“Can you believe our film has over 5,000 views on YouTube already?” I said to my son who’s in it. “That’s nothing, mom,” he said with exasperation. “There are some YouTubers that have a million views!”
But we parents know that our film - "What I Wish Teachers Knew About Dyslexia" - is having a ripple effect. The responses tell us so:
- “I'm crying tears of joy knowing that our daughter doesn't feel so alone after watching your video and that I, too as a parent am not alone. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!”
- “This is a video that all teachers and school administrators need to see.”
- “My daughter’s elementary principal is requiring all reading specialists to see it.”
- One of the girls in the film shared it with teachers at her school, and two told her they are dyslexic, too.
- Read more comments in this short blog post, "A Voice Where One is Needed"
A work colleague of mine tearfully shared her own painful experience with dyslexia after hearing Mia in the film say, “Please don’t ask me to read out loud to the class.”
The idea for this film came to me during an annual dyslexia-related conference for education professionals. Shouldn’t these professionals hear directly from the kids, whom this conference is meant to benefit ultimately? And shouldn’t they know there is a common experience for families of kids with dyslexia? Or, would they return to their jobs and still perceive the parent advocating for their dyslexic child to be a squeaky wheel?
Fortunately, one of the dads in my group, the Dyslexia Buddy Network, is also the director of the popular documentary Embracing Dyslexia. Together we sought video submissions; our only criteria was that kids answer four questions:
- Say “My name is…”
- What are things that you like to do, or that interest you?
- What do you wish teachers knew about dyslexia?
- Say “I am your student…”
Not surprisingly to us parents of kids with dyslexia, their answers showed common themes:
- I want my teacher to know I’m trying as best as I can.
- Don’t call on me to read in front of the class.
- I wish my teacher knew how hard it is to learn.
- We should be able to use audio books.
- I am not lazy. I work harder than most.
It took a lot of courage for these fourteen kids to participate. In fact, I had to bribe my 7-year old son by paying him $2.
After hearing the kids’ voices, seeing photos of them playing sports or with their animals, viewers cannot help but to like them, cannot help but to smile when hearing Sydney say, “I am a creative thinker," and when Abby says, “I try as best as I can to stay ahead and not let dyslexia get in my way!”
Viewers cannot help but to feel empathy for these amazing kids upon reading our survey results of Illinois parents of kids with dyslexia
- 100% believe their child’s school is not properly equipped to teach dyslexic students
- 88% have been told by a teacher or school administrator they do not use the term dyslexia
- 87% say their child has suffered emotional difficulties due to challenges in school
- 54% say their child has been denied necessary accommodations
University-level teacher education programs do not include dyslexia remediation, despite the fact that dyslexia makes up 80% of learning disabilities. In fact, only 16 universities have programs accredited by the International Dyslexia Association. Our kids spend 8-hours a day in schools that cannot teach reading and spelling in the way their brains are wired, leaving them believing they're “stupid” and alone.
To combat that unacceptable result, I created the Dyslexia Buddy Network to build a community for our youth in Illinois. We focus on their strengths and build them up! We have fun social events and inspiring speakers, Award of Excellence ribbons and cards recognizing our kids’ hard work. There is power in community and perhaps more important...hope.
---Kristin Paxton is the Founding Mama Bear of the Dyslexia Buddy Network, which she created for her son, Mason, so he knows he is not the only one with dyslexia. The group has over 70 youth from elementary through high school across Illinois. Inspiring speakers share their own experiences with dyslexia, and fun social events have led to good friendships. New in 2016 is a summer overnight camp for kids with dyslexia and siblings.