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Governor Gavin Newsom Leads Off SE&IS Dean’s Distinguished Speakers Series

Governor Newsom Event Flyer

Conversation shines light on challenges, strengths and needs of Neurodiverse learners

Governor Gavin Newsom kicked off the 2022 UCLA School of Education and Information Studies Dean’s Distinguished Speakers Series on Wednesday January 26, taking part in an online discussion about neurodiversity and K-12 education.  

Introduced by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Governor Newsom joined in conversation with UCLA’s Wasserman Dean of the School of Education and Information Studies Christina Christie and UCLA Center X Director Annamarie Francois to discuss his new book, Ben and Emma’s Big Hit,” and  share his experiences as a dyslexic learner and how they shaped his thinking and approach to education issues.  

In the book, Newsom tells the story of Ben, a boy who loves baseball, but finds reading to be very difficult. While the lines and shapes of a baseball field are clear to him, letters and words are often a struggle. But when he applies the lessons of baseball -- practice, hard work and effort – he learns that he can overcome just about any obstacle, even the challenge of reading. Newsom’s hope is that readers of “Ben and Emma’s Big Hit” will learn that kids with the determination to try can do big things, and need the opportunity and support to do so. 

“It was an honor to have Governor Newsom share the story of his new book and his own experiences with dyslexia,” said Dean Christie. “His insights and comments bring to life the importance of ensuring equitable opportunities for the vast range of learners, and elevate the importance of the emerging field of neuroscience as a critical frontier for education. He is living proof that neurodiverse learners can do big things.”

Research estimates that in California and in schools across the nation, about 25% of children and youth in every classroom are challenged by some type of neurodiverse learning need—dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, anxiety disorder, ASD, executive function issues, trauma or other issues. 

The UCLA School of Education and Information Studies is a partner in the UC/CSU California Collaborative for Neurodiversity and Learning, an effort to strengthen educational support and teaching for children with diverse learning needs, including children with dyslexia and literacy issues. 

 “We believe that addressing the needs of neurodiverse learners is one of the most critical learning equity issues facing public education,” said Christie. “We greatly appreciate Governor Newsom’s leadership and hope his participation in our conversation will further our own efforts to further educational equity and excellence.