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The Social Side of Advocacy: Decoding Dyslexia Conference

Categories: Learning Disabilities, Parenting, Public Policy/Advocacy

Decoding Dyslexia Social Media ConferenceFrom humble beginnings as a grass-roots parent advocacy and support group in NJ, Decoding Dyslexia has expanded to be a tour de force with "movements," as they describe local groups, in 46 states across America. The parent network has gained traction with legislators in several states and, acting as a microphone for the collective parent voice, continues to grow in volume. For the first time since the group's inception, representatives from chapters of Decoding Dyslexia all over the country met face-to-face. The occasion was a social media conference in Princeton, NJ at Learning Ally's headquarters, at which parents and dyslexia supporters took part in a crash course on digital advocacy. Parents from all over the country were able to meet and connect with others through their common goal: to raise awareness of dyslexia, empower families, and inform law-makers on how to best serve students who struggle to read. The event kicked off with a dinner on March 6 at which Susanne Lang, Program Associate, LD of The Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, which sponsored the conference; and Andrew Friedman, President and CEO of Learning Ally, welcomed representatives from Decoding Dyslexia who had traveled far and wide to attend the conference. 1891219_604902656268691_32816176_n - CopyParticipants gathered at Learning Ally's headquarters early the next morning for a full day of workshops and presentations. Sessions covered major channels in the social media realm, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, as well as other helpful online capabilities such as video chatting, document sharing, and blogging.
Jill Lam from Decoding Dyslexia—Ohio exemplified the conference’s spirit of collaboration: “We each need to think about not just helping ‘my kid,’ but helping ALL kids!”
Speakers included social media savvy members of Decoding Dyslexia, as well as a special session on using social media for educational advocacy by Bill Freitas, Director of Information Technology Services at The Lawrenceville School, a prestigious college prep school in Central NJ. Ben Foss, author of "The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan," also participated in the event and shared his tips on how Headstrong Nation, the dyslexia-focused nonprofit he founded in 2003, uses social media to raise awareness. Nearly every person in attendance brought a laptop, tablet or smartphone on which to practice their new skills. For example, one activity, led by Kristin Kane of Decoding Dyslexia--Virginia, guided participants in making their own photo meme to share on Facebook or other social media channels. [caption id="attachment_23810" align="alignleft" width="257"]Presenters Kim Head and Jill Lam Presenters Kim Head (DD-AK) and Jill Lam (DD-OH)[/caption] You'd be hard pressed to find a room of people who feel more passionately about dyslexia than one full of parents whose own children are affected by the learning disability-- naturally, the conference had some emotionally charged moments. Kim Head of Decoding Dyslexia-- Arkansas gave a presentation called "The Power of the Face" that demonstrated how focusing on the emotional side of an issue and creating a human connection is an effective way of gaining support for your cause. She played a video montage of children with dyslexia juxtaposed with messages illustrating the gravity of not properly addressing reading issues in American schools. By the end of the emotionally striking clip, there was not a dry eye in the room. After the long day came to an end, the overall consensus was that the many hours of planning and travel were well worth it. As mother Debbie Salazar, who traveled clear across the country on behalf of Decoding Dyslexia--California, said: "Amazing day—an opportunity that will be shared with others for a long time.”

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