Dyslexia Advocacy Runs in This Missouri Family

The Edwards family of Springfield, Missouri, is committed to making a difference for kids with dyslexia.

Dad, mom and youngest daughter Madison (pictured above with Rep. Sandy Crawford, Decoding Dyslexia-Missouri member Marla McKan and Sen. Mike Parsons) are all familiar faces in the Missouri state capitol. Each has a unique voice that’s calling for changes to get more help for Missouri kids with reading struggles.

The Edwardses’ family history might be familiar to lots of kids and adults with dyslexia. There’s dad Steve Edwards, who has dyslexia. But it wasn’t until Madison, 11, was identified with dyslexia in kindergarten that he discovered that he has dyslexia, too.

That personal experience has made mom Jennifer Edwards passionate about dyslexia awareness in her state. She’s co-founder and president of Decoding Dyslexia-Missouri. And she’s on board for the long haul.

“I know the changes we hope to make will probably come too late to help Madison,” notes Mrs. Edwards. “But we’re doing this for the next generation. I’m doing it for my grandchildren,” she explains.

The Edwards family is focusing on four key areas. They advocate for:

  • Better screening for dyslexia

  • More training and better resources for teachers

  • More funding to identify and serve kids with dyslexia

  • Curriculum developed by dyslexia specialists

“In many ways we work as a team,” says Mr. Edwards. “Jennifer is doing the real lobbying work. … She knocks on doors … [with] the power of a mother who has no other agenda—no political agenda, no financial agenda.”

Steve Edwards is president and CEO of CoxHealth. This local hospital system has some 10,000 employees. His position gives him opportunities to talk about dyslexia with key officials. “I help get school superintendents to meet with us,” he explains. “I help get legislators to meet with us. Our hospital lobbyist is working on behalf of this,” he notes.

And, he adds, “We consider it an extension of our mission [at CoxHealth]. Our board has been supportive, as has our board chairman.” In fact, CoxHealth funds grants for dyslexia screening and teacher training. The not-for-profit Springfield Center for Dyslexia and Learning is located on the CoxHealth campus. The center opened in late 2015.

The family’s efforts have been recognized, both locally and in Jefferson City, the Missouri capital. Mr. Edwards is a native of Springfield, and not long ago he was inducted into the public schools’ hall of fame as an outstanding graduate.

At the awards ceremony, he shared his difficult school start. He talked about how he wasn’t reading when he started second grade. He then got help and learned to read. “By the end of third grade, I was reading pretty well,” he recalls.

Madison, who’s now a fifth grader, is also doing well, her parents say. She has an (IEP) in a public school.

And she’s a budding advocate. Madison has appeared before state lawmakers and plans to appear again. She’s helping to push for bills that would create best practices for Missouri schools in addressing dyslexia. She’s excited to speak up for herself and for other kids with dyslexia, her parents confirm.

It runs in the family.

Find out what to do if you think your child could have dyslexia. And learn how you can advocate for kids and adults with learning and thinking differences.

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