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Lawmakers and Educators Attend Dyslexia Conference at Mississippi College

Mississippi Sen. Will Longwitz of Madison speaks to dyslexia educators at a Mississippi College conference on Monday. He's among several state lawmakers at the September 15 sessions on campus. Among those looking on is MC Dyslexia Therapy Program Director Kay Peterson of Dallas, Texas.

State lawmakers joined educators and parents at a Mississippi College conference helping raise awareness about dyslexia’s lifelong challenges.

“We’ve done great work in Mississippi to train teachers and identify dyslexic students,” says Sen. Will Longwitz of Madison. But he believes much more needs to be done in Mississippi and across the nation to tackle the issue.

An attorney and parent, Sen. Longwitz was among more than 60 participants at the Mississippi Legislative Symposium on Dyslexia held Monday. He says new laws are needed, especially for the most severe cases, so dyslexic students receive prompt help from certified therapists.

Dyslexia is the name for specific learning disabilities in reading. Nationally, two million students are diagnosed with learning disabilities. And about 80 percent of those students are affected by dyslexia.

Prominent Americans who have battled dyslexia include former pro football player Tim Tebow, film director Steven Spielberg, comedian Jay Leno, actor Danny Glover and actress Whoopi Goldberg.

Dyslexia programs at Mississippi College’s School of Education, Longwitz said, are a terrific vehicle to address the issue in Central Mississippi and other regions of the state. “It’s great to have these resources so close by.”

The Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Association, Mississippi College and Mississippi Families for Children with Dyslexia sponsored the September 15 conference on the Clinton campus.

“I’m glad to see the lawmakers here. It is exciting to see so many of them,” says Kacey Matthews, dyslexia therapist at Saint Anthony Catholic School in Madison. “It gives parents and teachers hope that somebody will fight for them.”

Matthews noted many public schools around the Magnolia State don’t have licensed dyslexia therapists on staff.

Others on hand at the meetings at Anderson Hall included Kay Peterson of Dallas, director of MC’s Dyslexia Therapy Program. At the moment, there are more than 80 graduate students seeking a master’s in education in dyslexia therapy at the Baptist-affiliated university.

Peterson was delighted with the conference turnout especially by members of the Mississippi House and Senate. “I appreciate their efforts to further educate the state of Mississippi about dyslexia.”

Speakers included Mississippi native Hal Malchow, president of the International Dyslexia Association, author of children’s books and parent of a son with dyslexia. Others addressing the group were Dr. Bill Cassidy, a U.S. Congressman from Louisiana and parent of a child with dyslexia. Suzanne Carreker, senior vice president of the Neuhaus Education Center in Texas, also spoke to conference guests.

The sessions attracted lawmakers like Rep. Larry Byrd of Petal, Sen. Hillman Frazier of Jackson, whose Senate District includes Mississippi College and Rep. Sherra Hillman Lane of Waynesboro, a former dyslexia teacher. She favors legislative proposals stepping up training requirements for teachers of dyslexic students.