by Daphne Young, Education Reporter
What started out as a rally and show of support for children and people with dyslexia ended in a fun-filled Warriors autograph session for the kids who attended the Decoding Dyslexia CA rally on the steps of City Hall this Tuesday, March 29.
“It was just great shining this light on the screenings and getting the kids what they need,” said Golden State Warriors Guard Gary Payton II. “I wish I had this support when I was growing up. But, this is amazing and I’m happy to help out.”
More than 100 students from the Charles Armstrong School in Belmont, Calif., joined City officials, families and supporters of Senate Bill 237, a measure calling for universal screening for California students at risk of dyslexia.
Payton told the crowd of mostly students that he was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age. He credits his mom with bringing his struggles with reading and writing to light and helping him get diagnosed.
“I didn’t know I had this disability in reading and writing,” Payton told the crowd. But, thanks to early diagnosis and support, Payton went on to play college basketball for Oregon State and is now a guard for the six-time NBA champions Golden State Warriors.
Payton says he feels compelled to give back to youth who share this learning disability. So, he supports Decoding Dyslexia CA, which is a grassroots organization aimed at improving access and early identification of reading difficulties for kids.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom also struggled with dyslexia as a child. Needless to say, he’s gone on to serve as mayor of San Francisco and the governor of the third largest state in the nation. So, early detection is crucial. Yet, Black and Brown students are far less likely to get diagnosed and get the help they need to turn learning around.
Facts about dyslexia
• Dyslexia is the most common learning difference.
• It impacts one in five students, or about 20 percent of the population, states the Dyslexia Center of Utah.
• The learning difference impacts males and females at the same rate.
• 30 percent of students diagnosed with dyslexia also experience at least a mild form of ADHD.
• Dyslexia impacts all ethnicities and socioeconomic classes at about the same rate.
• More than 40 million people in the United States have dyslexia, but only about 2 million have been diagnosed.
• Children with dyslexia have trouble learning to read and write, and can fall behind if the condition isn’t addressed.
• According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is a brain-based learning difference that is unrelated to intelligence.
Testing “should be done when a child is 4 or 5 years old,” said Kareem Weaver, president of the Oakland NAACP. Both Weaver’s daughter and niece were dyslexic. He also spoke to the crowd about the high number of dyslexic Black and Brown inmates in prison.
More than 40 million people in the United States have dyslexia, but only about 2 million have been diagnosed.
“The First Step Act, which was signed into law in 2019, allows for inmates, men and women to get tested for dyslexia when they enter a detention facility,” said Weaver.
“And those who are diagnosed with the disorder get the necessary services they need to help them earn a GED.” But, Weaver added, that prison shouldn’t be the first place that young people get tested for dyslexia.
“That’s why it’s so important to get screening at an early age,” added Payton. The Golden State Warriors Guard knows from experience, “We all learn differently.”
This year, Gov. Newsom has allocated approximately $10 million to the University of San Francisco for dyslexia research. Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to debate over the 2022-23 budget. The final budget plan is due in June. But, Senate Bill 237 hasn’t been presented yet in the Assembly. So, what’s next?
“The chair of a committee has the ability to not grant a hearing,” said Sen. Anthony Portantino, author of SB237. “And so, the chair of the Assembly Committee is not giving it a hearing. And, he has that authority. So, in essence one person is holding up the effort of almost a million kids in California schools not getting the help they need,” added Portantino.
The SF Bay View reached out to the Education Committee chairman, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, to get a response and find out the status of Senate Bill 237.
Testing “should be done when a child is 4 or 5 years old.”
“SB 237 is a two-year bill currently in the Assembly Education Committee,” said O’Donnell. “The bill has both support and opposition. I understand the author is continuing to work with stakeholder groups to find consensus as to how to best serve California’s children. The deadline for getting bills out of our committee is July 1,” added O’Donnell.
With supporters like Sen. Portantino, Gary Payton II from the Golden State Warriors and pressure from families and supporters of the measure, we’ll probably be hearing more about SB237 in the coming months.
The SF City Hall Decoding Dyslexia CA rally was hosted by District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai. Other local officials in attendance included President of the Board of Supervisors Shamann Walton, along with San Francisco Unified School Board President Jenny Lam and newly appointed SFUSD School Board member, Lainie Motamedi. San Francisco Public Library representatives were also on hand.
Learning to read is so important to a child’s educational process. For those facing added struggles of dyslexia, support and resources are necessary. So is testing! Let’s do our part to help get students in California tested, and tested early, for dyslexia. Then the sky’s the limit for them!
For more information about Decoding Dyslexia CA, visit http://decodingdyslexia.org.
Daphne Young is the Education Reporter at the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. The Chicago native is an award-winning journalist who’s covered news for radio and TV stations around the country. She attended San Francisco State University and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. If you have an education story that you’d like to see the Bay View cover, please contact Daphne by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.