Andree Hodge struggled for years to find out why her children struggled with their literacy.

“I thought I was going crazy,” she said.  

When Hodge finally discovered her children had dyslexia and started researching how to help them, she realized that most of the information she was finding came from the United States.

In 2019, she and a group of other mothers decided to start Decoding Dyslexia Alberta , a grassroots organization where they could share their newfound knowledge with an Alberta audience – a safe-haven for other families going through the same thing.

“We just felt that Alberta needed a movement,” said Hodge.

Part of that movement includes screening the documentary,The Truth About Reading by Nick Nanton, followed by a panel discussion with local experts, Jodi Nickel, Gabrielle Wilcox, and Eryn Coughlin at Mount Royal University. The event is being held at Ross Glen Hall, on Thursday, Oct. 5 from 6-9 p.m. 

A screening of The Truth About Reading will be shown at Ross Glen Hall on Thursday. PHOTO: Courtesy of Decoding Dyslexia Alberta

This film screening is not only open to those who struggle with dyslexia, but instead, is a chance to raise awareness about the condition to everyone. The event organizers want to knock the taboo and misinformation surrounding dyslexia. 

Dyslexia is widely misunderstood as the condition is caused by a phonological processing problem. Meaning, people affected by it have trouble not with seeing language, but with manipulating it.

Signs of the disability start to show as early as toddlers, when it becomes evident that they have trouble recognizing the alphabet and rhymes. 

“What we should be doing is preventing reading failure as a first step and you can intervene at a young age,” said Hodge. 

So, rather than seeing those who have dyslexia as defective, it’s important to understand that they just have a different way of processing words.

And it turns out, dyslexia is a lot more common than most think – affecting approximately 20 per cent of the population and up to 90 per cent of those with learning disabilities. Yet, many go undiagnosed. 

Being dyslexic doesn’t mean being defective. PHOTO: Rob Hobson / Unsplash

“You know, the mental health issues that students are having right now, maybe if you can take illiteracy and the reading struggles off the table, we can focus more on what’s really behind that,” said Hodge.

Without the proper resources, this can put additional stress on students, which, in turn, may link to lower grades and self-esteem issues. 

Hodge and other members of her organization hope the next revision of the Alberta curriculum will improve with teaching educators how to teach those with dyslexia. 

“I still have educators coming to me asking, ‘What is dyslexia?’” Hodge said. 

Schools in Alberta are starting to adopt valuable resources such as MRU Reads, a tutoring framework that helps Bachelor of Education students learn how to teach foundational literacy skills to young, elementary students.

And Decoding Dyslexia’s president, Sarah Sarich has been instrumental in the policy-making process.

“She communicates passionately with government representatives about structural literacy and evidence-based reading instruction, has written a letter in full support of the new curriculum and has published in the Edmonton Journal. She’s met with the former education minister just to demonstrate that we are legit, and we are fully in support,” said Hodge.

Sarich resides in Edmonton, giving her closer connections to members of parliament and has been successful in her letter-writing.

“I think DDA really pushes parents to hear your child’s voice. Don’t hesitate to advocate for your children. I think the teachers need to hear it. The principals need to hear it,” said Hodge.

What started off as a small group of moms looking out for their children, is now a growing collective striving to make a difference in the community. 

“You’re not alone in this chapter in your life as a student.” 

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