Working Together: Decoding Dyslexia CA and IDA NorCal

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by Lori DePole

As a recently elected IDA NorCal board member and as the Decoding Dyslexia CA Strategic Partner Liaison, I am excited to explore how we can build upon the strengths of our mutual missions to better leverage the impact our two groups are making in California.

First, a bit of history for those of you who are not familiar with Decoding Dyslexia. Decoding Dyslexia began as a grassroots movement in 2011 in New Jersey. Five strangers met at a learning disabilities conference and recognized similarities with the struggles they had each experienced while trying to secure services for their children with dyslexia. It was then that they decided to form a movement and influence change on a statewide level. Word traveled fast on the East Coast, and other states soon followed suit. Today, there are Decoding Dyslexia chapters in all 50 states and in three Canadian provinces.

Decoding Dyslexia CA (DDCA) was formed as a grassroots movement in 2013 and is driven by California families, educators, and professionals concerned with the limited access in our public schools to educational interventions for dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. DDCA aims to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children, and inform policymakers on best practices to identify, remediate, and support students with dyslexia in California public schools.

DDCA sponsored Assembly Bill 1369, authored by Jim Frazier, (D-Oakley). Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in October 2015, resulting in the first successful dyslexia legislation in over a decade. One of the laws resulting from AB 1369 required the CA State Superintendent to develop statewide guidelines regarding dyslexia. These guidelines were released in August 2017. Another requirement of AB 1369 added the term “phonological processing” to the identification process for special education eligibility, effective January 1, 2016.

DDCA was also the author of the statewide dyslexia resolution that was adopted by the CA State PTA in May 2016. Most recently, DDCA collaborated with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in drafting a dyslexia resolution that was unanimously adopted in June 2017. DDCA is actively working with LAUSD on its implementation.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) has supported the Decoding Dyslexia grassroots movement as it has spread across the country. This collaboration has helped in giving a voice to the underlying issues of dyslexia. IDA has been instrumental in establishing foundational Knowledge and Practice Standards for educators that create a consistent, national standard which Decoding Dyslexia chapters have been able to reference in developing state legislation.

In California, DDCA and IDA NorCal joined together as members of the California Department of Education dyslexia workgroup to assist in developing the statewide dyslexia guidelines. As part of this initiative, we worked together to bring internationally recognized dyslexia experts on board as part of the workgroup.

The issuance of the recent California Dyslexia Guidelines has evolved the conversation within our public schools from one of dyslexia awareness to action and implementation.

How do we move forward to continue positively impacting our California public schools? We recognize that our outreach efforts will produce the greatest results by continued collaboration between IDA NorCal and DDCA. It is my hope that this would include:

  • cross-promoting and co-sponsoring events
  • advertising and funding educator scholarships
  • providing accessible, high quality educator training programs
  • cross-training volunteers
  • improved communication between IDA NorCal and DDCA
  • speaking with a cohesive voice when it comes to issues regarding improving outcomes for students with dyslexia in our CA public schools

As part of my role in the leadership team of Decoding Dyslexia CA, I have worked to build our network of professional organizations and dyslexia experts and to increase our member outreach to educators and other professionals (in addition to our parent base). This includes creating a strong social media presence and establishing a DDCA presence at educational conferences throughout California. I have also helped develop a partnership with CSU East Bay to co-host structured literacy trainings and workshops and have provided ongoing public school teacher scholarship opportunities in the SF Bay Area. I am very honored to join the IDA NorCal Board and look forward to working with this dedicated group.