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Rhode Island Advocacy for Children Welcomes Mary Lou Rossi

Mary Lou Kennedy Rossi, M. Ed.

Senior Educational Advocate

Mary Lou Kennedy Rossi is a retired Elementary School Principal, Special Educator, and General Education Classroom Teacher. Mary Lou is the parent of five children and step-children and a grandson with special needs. Ms. Rossi earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Rhode Island in Elementary Education and Social Sciences, Master of Arts from Rhode Island College in Special Education, and post-graduate certification in Educational Leadership from the Principal Residency. Currently, in addition to to her advocacy work, Mary Lou is a Professor at the University of Rhode Island: College of Education teaching behavior management course, seminar class and mentoring beginning teachers in their elementary student teaching and practicum placements.
With a steadfast belief that all children deserve the best education possible in the least restrictive environment, Mary Lou has advocated for all students throughout her thirty year career with exceptional clear and consistent communication skills. Developing family engagement initiatives, focusing on social/emotional learning, and improving executive function skills have been highlights to her work and identity within the educational community. Her mantra remains the same “Parents are a child’s first and most influential teacher… Seize the opportunity!” She is eager to help you advocate for your child’s learning needs!

RI Advocacy For Children's Founders Have Been Collaborating With Decoding Dyslexia Ri And Our Rhode Island Legislators:

To craft and introduce several bills on Dyslexia to define, identify and provide teacher training in every school district.
Support the National Center for Learning Disabilities in approving Dyslexia legislation in the reauthorization of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and NCLB (No Child Left Behind.

Warwick Beacon Newspaper covered Rhode Island's 1st Annual Dyslexia Awareness Event on October 28, 2015 at Warwick Library. Over 80 participants learned from the expert presenters. See The Warwick Beacon's full story below:

PHONOLOGICAL: Dr. Julie Wilson, explained the medical aspects of dyslexia, how it manifests and why it causes difficulty with reading. She said that when children with dyslexia read a word different parts in their brain are activated instead of just one. This is why many students with dyslexia dislike reading because it take more work to understand each word.

Rhode Island Advocacy for Children and Decoding Dyslexia RI helps parents be advocates

Decoding Dyslexia RI, along with Rhode Island Advocacy for Children, hosted an informational night at the Warwick Public Library last Wednesday for parents to learn how to be the best educational advocate for their children with dyslexia. A panel of speakers included educators, doctors and legal and legislative representatives discussed issues concerning those with dyslexia.

Decoding Dyslexia RI is the 34th local chapter of a national grassroots movement of families who are concerned about their children’s educational interventions concerning dyslexia, which attempts to empower families with information as well as raise awareness for the condition.

Suzanne Arena, founder of Decoding Dyslexia Rhode Island along with Joanna Scocchi, said the chapter began out of necessity.

“It was just two moms meeting in crisis and needing to connect to keep our sanity,” she said.
Representative Eileen Naughton, a member of the Legislative Commission to Assess and Make Recommendation on the Educational Needs of Children with Dyslexia and/or Reading Disabilities, said nearly one in five students have dyslexia nationally.

She noted that with such a prevalent condition this country has seen an “action gap” in ensuring teachers receive proper training and students receive the tools they need for academic success.

“It is crucial for students that we ensure early detection and successful intervention,” she said. “Rhode Island students are indebted to Decoding Dyslexia.”
Dyslexia, as explained by Dr. Julie Wilson, one of the speakers, is a neurobiological learning disability. Most often dyslexia is associated with difficulty reading.
Nearly 8 million students in grades 4th through 12th struggle with reading according to Wilson and 32 percent of high school graduates aren’t prepared for a college level English composition course.
Those suffering from dyslexia have an issue with “phonological decoding,” connecting the sequence of printed letters to their corresponding sounds.
Part of the reason is because when children with dyslexia are reading a word they are using multiple areas of their brain. Brain function when discerning a word, “bounces around the brain like a pinball machine,” where others can quickly, almost instantaneously see a word using very little in comparison.

This is a reason many students dislike reading for pleasure because it’s “so much work trying to understand the words on the page.”
These students can see an improvement however with “intense and systematic instruction.”
Chris Brodeur, CEO of ACCESS! Education Consulting, said it is a parent’s responsibility to advocate for the proper instruction and education for their children with dyslexia.

ACCESS! believes that parents do know what is best for their children and hopes to empower them to be the best advocates for them. To be the best advocate, parents should learn about their children’s education day to day and be able to talk about it objectively.
“When kids have a learning difference school is hard for them academically, socially and emotionally,” she said. “Know when to ask for help. If a child breaks an arm or gets sick you wouldn’t feel bad about seeing a doctor because that’s not your expertise. So why would you feel guilty about making the wise choice to seek help in this situation.”

For more information on Decoding Dyslexia RI visit their Facebook page or their website at,

For more information on Rhode island Advocacy for Children visit,