Who is The Dyslexia Initiative?
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
By Ashley Roberts
Recently someone asked me who were the leaders and founders of The Dyslexia Initiative (DI) and why were we doing what we were doing? Why are we different? How do we hope to bring about positive change for the dyslexia community?
I had to take a step back and pause. These were great questions that we hadn't yet been asked, and they definitely needed to be addressed. As the questions are rather "large" in nature, I felt they needed to be taken in chunks to deliver the entire answer.
Prior to 2016 dyslexia had not been a factor in my life. Neither my husband nor I are dyslexic, but it is quite dominant in the Roberts family gene pool, and in the genetic Russian roulette of life, landed on our son. It is because of him I walk this road.
In the beginning of my journey, I felt isolated and alone, groping in the dark, and I hated it. I didn't want anyone else to feel that way so I jumped into the social media fray. From the fall of 2017 through early July 2018, I was a part of a large dyslexia group before realizing that my values and their values did not align; so I opted to leave. Sadly I had no choice but to abandon the page that I had created and put my heart into.
Starting fresh I wanted to be true to myself and my thoughts and beliefs so I created a new page which I called Dyslexic Houston. I was asked to align with yet another dyslexia group, which I did for approximately 3 months, before again realizing that my values did not align with their values, and once again I choose to separate from that group, but this time I kept my page.
Because of the first dyslexia group, I met Chontae Feldman who was running a McKinney based parent group. She left that first organization two months before I did and had aligned with the second organization and reshaped her social media presence first to a McKinney page then to Collin county, but still with the parents group. She had a friend from the first group whom she brought with her into group number two, named Julie McKinley.
It was in group number two that the three of us started talking and hit it off.
We have a lot in common in regards our personalities, beliefs and values, and compliment each other extremely well. Julie, like me, is not dyslexic. We are about the same age, our dyslexic boys are the same age, same grade, and we both work in the same industry so we kept chalking up the "in common" ground. Chontae is dyslexic and raising two dyslexic daughters. She is most definitely our heart. She is logical, empathetic and can always offer the counter point. Julie and Chontae both have two kids, I just have the one, but together we found common interests, backgrounds, morals, ethics, beliefs, etc.
But as I said, those commonalities were not aligned to the organization in which we found ourselves, so we left together. For about half a minute we did not know what we were going to do or where we would go from there, but they both said they'd stick with me on whatever I wanted to do and it was in that moment that The Dyslexia Initiative was born.
Chontae's group was about 3 years old and growing steadily. I had Dyslexic Houston which was still pretty new. We didn't know what we were going to do, but we knew we wanted our message to be different. Shortly thereafter, Dyslexic Houston started to experience momentous growth, and the feedback we were getting was that people felt uplifted and empowered. We realized that by following our own hearts we had created the right message that the community both wanted and needed.
We were asked to host an event, and with my limited understanding of non-profits at that time, I believed we had to be a fully formed non-profit to host an author and sell tickets; so we leapt into creating the non-profit. That was May-July of this year, 2019.
With the completion of the non-profit, we had a long chat about where do we go from here. We had four pages and our message was getting convoluted. We had people coming forward who wanted to be a part of what we were doing, and we did not have a clear idea of how to enable them to help. We were being asked questions we did not have simple answers for, but we knew that we needed to make some big changes. We had the DI brand which we were fostering on Instagram and Twitter and somewhat on Facebook, but now it was clearly time to embrace the direction we were headed in and embrace our brand for all it was worth.
We set forth merging our four pages into one single page so we could align our groups under a single page and name. This took from July - September, 2019. And those people who were coming forward, wanting to be a part of what we were creating? We empowered them, thus we have a Katy, Texas group, as well as AR, NY, CA, NV, GA, Houston, Texas and of course never forget Chontae's original creation, The North Texas Dyslexia Parents group.
So now we're a cohesive nonprofit and the question is where do we go from here? What are our goals? What are we trying to accomplish? How will we accomplish it?
So our primary goal is to educate the parent to empower them to become the best advocate they can be, to not be afraid to stand up for their children, and in doing so inspire them to inspire others. We have a lot of initiatives in the works which we are really excited about piloting in the very near future. And, of course we just launched our Teacher Mom series, on our YouTube channel, so please check that out!
We will soon launch our legislative initiative. There's a lot to do on the legislative front, and we are anxious to begin.
Chontae created an annual art show which is amazing if you have not attended. It is in the McKinney, Texas area on November 9th and we hope to see you there.
And of course we cannot forget our other initiatives, Dyslexic Rocks, Book Tag, and Voices of Dyslexia.
So this is who we are and how we got here. Our mission and values are published on our website, www.TheDyslexiaInitiative.org if you would like to read more. We have a lot we are getting ready to roll out to you soon which will answer a lot of the questions regarding where do we go from here. For now, we felt it important to tell you our story and explain our heart.
We are all here because of our children. It is our experience advocating for them that drives us in all the things that we do. They are our guiding stars. It is for them that we hope to change the world for the better. It is for them that we choose to stand up and be counted among the warriors in the #DyslexiaRevolution. It is the journey that each of us face that we exist. We hope to be your guide, to serve as your resource, to help you find your way through.