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Morning Brief: Dyslexia Series Q&A, Police Accountability Laws, Southern Cali Palms

A student wearing a colorful shirt with sea animals on it and large over-the-ear headphones sits at a desk in front of a white wall.
FILE - A student sits at a desk as 2nd and 3rd grade students attend class at an art gallery turned learning pod on Oct. 1, 2020, in New York City.
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Getty Images North America)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Wednesday, July 27.

One of the biggest challenges I faced in my past life as a teacher was finding the best ways to help my students with learning disabilities in a school with very few resources. For one thing, I often think about how much I didn’t know about dyslexia and how many of my students may have actually needed help.

The sad thing is…I wasn’t alone. There’s so much to understand.

That’s why next Wednesday, our education team is starting a new series about dyslexia, the most common learning disability in the United States. They will tap into several aspects, including:

  • An explanation of what dyslexia is, and its prevalence in Southern California
  • How effectively students in elementary with dyslexia are identified
  • Disagreements over how children should be taught to read
  • How well colleges and universities screen for dyslexia 
  • How higher education is preparing educators to help dyslexic students 
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YOU, dear friend, were so important to the development of this series. You responded and we heard you. The education team received over 200 responses from our listeners and readers about YOUR own experiences with dyslexia. THANK YOU. 

For more, I spent time talking to my two colleagues Adriana Pera, our engagement producer, and Jill Replogle, our college pathways reporter for a behind-the-scenes look at the first story in the series, publishing on Wednesday, Aug. 3:

(Interview edited for clarity)

Aaricka Washington: Why are you passionate about this particular topic?

Adriana: I’ve been a TA (teacher’s assistant) a few times, and just noticing, but not really understanding why some kids would get super anxious, or not really eager to participate in a read aloud. I think learning that information and learning that perspective and the reasons why…It is about providing teacher training and information on how it can affect a student’s self esteem.

Jill: Learning disabilities are the biggest categories of disabilities. This is it. This is the heart of battles over special education in schools and we’ve seen that from so many people that wrote in, which has been pretty inspiring. It makes me feel like we’re onto something good. We’ve had over 200 people respond to our call out. We’ve gotten a lot of stories of parents struggling to get services they need for their kids. We’ve talked to special education experts and teachers about what it’s like on their end, and they want to help those kids. Some of them just don’t know how.

Aaricka: Why is the education team doing a dyslexia series now?

Adriana: It's a really important issue that affects like…there’s some estimates that say that up to 20% of the population has dyslexia. It’s something that touches all students of every age, and not even just students, people in their adulthood too.

Jill: Some of us have a rudimentary understanding of what dyslexia is. What we know about dyslexia is relatively new. One researcher told us that we basically know nothing about dyslexia and how it works in the brain. It’s sort of only been recently that neuropsychologists have gotten involved to see what’s actually happening in the brain. And really if you do a brain scan on somebody, it’s quite easy to tell whether they have dyslexia. But that’s an expensive way to diagnose and assess kids, so we don’t do that normally.

I think we started to realize what a really big issue it is, and also how frustrated a lot of parents and students are, who feel that they’re not getting the help that they need to be able to overcome dyslexia.

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What have been some challenges in reporting this story?

Jill: Nailing down the science has been extremely challenging because it is kind of new. There is still a lot of debate. There are different types of dyslexia. We sort of think about it as difficulty reading, but while most kids with dyslexia have trouble reading, it can manifest itself in other ways, like, trouble expressing thoughts, like mixing up numbers. Sorting out the science and evidence has been very complicated.

The debate over whether it is a disability, or just a difference in brain processing, that comes with some really strong strengths. There are patterns of abilities of higher level thought among people with dyslexia. There are a lot of dyslexic students who are straight A students. Dyslexia exists across the spectrum of abilities.

Adriana: Since we have gotten so many community responses, I think the pressure is on to do the topic justice and make sure that we're accurately portraying all the information that's out there.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below the fold.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go...'Keep Palm and Carry On'

The top of a palm treet has a crown of long green leaves
A Freshly pruned palm tree, Phoenix canariensis, also known as a Canary Island date palm
(Manuel Fil Ordieres Garcia
Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s time for the podcast of the week! Fun fact about me: I absolutely LOVE being outdoors. Whether it’s hiking, biking, skating or doodling on the concrete with my nieces and little cousins, you can be sure to catch me OUTSIDE.

This is why I’m drawn to LAist Studios’ Human/Nature. This pod takes us into the wild to inspire us to get out and connect with nature in Southern California. And it’s ALL around us in L.A. With the continuing pandemic, stress over climate change and socio-economic uncertainty, it’s not hard to understand why millions of Americans say they don’t feel OK. But there’s a growing amount of support for a simple treatment that’s available to us all: stepping outside and seeing the blue sky…and the palm trees.

With all that said, today’s must-listen-to podcast of the week is Human/Nature's episode 6 “Keep Palm and Carry On. There’s a special appearance of the supreme supermodel of plants: the iconic IT girl Palm.

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