Local student advocates for children with dyslexia

Leominster student

BOSTON — Christian Chatalian, an 8-year-old student from Leominster, attended Dyslexia Advocacy Day at the State House on June 22.

Christian and his mother Christina met with Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster) to discuss the importance of the legislation. The legislation would require early screening in kindergarten and teacher education for children with dyslexia. Flanagan is a sponsor of the dyslexia legislation. State Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) also met with Christian in her Leominster office, and is a sponsor of dyslexia legislation.

The event was hosted by legislators who initially sponsored bills S.313, S.294, H.330 and H.2872. Dyslexia Advocacy Day featured speakers and experts including Nancy Duggan, executive director of Decoding Dyslexia of Massachusetts, Dr. Nadine Gaab from the Boston Children’s Lab of Cognitive Neuroscience, Dr. Melissa Orkin from Tufts and Kelly Farquharson from Children’s Literacy and Speech Sound Lab.

Christian joined dozens of other children, families, legislators, staff members, teachers and educators to advocate for the laws that would help 1 out of 5 children in the Commonwealth with dyslexia.

Dyslexia legislation will determine if students who arrive at school with a neurobiological condition called dyslexia must “wait to fail” before receiving screening, diagnosis and evidence based instruction specific to dyslexia. If passed, the legislation will provide a clear and scientific definition of dyslexia and require early screening so that students at risk for dyslexia can be identified early and evidence based instruction for students with dyslexia can begin before a child experiences failure.

The Joint Education Committee considered the legislation at a July 11 public hearing at the State House.

“There was a huge response at the State House, so much so that they had to open up a new hearing room to accommodate all the parents, children, educators and experts who came to testify in support of the legislation,” Christina Chatalian, who submitted written testimony for the public hearing, stated in a July 12 email.

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