Posted Date: 10/29/2019
In the average Oklahoma classroom up to five students struggle with dyslexia. Silo eighth-grader Kennedy Coyle is one of those students and she is doing her part to teach teachers about the ways to teach dyslexic students best.
Coyle, a Silo eighth-grader, is one of those students. She was diagnosed with dyslexia between third and fourth grade, and today, she is an advocate for dyslexic students across the state.
On October 30, she will be part of a student panel at a teacher training event in McAlester hosted by the state department of education.
Dyslexia has no cure, but an early diagnosis and different teaching techniques can help students succeed, despite their disability.
“When you get help early, you can cope with it,” Coyle said. “I think I have learned to cope pretty well.”
Coyle’s mother Kenya Coyle, a former speech language pathologist, said watching Kennedy struggle before her diagnosis made Kenya feel helpless.
“I didn’t have enough tools in my toolbox to be able to help her,” Kenya said. “As an educator, I [felt like I] should know how to help my own kids.”
Students who have not been diagnosed may feel as though they can never catch up to their “normal” peers.
“I thought I was dumb and stupid, or that there was something wrong with my brain, but now I know my brain just works differently,” Coyle said.
Even though Kenya worked at a school, she didn’t know she could have her daughter tested for dyslexia at school, she said.
This is a common scenario for both teachers and parents, said Michelle Keiper, state leader of Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma (DDOK), a grassroots organization of parents and teachers of children with dyslexia.
“Currently many educators believe that Oklahoma does not ‘recognize’ dyslexia,” Keiper said in an email interview. “This is simply misinformation.”
DDOK hopes that will soon change with the recent passage of House Bill 1228, which requires all educators to receive training on working with dyslexic students on an annual basis.
Kennedy Coyle, her brother Bryson, who is also dyslexic, and Kenya all were present at the signing of HB 1228 in April. Kenya served on a task force that created the Oklahoma Dyslexia Handbook, which the state department of education will use to train teachers, starting with the 2020-2021 school year.
One of the goals of DDOK is for families and educators to be able to provide everything dyslexic students need to learn at school and at home. DDOK runs two Facebook pages, one private and one public, which have almost 6,000 followers altogether.
“Through these social media platforms, we have become a community supporting students with dyslexia and working together to raise awareness for dyslexia in Oklahoma,” Keiper said.
When families, educators, and legislators work together, great change can happen, as the Coyle family has seen firsthand.
“I knew that by myself, I couldn’t do much, but there was a huge movement that I wanted to be part of,” Kenya Coyle said.
This movement has empowered Kennedy. "When you first get diagnosed, you feel like you're alone, but then when you're around other kids with dyslexia, you're like, 'Oh, there are other kids like me."
Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma members stand with Governor Kevin Stitt as he signs HB 1228. HB 1228 requires all Oklahoma teachers to have training in dyslexia education annually, starting with the 2020-2021 school year.
Silo student Kennedy Coyle and Governor Kevin Stitt on the day HB 1228 was signed. HB 1228 requires all Oklahoma teachers to have training in dyslexia education annually, starting with the 2020-2021 school year.