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Rep. Adkins Tours Jax School For Dyslexia, Plans To Address Issue With State Law

Lindsey Kilbride

Fernandina Beach Representative Janet Adkins says she wants state law to help educators teach dyslexic students better.

Thursday, Adkins toured Jacksonville’s GRASP Academy, the state’s only dyslexic-focused public school.


Amanda Sauer is the Principal of GRASP Academy.  She says about 20 percent of people are dyslexic.

“Their brains are wired in a way that they need to be taught to read and to spell in a specific, structured language approach,” Sauer said.

GRASP started as a pilot program in Duval for children who struggle with dyslexia, a year later it replaced Justina Road Elementary as an entire school devoted to helping children with dyslexia. Sauer says those kids learn differently, often more hands-on and visual.  

At Grasp Academy Mrs. Neufeld’s third grade class was tracing the letters that make the “NG” sound in the air with their fingers.

A few classrooms over, kids were spelling out words in Play-Doh. Others were playing a word-game version of checkers.

Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says he hopes this model translates to other areas of the state.

Credit Lindsey Kilbride
Superintendent Vitti says dyslexia is personal for him. He sits with third graders who attend GRASP Academy, Thursday.

“It’s very personal to me,” Vitti said. “I am dyslexic. But it became even more personal for me when our oldest son struggled through school and, in fact, hated school. We were frustrated in the traditional public school setting.”

Vitti led Adkins’ tour Thursday. Adkins says she’s thinking of how to put more state resources toward the challenge.

“So we’re in the early stages of this now,” Adkins said. “I can tell you the things that we’re looking at right now though deal with the need for more professional development for our teachers.”

Adkins has one lawmaking session left in the Florida Senate before term limits kick her out next year. She’s announced her candidacy for Nassau County School Superintendent.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.