schools," said Senator Robert Jackson. "Unfortunately, too often black and brown students are not referred to the correct support services and appropriate educational setting. This is another educational disparity we must and will address, and we are thankful for all our legislative and community friends and allies here today taking up this cause with us."
Leanne Block, age 17, student at Mary McDowell Friends School who participated in the event as a teen panelist, said, "Believe it or not, I like doing tedious work! I like organization. More people should know having a learning difference doesn’t make us different as a person."
“Today is a monumental day for the dyslexia community and for all New Yorkers! I am thankful to Assemblymember Simon for inviting me to moderate the youth panel in this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Day. As a dyslexic and a special education attorney, I am so inspired and energized by all of the participants in Dyslexia Awareness Day and Mayor Adams’ announcement of an evidence-based dyslexia program in schools,” said Ptahra Jeppe, Esq. “We know what needs to be done to ensure that individuals with dyslexia get the resources and tools they need to succeed and those present today showed that they are ready to continue the work!
“We at Eye to Eye believe in a world where all neurodiverse students are seen, heard, and valued. As we hear from young people on Dyslexia Awareness Day, we can join together to create an equitable school system for them and for the students behind them," Marcus Soutra, President, Eye to Eye.