Call it a tale of two daughters.
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, has a daughter with dyslexia. Kate, who is his youngest daughter, was diagnosed at age 7. Cassidy still gets emotional when he talks about how he and his wife pushed to get Kate the help she needed in school. That experience drove Cassidy and his wife, both doctors, to help start Louisiana Key Academy, a free charter school for .
Rep. Julia Brownley, D-CA, says her experience getting services for her daughter Hannah led her to public service. Brownley started as a school board member in her home state of California before being elected to Congress.
Kate is 13 now and doing well in school. Hannah has a master’s degree in international studies, works in Kenya and speaks three languages. But their parents are still working to raise awareness of dyslexia.
Reps. Cassidy and Brownley shared their stories at a recent hearing on dyslexia before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. They were joined by other members of Congress with personal connections to dyslexia—Rep. Donna Edwards, D-MD, shared her struggles in getting her son evaluated; Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-IN, broke down crying several times about his daughter’s struggles with learning differences; Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, spoke about family members with dyslexia.
The members of Congress also heard from a panel of experts and witnesses. The panel included Dr. Sally Shaywitz of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University, and Max Brooks, author and screenwriter.
Cassidy and Brownley, co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, say their goal is to draw attention to the science behind dyslexia. They want to educate other lawmakers about the issues. They also want to establish national educational and health care policies that will help kids with dyslexia get the support they need.
Following the dyslexia hearing, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, a founding partner of Understood, held a luncheon that brought nearly 100 parents, Congressional staff and advocates together to continue the conversation. Groups like Dyslexia and the International Dyslexia Association participated.
So far, more than 100 members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors of a resolution that Cassidy and Brownley introduced, calling on “schools along with state and local educational agencies to address the implications that dyslexia has on students.” This resolution reaffirms the protections in the law for children with dyslexia.
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About the author
Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for