1 in 5 Americans: Why Dyslexia Awareness Matters

July 5, 2019
Weekly Columns

My first exposure to public office was in 2006, when I ran for the Fountain Lake School Board. Since my wife was a special education teacher, I’d realized the need for proactive approaches – based on the latest science of reading – to teach children the fundamentals of reading and writing. I did my best to make some of these changes to our local schools, and Arkansas is taking great strides in implementing these approaches.  

Now that I’m a member of Congress, I’ve continued this work as co-chair of the House Dyslexia Caucus. Approximately one in five Americans has dyslexia, including celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg and Muhammad Ali. Historically, this learning disability has rarely gotten media attention or the spotlight, despite its prevalence. Of late, much work and attention has gone toward ensuring educators are equipped to recognize and address early signs of dyslexia, so affected children grow up receiving the specialized education they require.  

Our solution to addressing dyslexia should be twofold. First, we need to continue raising awareness of learning disabilities. The more we destigmatize dyslexia, the more we allow children to learn in a manner that best suits their needs. That’s why I’ve hosted several events this year featuring dyslexia advocates, psychologists and educators, to better inform my constituents and Congress. Second, we need to equip parents and educators to recognize dyslexia in children and address it accordingly. A group of parents in Arkansas have already radically reformed reading instruction for children with dyslexia in the state, and I hope to see their ideas this science-based approach spread across the country. Additionally, research has shown that prison populations have higher-than-average rates of dyslexia, which is why I supported provisions in the First Step Act that screen inmates for dyslexia and support them in receiving GEDs.

I’ve seen the need for greater dyslexia awareness in our schools and businesses, and I will continue working on legislative solutions that help those with learning disabilities. Everyone deserves the resources they need to read and learn.