#sayDylsexia Rally: A Lesson in Self-Advocacy

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By Kelly Fleenor

September 2016

My children and I attended the #sayDyslexia Rally in Washington D.C., July 11–13, 2016. I cannot begin to describe how much the three of us learned and the wonderful friends we made. A few days after the rally, many people were interested in our experience, so I would like to share what I learned as a parent as I watched, for the first time, my son sharing his struggles with other dyslexic youth during the Youth Advocacy Camp session. I sat stunned listening to each of the youth with dyslexia sharing incidents of being afraid to ask a teacher for help, crying in the classroom when asked to read aloud, shame, fear of looking dumb in front of the class, and the constant wish of wanting to “just be normal like everyone else.”  

13681066_10154387758117577_1937630985162068461_n As an active dyslexia advocate and parent, I thought I felt confident that I was doing all I could. Boy was I wrong! This brave group of dyslexia youth, ranging from age 6 to 17, stopped me in my tracks. I should have sat with my son to review his IEP resources so he would know exactly what to ask for when he needed help or additional time to complete assignments. I am not the one in the classroom, and I failed to teach my son to advocate for himself.

Our dyslexic children need the confidence to stand up for their rights in the classroom. And if classroom accommodations are not met, our children need to feel safe in sharing with us. It is one thing to get a group of parents together that are strong-willed, but the youth advocacy camp experience showed me that children with dyslexia are the strongest and most demonstrative voices. One 16-year-old panelist summed it best when she said “advocating for yourself is more powerful than someone doing it for you.”

Moving Mountains and Making Pathways


Each day of the rally, we were fortunate enough to meet and spend time with Ameer Baraka. Mr. Baraka is an amazing actor, model, author, advocate, and dyslexia success story. His goals include “moving mountains and making pathways” for less fortunate youth with learning disabilities. When asked what was his turning point in life, Mr. Baraka replied “my fear of life is gone and I can do anything I put my mind to. Nothing can hold you back but yourself.”

I leave you with a few last thoughts. Talk to your federal and state representatives to tell your story and let your child tell his or her story to keep pushing the rights of all dyslexics. The International Dyslexia Association is working harder than ever to provide resources, legislative information, and support for parents, adults with dyslexia, professionals, teachers, and researchers.

I would love to hear your story and a dyslexia law you would like passed through Congress.

Please contact Kelly Davis Fleenor, International Dyslexia Association, Director of Marketing, 40 York Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21204, 410-561-6417, kfleenor@dyslexiaida.org

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