Harry Belafonte to keynote Yale's symposium on Dyslexia: A Civil Rights Issue for Our Time; Program launches Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative

Jun 12, 2013, 16:16 ET from Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

NEW HAVEN, Conn., June 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Stressing that dyslexia is "a civil rights of our time," with approximately one of every five people struggling with the learning disability and many more, especially in communities of color, going undiagnosed, the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity (YCDC) is launching the Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative (MDAI) on August 4-5, 2013, with a two day symposium bringing together educators, legislators, policy makers, scholars, and philanthropists at Yale University. The overarching goal of MDAI is to provide awareness of dyslexia to communities of color and those of Latino heritage through dyslexia-focused advocacy, education and knowledge sharing with the student, parent, education and legislative communities.

The symposium will begin on Sunday evening with a dinner honoring entertainer and social activist Harry Belafonte and notable British space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, both dyslexic, along with dyslexic celebrities, lawyers, entrepreneurs, doctors and other professionals.

"I look forward to being at Yale for this wonderful event. I have been an advocate for more research when it comes to Dyslexia and children since I have been a Member of Congress,"
said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Yale 72'. "It is an honor to be in the presence of Mr. Belafonte and to be present with him discussing this important topic. Children with learning disabilities are as intelligent as the rest of the population. Their learning disability, however, creates a gap between ability and performance. Children with learning disabilities go to school with the same motivations as other children: to explore interests, broaden knowledge and understanding, satisfy curiosity, and prepare to contribute to the working world and to society. I am committed to insuring that all of my colleagues in Washington, DC are aware and engaged with the essential and important effort to broaden our awareness and advocacy."

The YCDC-MDAI believes that dyslexia is a civil right issue of our time. It is the most common learning disability with approximately 1 out of every 5 people struggling with dyslexia. While 20% of the population is dyslexic, many remain undiagnosed, untreated and struggling with the impact of their dyslexia. It crosses racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines, and with proper instruction and accommodations, it can be remediated. However, the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia remains elusive in public schools, and even more so in urban school populations comprising African American and Latino communities. Children who cannot read are marginalized and left to struggle and ultimately risk falling completely through the cracks, dropping out of school and facing dismal futures. With proper identification and intervention, this is preventable.

As Sally Shaywitz, M.D., Co-Director, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, wrote in her highly- acclaimed book Overcoming Dyslexia, Knopf, 2003. "Dyslexics think differently. They are intuitive and excel at problem solving, seeing the big picture, and simplifying. They feast on visualizing, abstract thinking, and thinking out of the box. They are poor rote reciters but inspired visionaries. Adult dyslexics are tough: Having struggled, they are used to adversity; hard work and perseverance now come naturally. Having experienced failure, they are fearless, undaunted by setbacks… In dyslexia, an encapsulated weakness in decoding is surrounded by a sea of strengths. It is imperative that dyslexia be identified in African-American and Latino children so that the weakness may be remediated and the strengths acknowledged, accessed and nurtured."

The full day session on Monday, August 5, 2013 will include the voices of adults and children who are dyslexic. Many supporters, including Yale President-elect Peter Salovey, Ph.D.; Congressman Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Dyslexia Caucus; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); entrepreneur Daymond John; dyslexic author and Pulitzer Prize nominee Victor Villasenor; and producer & social activist Gina Belafonte, along with a list of other notables will be on hand to lend their advocacy and voices.

"The Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative was formed because of the need for more awareness and evaluation for dyslexia, along with the further pronouncing the incredible work that the Shaywitzes are doing," said dyslexic Dr. Keith L. Magee, who is helping to lead the effort. "This is the first initiative that I've been a part of something that is a direct reflection of myself. The collective goal for us is to be a voice and vehicle for children and adults who struggle and are marginalized because of this learning disability. Our shared vision is for a more inclusive and innovative world and, therefore, we believe that dyslexia as a civil rights issue."

The MDAI will follow up the New Haven conference, which is made possible through the generous support of the Seedling Foundation and the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, with additional gatherings in Washington, DC; Cleveland, OH; Atlanta, GA; Houston, TX; and the California Bay Area. The forthcoming dates will be available on the YCDC website. For more information about MDAI visit http://dyslexia.yale.edu/MDAI/ or to become a sponsor please visit or contact Keith Magee at 312.545.3656 or keith.magee@yale.edu.

Contact: Dr. Keith L. Magee or Dr. Sally Shaywitz
Mobile: 312.545.3656 or 203-785-4641
E-mail: keith.magee@yale.edu or sally.shaywitz@yale.edu

SOURCE Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity