More than 200 parents, students, educators and advocates packed the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto to attend the first dyslexia conference in Canada.

“Understanding dyslexia: A conference for parents, families and educators” was organized by the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Organization in partnership with Decoding Dyslexia Ontario.

As a mother and a dyslexia advocate, I was excited to attend this historic (and sold out) event with my family. I’ve summarized my thoughts into the “top 5 things” I took away from the conference (though there was so much more), but first a birds-eye view of the day:

The agenda featured a who’s who of dyslexia experts from across Canada and the United States. The speakers shared research and evidence-based recommendations for identifying and teaching dyslexic students, as well as tech tips, education law, and how to advocate for our children.

A student panel took the stage to answer questions about “surviving and thriving” with dyslexia. The group opened up about how they deal with bullies, the biggest obstacles they face and the upside to being dyslexic (hard working, resilient and creative were some of the answers).

Last but not least, Keith Gray and Stuart Bruce of Dyslexia Canada gave an impassioned plea for the rights of dyslexic children—and outlined their mission to establish legislation in each Canadian province, specific to recognizing and remediating dyslexia in our public schools.

Though most of us had never met before, we quickly realized that we are all on the same path, and have a similar story. We shared advice and information, exchanged contact information, made plans for organizing in our own communities.

The conference left me with hope that positive change is coming for children with dyslexia. Said one conference organizer: “I feel a revolution coming on!”

I’m already looking forward to next year!

Top 5 things I learned at the first Canadian dyslexia conference

1. Don’t wait for a child to fail: Too often, students have to fail to get the help they need. Experts say it is never too early to help a child who is struggling to read.

2. Dyslexic students can and will learn to read with proper reading instruction: Early identification (as early as kindergarten) and intervention with an evidence-based reading program are key to teaching readers who struggle.

3. One size does not fit all: Dyslexic students learn differently, so they need to be taught differently. They may read more slowly, but fast reading does not equal good reading.

4. Take care of emotional needs:  Dyslexic children may experience social and emotional challenges, such as bullying, anxiety and low self-esteem. Along with reading support, these children need emotional support along the way.

5. We work better when we work together:  Parents, students, educators and advocates need to work together to make positive change.

How you can make change

Sign the petition to legislate compulsory student early-assessment testing for dyslexia in Canada.

Support the organizations working to make change for dyslexic children in Canada:

International Dyslexia Association Ontario Branch

Decoding Dyslexia Ontario

Dyslexia Canada  

Participants learn tech-tips from Jamie Martin at Understanding Dyslexia Conference in Toronto. (Photo credit: Jamie Martin, AT Dyslexia)

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Anne Boys is a writer and editor living in Ottawa. You can read more about the conference, and her family’s journey with dyslexia at her blog dyslexiclibrary.com.

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