New York City will launch what it calls the largest dyslexia support program in America, screening all of the city’s public school students for the condition and offering a specialized learning program for those who need it.
Mayor Eric Adams has spoken frequently about how his own dyslexia, unrecognized while he was in school, affected his early life.
“I just couldn’t keep up. Didn’t know what was stopping me from comprehending and learning the information that was in front of me,” Adams said.
The new program is designed to intervene and catch it sooner in others.
“By changing the way we approach dyslexia, we can unlock the untapped potential in students who may feel insecure about their dyslexia or any other language-based learning disabilities they may have,” Adams said in a statement Thursday. He later said that the initiative is about giving students “the support they need to succeed.”
NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks said the program is a step in righting the wrongs of the past.
“Our approach has been a flawed approached. And there’s so many of our students who have not gotten the supports that they need, and that changes today,” he said.
The National Institutes of Health define dyslexia as “a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence.” Research has shown that nearly two million children nationwide have dyslexia, and many don’t even know it.
City schools with have a three-prong approach, offering literacy screening, extra training for teachers so they can give students who need it support, as well as the creation of a dyslexia-specific pilot program coming to two schools to start: PS 161 in the Bronx and PS 125 in Manhattan.
The intervention program will extend its pilot launch in the fall at 80 elementary and 80 middle schools. By the fall of 2023, the city said, its goal is to have at least one school in every borough offering a specialized program for dyslexic students.
“Dyslexia is not a disadvantage, it’s just a different way of learning,” Adams said.
All of the city’s teachers, from kindergarten through 12th grade, will also receive basic training over the next year in identifying and supporting students.