Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading, poor spelling/writing and late speech development. With October being Dyslexia Awareness Month, Decoding Dyslexia North Dakota is kicking off an advocacy campaign to help increase understanding and encourage children with dyslexia around the state.

As a new grassroots advocacy group, Decoding Dyslexia North Dakota will be selling T-shirts as a way to help increase awareness and educate the public on this learning disorder. Established in 2019, the group decided to incorporate another T-shirt fundraiser and this year they held a T-shirt design contest in September, which was open to dyslexic children to create their own message. This year’s winner was Aubrey Kleser, 12, of Fargo, and her logo she designed will be displayed on October’s new T-shirts.

“I think it was a very powerful message that Aubrey wrote for a 12-year-old. And I kind of resonate as an adult. It is difficult to be different, it’s not easy and you will face opposition… We’re smart, we’re creative, we’re bright. Just because we have weaknesses doesn’t mean we’re not capable of doing the work,” Decoding Dyslexia North Dakota Outreach Coordinator Anna Hoover said. “And I’m inspired by her T-shirt design too; I think it gives our community a lot of hope and inspiration.”

The goal of Dyslexia Awareness Month is to make the general public more empathetic toward people who have dyslexia, Hoover said. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that varies across the spectrum. Some cases are mild and other are more severe, she said, explaining that each child/adult might need to take a different route compared to everyone else.

“... It feels like kind of an invisible disability because if you looked at me, I’m 5-foot-8; I have normal features, you would never know that I’m dyslexic,” Hoover said. “It doesn’t get the visibility that other disabilities gets.”

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One in five, or 15-20% of the population, has a language-based learning disability and 70-80% of people with poor reading skills are likely dyslexic, according to the Dyslexia Center of Utah. This learning disorder can occur in children with normal intelligence and vision, and most children who are dyslexic can succeed in school with tutoring and specialized education programs, Hoover noted.

“There’s such a need in our state for awareness,” Hoover said. “It’s a state-wide organization and it’s kind of been a slow process getting everyone used to this terminology… We are a new organization and we are trying to expand, and being (that it’s) Dyslexia Awareness Month, it’s just really important people understand what it really means to be dyslexic.”

T-shirts are on sale until Oct. 21; adult shirts are $20 and youth are $15, and both include free shipping. For more information, visit the Decoding Dyslexia North Dakota Facebook page.