Katie Dwelly's son, 8-year-old Dillon, has dyslexia, a learning ability that affects reading and word recognition.
"It was very confusing because as a mom you begin to blame yourself and think did I not read enough with him?" she said, noting that her 11 year old daughter was also recently diagnosed with dyslexia. So, she went looking for support and found Decoding Dyslexia.
"Decoding Dyslexia is grassroots. We're families helping families," said Allison Quirion, who started the Connecticut chapter when she didn't know where to turn for information to help her son with the language-based learning disability. "We formed to bring families together to have a voice for our students with dyslexia and to empower our parents to advocate for our students."
She said families statewide believe true understanding of dyslexia in the classroom was lacking. So, recently, parents and students testified before lawmakers in support of a bill requiring special ed teachers to complete a program of study in evidence-based literacy interventions for students with dyslexia which affects 15 to 20 percent of the population.
"People came forward to tell their stories, to share their stories, and that’s what made the change," Quirion said.
The bill just passed, finalizing the group's efforts to prepare teachers during the certification process prior to entering the school districts. Dwelly says while assistive technology, such as audio books and computer programs is helpful, it doesn't replace good instruction.
"I think it’s so important for people to get out there and advocate on any issue," she said, grateful that lawmakers paid attention to parents' and students' experiences. "It’s proven to me that it does work -- they do get back to you if you email and call. They do get back and they do listen."
It's expected that Governor Malloy, who was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, will sign the bill into law within the next few days.