Faribault Community School hosts a dyslexia awareness event on Wednesday, bringing rare attention to an often undiagnosed condition that affects one in five students.
In her role as Faribault Community School evening coordinator, Rachael Peterson is always on the lookout for evening programming that is educational and enriching. She became interested in organizing a program about dyslexia because she thought the issue needed extra attention. Peterson said that many parents also expressed an interest in learning more about dyslexia. She reached out to Twin Cities based nonprofit Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota and they agreed to come to Faribault to talk about the issue.
Decoding Dyslexia is a national organization with chapters in all 50 states. Its focus is on increasing dyslexia awareness, providing resources for people struggling with dyslexia, and pushing for policy change to address the issue.
Dyslexia is a learning disorder which affects the parts of the brain that comprehend language. People with dyslexia have trouble reading because they struggle to identify speech sounds and understand how they relate to written language.
Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota has held a variety of events to achieve those goals, nearly all in the Twin Cities. Executive Director Rachel Berger said that this is the first time the organization has held an informational event in greater Minnesota.
“We have a very actively engaged community in Faribault and they have an appetite for more insight and resources,” she added. “Our goal as a nonprofit is to through our mission to educate advocate and empower individuals to help them advocate for students.”
Kimberly Carlsen, who will lead the presentation on Wednesday night, said that her presentation is focused on dispelling common myths about dyslexia. She emphasized that dyslexia is extremely common but that the condition runs on a spectrum, making diagnosis more difficult.
“A lot of these kids are considered struggling readers and they’re not given the diagnosis,” she said. “That can happen either because kids don’t know the signs to look for or they’re not struggling enough.”
Carlsen said that the large majority of students struggling with reading have at least some symptoms of dyslexia. Recently, the state legislature approved funding to test kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders struggling for dyslexia.
Other changes in state statute, pushed by Decoding Dyslexia, have highlighted dyslexia as a major educational issue and increased resources for dyslexic students. Carlsen said she’ll highlight how families can access those resources in her presentation.
Still, Carlsen said that many dyslexic students are falling through the cracks due to a lack of resources. She said that presentations like the one she’ll give in Faribault play a major role in ensuring students get the help they need.
“Dyslexics aren’t any less smart, their brains just work differently,” she said. “They need to be taught in a different way and unfortunately, a lot of the ways the schools are teaching doesn’t always benefit a dyslexic student.”