By Wyndi Kappes
An educator for almost a decade and a mother of three boys, Missy Purcell became a determined advocate for dyslexia awareness and remediation six years ago. Her journey began when her youngest son, Matthew, was struggling to read in kindergarten and was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to read and write.
“He told the educational psychologist during his 4th-grade evaluation that his greatest dream was to learn to read…Something snapped in me that day…Matthew should have been dreaming of being a pro baseball player. His dreams should not have been limited to being a reader,” Purcell said.
After coming up against several roadblocks in her fight to get her son the educational resources he needed, Purcell was inspired to co-found Gwinnett Advocates for Dyslexia and join Decoding Dyslexia Georgia to advocate for changes at both the local and state levels. Hand in hand with other moms, they has spearheaded real policy change with the passage of HB538 and SB211 in the Georgia Senate.
“Each of these bills will work together to ensure every child in every county in GA is screened, every teacher is trained and every county adopts high-quality instructional materials so that every child can read,” Purcell proudly noted. Seeing children get the help they need now—the help her son couldn’t get access to for so many years—is a “full-circle moment” for the mom of Harrison (now 16), William (now 15) and Matthew (now 11).
Along her journey Purcell says she’s learned so much about the power of setting boundaries, saying no and admitting when you need help. “I felt pulled between fighting for so many kids to get what they needed and caring for my own family. I had to learn to start saying no to some really good opportunities, so I could give my family and my advocacy my best,” she said.
At the end of the long days and busy evenings, Purcell remains motivated by her son Matthew and all the dreamers. “Once Matthew got the instruction he needed in 5th grade, he began really dreaming again because he was finally conquering reading and writing. I saw he had the ability to read along; he just needed the appropriate interventions and knowledgeable teachers,” Purcell said. “That’s what we are constantly fighting for kids to have access to every day in our public schools. I want every child to read and be able to dream unlimited dreams.”