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Philanthropy must support students who learn differently—where they are: A commentary by Marcus Soutra

February 15, 2022

Eye_to_eye_capitolTo fund anti-ableism solutions, listen to students

I was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia in the third grade, but it wasn’t until I misspelled “Wednesday” at my first teaching job that people outside my inner circle knew. One in five Americans have some form of learning disability, yet many still choose to live their lives in the shadows—due to shame and isolation.

As the president of Eye to Eye, a nonprofit that supports individuals with learning disabilities, I find this unacceptable. The stigma that surrounds learning disabilities should not persist in 2022. Having ADHD and dyslexia doesn’t mean you are “difficult” or “lazy.” It means you take in information differently.

Funding for invaluable resources and tools has the potential to chip away at this stigma. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom included $60 million for early childhood dyslexia screening and other advancements for young children in his 2022-23 budget. In the philanthropic world, Charles Schwab, who himself has dyslexia, pledged $20 million in 2019 to an initiative to study dyslexia and other learning disorders.

While it’s fabulous that such leaders are putting the power of government and philanthropy behind research and early screening, the funding must go beyond that goal. Philanthropy must support students who learn differently where they are—so they feel seen, heard, valued, and empowered to build community and act or advocate for what they need to be successful. Right now, the system they are in perpetuates the stigma that forces so many to hide their true selves....

Read the full commentary by Marcus Soutra, president of Eye to Eye.

(Photo credit: Eye to Eye)

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