children

Our Camp Counselors are Here!

Here's a group shot of our camp counselors during lifeguard training, which began June 5th and continues with general camp training right up until the last minute, when the campers arrive on June 15th. From near and far, we're overjoyed to have a stellar team this summer and can't wait to kick things off!

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Susie on Summertime

1000346_10201835018062970_515520756_n We took a few minutes to ask Susie about "summer slide" and any tips she might have for our readers--be you fans and supporters from afar, grandparents checking on your child at camp, or one of our many local followers dedicated to providing well-rounded educational experiences for your children. Here's a quick note from our co-director:

Summer is a season when children can spend more time playing, learning their own limitations, and problem solving in areas they feel drawn to. Society doesn’t allow much time for imagining anymore, but that is an important skill and we need to encourage our kids to dream. We also need to provide opportunities for our kids to develop critical thinking. At Camp Spring Creek, we want to keep our childrens' academic skills from sliding during the summer, but we value our outdoor time as much as our tutoring time.

For those reading our blog from afar, if your child has a natural interest in something, summer is perfect for devoting time to developing that interest. Be it cooking, hiking, building, or dancing—whatever their passion, there’s always a way to incorporate basic educational skills and keep it fun. This interest need not be an expensive hobby or something that requires high-tech equipment. Whatever they choose, we need to encourage our kids to dream and then reach for those dreams.

At the end of every school year, I take our children to a bookstore and let them pick a book that interests them for summer reading. If you can’t afford to buy a book, go to your local library and borrow a book. Most libraries have books on CD, which you can listen to while you’re taking a trip in the car or while you are sitting by a brook in the shade.

During the early years (and also in adult life), is important to build meaningful relationships and reflect on those relationships. We have always encouraged our children to write to family and friends during summertime and, often, they get mail in return. If a friend has moved away or a grandparent or other relative lives far away, this is a wonderful way to stay connected while also getting writing practice. Journaling is a private way to keep writing active and kids can get very creative with their journals, pasting in items and photos from different activities they have enjoyed.

In short, our golden rule: Get outside, play with friends, learn a new skill, dream, and write to your grandparents; like summer, they won’t be around forever.

Why We Eat Family-Style at Camp

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"When people come together for meals there is more than nourishment for the body," says local potter and friend Shane Mickey. "There is nourishment for the mind and heart."

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We feel the same way, and when we asked Shane if he would make serving dishes for our family-style meals at camp, we were touched by his response. "Susie worked with my son while he attended Montessori and that work enabled him to learn at a higher level," recalls Shane. "When I was approached by the camp to make the serving pieces, I considered it an honor to have my work be the presentation platform for all those fortunate campers and caring tutors and camp counselors." Shane says that family-style meals allow for more sharing, because people can gather and discuss the day's events, triumphs, and failures and therefore gain a deeper understanding of one another. Understanding yields support, and for children with dyslexia who may have self-esteeem issues due to struggles in the classroom, that support is a balm. Slow and steady, this adds up to happier children that grow into successful adults who contribute to society--most often through the innovative thinking that dyslexics are known to achieve.

"To me, Camp Spring Creek is a wonderful asset to our community because it not only adds to the diversity of businesses, but what it's mission entails and what they accomplish is heart-warming and incredibly important to the broader context of our society."

Thanks, Shane!

Interview: Rob Langston, Author & Inspiration

tn_rob-headshot22Todays interview is with inspiring individual Rob Langston. Rob is a graduate of the University of West Georgia despite being functionally illiterate. He is a published author even though he toils to accomplish what many of us do with easeread and write. He has conducted assemblies for more than 500,000 children in the United States, traveling 100,000 miles annually to present his powerful message. Rob is the author of For the Children: Redefining Success in School and Success in Life and The Power of Dyslexic Thinking. Since 1996, Rob has been a resource consultant to Vistage, an international organization of over fourteen thousand CEOs (many of whom also have dyslexia). Camp Spring Creek: For those of us who aren’t CEOs or likely to run into one of your professional development sessions, can you briefly tell us about the steps you used to overcome your personal battle with dyslexia?

Rob Langston: Anything smarter, faster, stronger, or that can overcome obstacles is what CEO’s want. That’s what the dyslexic mind wants, too. Being dyslexic, the majority of my problems had to do with getting through school in classrooms. I looked back and realized I was going through the same 5 steps every time and I turned those steps into a three-hour program. By the end of the program, people can help themselves think like a dyslexic, if they don’t already. A high percentage of CEO’s come up to me after each program and tell me they are also dyslexic or ADHD. It’s always refreshing to have something that had been a negative thing in school turn into a really positive thing in life.

The five steps are: First, set a goal and write it down. Second, get educated on your goal (what it will take to accomplish it). The third step is what really sets this program apart, because it has to do with how to set up reinforcement for the motivation for each goal. For example, your ringtone can be an affirmation or your screen saver can be a typed message of your goal, etc. Once you set that up, the fourth step is focus. You can see the path and get what you want when no one else does. Another name for that is leadership. The fifth step is the action initiative. We take action and get started.

CSC: How do you learn best?

RL: I’m an auditory/visual learner. Because I read so poorly, every member of my family read to me when it came time to study. I could listen and absorb for longer than they could stand to read. Today, I devour audio books. Sometimes I’ll listen to the same audio book two or three times until I’m learning at full capacity and taking it into my life as something that will impact me. The repetition of listening is a very strong learning tool for me and I think it works for many others. As far as visual learning, I observe and watch everything until I feel I have visual mastery of what I want to accomplish—whether watching sports or a social situation, etc. When I am ready, I join in and I usually find great success. Today, I use many YouTube videos for everything from work-related issues to learning how to build a chair. I repeat the watching until I have visual mastery and then I’ll go do it. My main weakness is that if you hand me a manual and say, “Read this, then do it,” that’s challenging for me.

CSC: You have spoken to hundreds of thousands of youth across the country. What commonalities amongst these children and young adults do you encounter? Is there one question they all seem to ask? A set of shared concerns or misunderstandings that they have in common?

RL: My observation is that kids are kids are kids. I have spoken in schools in Harlem that hadn’t had school assemblies in 15 years because they went so poorly and we’ve had great success. I’ve also spoken in private schools in San Francisco and had success. Dyslexia is not a place or race thing; it’s a brain thing. If you talk to kids about what they’re interested in, you’ll have them. I tell them about what it was like emotionally to hide, lie, and cheat in first grade and they can relate to that.

As far as the kids asking me something, for most of them it is more about feeling so relieved that someone is talking about this struggle out loud and in a positive light. The most common thing I get is when a kid will raise his/her hand and say, “I’m dyslexic too,” in front of all their peers. I always congratulate them. That’s a powerful event for them. Finally, they don’t feel alone and are held in a positive light. This also helps the unidentified dyslexics start thinking about things and getting help or being fearless and accepted. I also talk to teachers because they’re the first line of defense.

CSC: You published your first book, For the Children, using the author name “Rob Langston, LD.”We assume the “LD” stands for learning difference, and enjoy that you included it in your title where most people include a list of their educational degrees. Can you tell us a little more about this decision and what it says about your approach to life and work?

RL: That’s part of taking ownership of who you are. Having dyslexia is a part of who I am, no matter what. My struggles with reading make me who I am. My empathy with other people who struggle with any types of challenges is part of who I am, too. The strengths that come from the way my mind works in business and life are a part of me, too. When I first got out of college and started making money, I went out and bought a shiny, red, turbo sportscar and got a specialized tag. I had the tag say: ABLE  LD. I’m a learning abled person with a difference. My son has dyslexia and I want him to see the benefits to the way his brain works, too. He had early intervention and is in 3rd grade and reading at a 3rd grade level, so he has a better jump on life than I had. His creative mind is still there, too, and I’m so glad for that. Everyday, I see him using his dysxleic mind right alongside his reading mind.

CSC: You’ve blogged for Psychology Today about being a “techno dyslexic” and, specifically, how your GPS unit saves you throughout your travels. Are there any other tools you “can’t live without,” technological or otherwise? If so, what are they and how have they become so important in your life?

RL: Today, we have voice recognition technology. You pick up any iPhone or Android phone and the little microphone is right there to press and tell what to do. It’s a more efficient way of working. I can also dictate into my phone while I’m driving and I’ve done that for entire books that I’ve written. Just recently, I started using the calendar function on Macs a lot. Dyslexics can be disorganized at times, to say the least. I switched everything over to Mac and iCloud and everything syncs no matter what device I have with me at the time. My son is involved in project-based learning in school and he’s used the iPad for that twice now. It’s really nice because there are so many apps that can help him with spelling and writing.

YouTube is also a huge technological resource. I do lots of editing and I utilize that as a technology advantage everyday because it like the audio/visual way of taking in information as well. There’s a lot of other help out there, but it’s text-based. Now that I’m all Mac-based, I find myself using the text-to-voice reader a lot and that helps utilize those text-based sites. Social/visual media is also so accessible. What I do at dyslexia.com couldn’t have been done 3 years ago because the broadband wasn’t available. Now, we broadcast in 34 countries. I’m proud of reaching 500,000 kids live in the school system, but, online, things are unlimited and available on every SmartBoard for every teacher that wants it.

Summer 2014 Scholarships

We're delighted to announce that this summer we're offering 5 scholarships to campers through our partnership with OpenDoors of Asheville. The 5 campers will have 4 weeks as boarding campers, fully funded. These scholarships will go to children living in multi-generational poverty as a joint effort between Camp Spring Creek and OpenDoors to make positive, life-altering learning experiences accessible to children of any economic means in Western North Carolina. Last year's scholarship recipients from this partnership had moving things to say after their camp experiences. You can read excerpts from their letters here. We were also able to offer 2 scholarships at 50% to local children and are aspiring to raise another $7700 to support one more scholarship to give a local child 4 weeks of boarding at camp.

If you missed our demographic breakdown by age, gender, and location for this summer season, you can check out who comes to Camp Spring Creek. Suffice it to say, we have a waiting list for the first time in 10 years and we're taking names for early registration for 2015 right now! Please be in touch if you have questions, would like to be considered for a scholarship, or feel inspired to donate money to help us bring one more local child to camp this season!

Top 5 Ways to Avoid Summer Slide

CampersOnHikeChildren who spend summer vacation with hours of unstructured activity per day might be gaining independence and exploring their imaginations, but they will also lose math, reading, and spelling skills as a result of “summer slide.” Many families are unaware that a few simple steps can integrate learning into their children’s daily lives, picking up where traditional teaching methods fail without sacrificing those wonderful “daydreaming hours” associated with summertime. One in five school-aged children has dyslexia, yet less than 1/3 of these students receives school services guaranteed to them by law for their reading disability. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the high school dropout rate for students with dyslexia or related learning disabilities is more than twice the national average for students who don’t have a learning disability. During the summer months, most students lose two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation, and low-income youths lose an additional two months in reading achievement. For children with dyslexia, the numbers are even worse.

“Residential summer camps allow children to boost their self-confidence as they overcome homesickness. They spend time developing their interests and they can also focus on reading and writing while having fun,” says Susie van der Vorst, co-founder of Camp Spring Creek and one of only 145 actively training Orton-Gillingham Fellows in the United States.

van der Vorst recommends involving children in family plans, such as doing math to budget for the grocery store, organizing driving routes using maps for a family trip, or starting a family book club using self-selected material that everyone can enjoy. Citing nearly thirty years experience as an educational advocate for children with dyslexia and related learning differences, van der Vorst concludes that the most dynamic summer learning experiences for children happen in supportive social, outdoor, educational environments outside the home.

Camp Spring Creek’s day or boarding program offers the following opportunities to address summer slide and help create positive learning habits for children, so they become more dynamic, confident, curious learners:

  • 1:1 Orton-Gillingham language tutorials using a proven diagnostic and prescriptive multi-sensory approach that teaches the structure of language.
  • An hour of supervised oral reading at the camper’s independent reading level.
  • Daily activities including art projects, swimming, wood shop, waterskiing, and outdoor education to encourage exploration and creative expression.
  • Socialization with peers of different nationalities and socio-economic status through shared living spaces, teamwork opportunities, and memorable experiences such as campfire or singing.
  • Math enrichment and math remediation as per the needs of each camper.

“We often see students make two to three years worth of progress during a six to eight week session at camp,” adds van der Vorst. “Our approach is designed to target a child’s individual strengths and weaknesses and help them excel, but we also recognize the value of keeping kids active throughout the day. Most campers grow as much in terms of ‘measurable’ skills as they do in self-confidence, communication skills, and their ability to take learning into their own hands.”

Camp Spring Creek is fully enrolled for the 2014 season, but welcomes names for its waiting list (you never know!) and early interest for 2015.

Dollar General Donates to Camp Spring Creek

Today's post was originally published as a press release in our local newspaper. Dollar General Makes Donation

Bakersville, North Carolina – April 21, 2014 – Under the guidance of Shirley Ledford, Dollar General in Bakersville donates supplies to Camp Spring Creek to help children with dyslexia.

Shirley Ledford, Manager of Dollar General in Bakersville, has approved donations to Camp Spring Creek valued at just over $100 for the second year in a row. The donated items included hole punchers, wall clocks, binders, notebooks, pencils, markers, Post-It Notes, and index cards. “This donation helps others and we enjoy doing that. I’m all for the children,” says Ledford. “Dollar General also supports causes related to literacy and the GED program, the animal shelter, as well as causes for autism and Saint Jude’s Hospital.”

Children attending Camp Spring Creek in Bakersville will use these supplies during their daily tutoring sessions in the Orton-Gillingham approach to language as they improve their reading and writing skills. This approach, which is specifically designed for children with dyslexia, is also used by a number of teachers in Mitchell County public schools who have received grant-funded training at the Camp Spring Creek Outreach Center. Orton-Gillingham teaches the structure of language using multisensory techniques that lead students to see, hear, and write a concept at the same time. Processing a single concept in many different ways allows children with dyslexia to grasp skills that can prove extremely difficult to learn using traditional methods.

Dollar General also donated Koosh Balls to Camp Spring Creek, which are used during an “Alphatoss Game” that teaches young readers about phonemic awareness. By listening to the smallest sounds that make up an individual word, repeating it out loud, and re-iterating each sound by tossing or catching the Koosh Balls, the children re-enforce their learning through multiple pathways, solidifying success.

Camp Spring Creek is currently enrolling for summer 2014 and some scholarships are still available for local children. Contact the camp office at 766-5032 for more information.

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia

We'd like to bring our readers' attentions to a very inspiring, informative, enjoyable feature-length documentary, The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia. Chock-full of everything you'd expect from a dyslexia documentary, what makes this film stand out are the visual graphics, animations, and revealing backgrounds that help your average viewer see, if only for a moment, what the world might literally look like through the eyes of someone with dyslexia. The artwork alone is reason enough to watch this film, but the information and inspiring stories will likewise not soon be forgotten. According to the synopsis on their website, this film "provides personal and uplifting accounts of the dyslexic experience from children, experts and iconic leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson and financier Charles Schwab. Directed by James Redford, the film not only clears up the misconceptions about the condition, but also paints a picture of hope for all who struggle with it. Shining a spotlight on the latest scientific and psychological research, the film also highlights the work of Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, co-founders and co-directors of the Yale Center of Dyslexia and Creativity to illuminate the hidden origins and implications of dyslexia. Proving that dyslexia is a neurological issue and not a character flaw, The Big Picture beautifully illustrates that while the condition is an obstacle, it also carries some unique advantages, and ultimately can be overcome." Here's the trailer, and if you're local you can come by our office and borrow a copy, or order one online for your own collection:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhXsObSpez0]

A Message from Jeanne Betancourt

abed52242485fe86bea99ab60e498ef1 Today we are pleased to publish this message from author, artist, teacher, and inspiring individual Jeanne Betancourt. Jeanne has been honored by the Kildonan School and also received the 2004 Life Achievement Award from the Hamilton School at Wheeler. Jeanne has taught in junior and senior high schools and was on the graduate faculty of the Media Studies Program at the New School for Social Research. She has served as a consultant, speaker, and workshop leader on adolescents, writing, and the media, and is a past president of New York Women in Film and Television. Her website offers a wealth of resources and we encourage you to check it out.

I took my first tap class when I was six-years-old, the same year I was supposed to learn to read and spell. I loved my Saturday morning classes in Miss Irene’s studio above a storefront in downtown Rutland, Vermont. When Miss Irene realized I was having trouble following her right foot/left foot directions, she put a red ribbon on my right tap shoe. I am convinced that my 12 years of tap classes as a kid and the tap classes I take today help me with my dyslexia. My feet learn what to do and which foot does what. While the beat goes on, my brain easily identifies right and left as I learn dance steps and routines.

People are often surprised to learn that I am dyslexic. They think that being dyslexic would prevent me from being a successful writer. I believe that being dyslexic has helped me as a writer.

Since learning to read and write was difficult for me growing up, I paid more attention to the world around me. I took clues to what people were thinking and feeling from their speech and body language. Today, as an author, it is easy for me to imagine what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. Being able to put yourself in another person’s place and understand how they feel is a key to being a good writer. I also have strong visual memories and can easily imagine the places I’ve been as I describe them for the reader. These skills are more important for me as a storyteller than the skills I don’t have because I am dyslexic—like being a good speller and a speedy reader.

The story I wrote in MY NAME IS BRAIN BRIAN follows Brian’s adventures, friendships, and family life before and after he learns that he is dyslexic. By the end of the story, he realizes that the mistake he made spelling his name on the board the first day of sixth grade is true. He is a Brain.

Anna, in a series I wrote called The Pony Pals, is also dyslexic. In every book, I remind my readers about that. Anna doesn’t like school as much as Pam and Lulu. When they write their ideas for solving Pony Pal Problems, Anna draws hers. Like many dyslexics, she has artistic talent. Anna’s dyslexia is a big part of the plot for two of the Pony Pal books, #2: A PONY FOR KEEPS and #38: PONIES ON PARADE.

I hope that my personal story and novels help dyslexics of all ages recognize their own strengths. And that the people in their lives—teachers, parents, friends—acknowledge that we all have individual learning styles. Here is my twist on the American proverb: “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”  You can’t tell a child’s potential by how easily they learn to read.

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

last-child-cover-lrgThis week we're recommending Last Child in the Woods, an incredible book by Richard Louv. According to the author's website: "In this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard." You can also check out a video about the inspiration for Last Child right here.

Interview: Steve Walker (Get Ready for Incredible)

Steve-WalkerToday's interview is with inspiring individual Steve Walker. We're not even going to introduce you to him. We're just going to let him speak for himself. Read on...you'll see why... Camp Spring Creek: We enjoyed your interview on HBO’s Journey Into Dyslexia. Your story is very moving. For our readers who have not seen the documentary, could you briefly tell us about the positive learning experience you had working in the machine shop in high school?

Steve Walker: It was the only thing as a young adult that I could get a result from that was positive and also created something that had immediate, tangible purpose. I had one teacher, Joe Pasenka, and he saw me checking out from life in general and I think it was a really honorable thing he did by letting me play in that machine shop. The school was shutting the machine shop down, so you weren’t technically supposed to be there. He really let me do my thing which, as it turns out, is the correct way to think. He knew I pushed back against traditional learning, so he didn’t push instructions at me. He let me work until I came across a problem and then I’d ask a question. If you think about it, a person is much more motivated to learn when they have a need to understand.

CSC: That reminds me a little of the Montessori teaching method or some of the research discussed in Flow by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi. What have you been learning about education methods today?

SW: I went on an educational tour of my own recently, because I wanted to understand education. I was a little horrified by how everything was going. I felt shameful about what had happened to me as a child--being made to feel stupid, being so misunderstood--and I felt despair about how little people know about learning. There are places where great things are happening, of course, but the general system is really antiquated and needs spiffing up. So I went on this tour...I talked to some teachers who were threatened with getting fired if they used the word “dyslexia.” It was quite an eye-opener and frustrating enough that I’ve joined a number of university boards and have met with leaders of schools or superintendents and tried to have exchanges about about how we can make changes in the system.

On my end of things, I hire a lot of engineers and so I've been talking to engineering schools about what they teach. Teachers are teaching math...but you don’t do math in engineering. Computers do the math. It’s creative thinking that needs to be taught and that’s what employers like me look for. I’m trying to tell people that if you back off on the math a little, which is so automated, the engineers don’t need it and they will be fine. I don’t discourage people from learning math, of course. But we need to look at the content that we’re teaching as well as the way we teach it. It's great if you can spell correctly. But some things have pretty limited applications to a job and I’m having conversations with people, especially in engineering schools, about this. These conversations are powerful; sometimes people are blown away by my perspective. After thinking about it, they’re usually quite open. Look at the TED Talk on self-teaching. It’s about a global initiative to examine how we teach and it’s a little extreme, but it’s also very enjoyable and funny. I just like to try and challenge people’s minds a little. I don’t know all the solutions but I do know that a lot of what we’re doing right now doesn’t make sense.

CSC: You built a successful, multi-million dollar business by solving a simple problem: Certain wood stoves being sold in the United States required wood pellets for fuel. At the time, the pellets were only available overseas. From scratch, you built the machines and designed the company—starting in your own basement—that is now New England Wood Pellet, the largest manufacturer and distributor of clean, renewable wood pellet fuel in the Northeastern United States. What is it about the “dyslexic brain,” as they say, that enables you to think outside the box more effectively than others?

SW: I think there are two things. First, if you’ve had to struggle a little or if you’re dealt some challenges or if you’re not “normal," especially when you're younger, then you automatically get a different perspective and I think that perspective is extremely helpful. What seems daunting and impossible as a kid going through school, possibly turns out to be the best lesson you’re going to get.

Second, there's neurology and the physics of the brain. Dyslexics do think differently and in my own experience and research, the dyslexic mind in general is lacking in reading. Not always, but often. Some of society’s most pressing issues have been solved by dyslexic brains. There are some true, honest to goodness, neurological differences that make us better at certain things than the majority of other people. Of course, running or starting a business requires you to be the ultimate multi-tasker and synthesizer. We can do that. We have very cluttered files in our brains, which makes it very difficult to organize, but that can work out okay in the end. Think about solving crimes: It’s all these little things that seem completely irrelevant and we’re used to that. We can work with that. We’re constantly being bombarded by things that seem irrelevant so, eventually, we find things we weren’t even looking for…and solve the crime. The military is especially looking for dyslexics for this exact reason.

I know I’m a little jaded because I had such a profoundly tough time in school, so I understand that. I’m only now linking a lot of challenges in my life back to those challenges in school. Dyslexia was not commonly identified then. It was not a familiar term. Kids today aren’t alone, at least. This is where I see that places like Camp Spring Creek are just great. You can get these kids together and they all feel it, it’s a good thing. Everyone’s got their head around it and they’re working together. What you’re doing at camp is probably an exception to the rule, because so many people still get lost in the system and don’t get help. Let’s keep the pressure on people and say that our work isn’t done yet. We need more of this, we need people who really do get it.

CSC: Can you tell us your personal story of embracing dyslexia?

SW: Four or five years ago, if you had asked me if I was dyslexic I wouldn’t have gone there. It reminded me of school and I was done with that. I wasn’t going down that route and I wasn't talking about it. Later on, what changed is that there was an in-depth study by the Kauffman Foundation done on entrepreneurs. They found there was an earth-shattering number of dyslexics who succeeded as entrepreneurs. Then, they wanted to find more people to study from around the world and all kinds of professions. The Kauffman Foundation called and said, “We heard you’re dyslexic,” and I had to stop. The call had to do with my brother, who has a dyslexic child. The Kauffman Foundation was studying my nephew and they got to talking. I met the profile and they placed the call.

I agreed to the study and I got over the shame because they’d already “found me out” anyway. Besides, it was the Kauffman Foundation, which has an incredible reputation. As it turns out, it was life-altering. It led to the HBO documentary Journey Into Dyslexia and numerous speaking events. You name it. It was all very good...but quite frankly, it’d probably be more fun to hang out with you guys at Camp Spring Creek for a week.

Once I learned how screwed up our education system was, there was a lot of anger that came out of that. Anger is a great motivator, unfortunately, but steered in the right way it can do great things. I came out, I talked about it, I told the world. I realized that it was important for kids and other adults to see that and I got fan letters from both. Appropriately, there’s a huge emphasis on kids, but I also think that our whole society would do well knowing that this is in your DNA. It is what it is. You are who you are. It doesn’t go away for adults and so many of them need to hear that, too. People don’t like talking about it. It’s very, very hard. I’ve had to learn to be gentle when I’m talking to people I don’t know very well because you have to treat these things delicately.

At the end of the day, once we get our education system figured out, I don’t think the word “dyslexia” will even be necessary. It’s about recreating how people learn, but ultimately it’s no different than remembering that we’re all physically different. We’re tall, we’re short, we’re fit, we’re not. Our brains are different from one to the next to the next, too. The beauty of all of this is that there’s just so, so, so much that can be done and that’s inspiring. Places like Camp Spring Creek are what need to happen now, until someday in the future we can just make education work for everybody.

Wrightslaw: An Interview with Peter Wright

pete.300Pete Wright is an attorney who represents children with special educational needs. In second grade, Pete was diagnosed with learning disabilities including dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD. He was fortunate—his learning problems were identified early. His parents obtained intensive Orton-Gillingham remediation for him by Diana Hanbury King. Pete's determination to help children grew out of his own educational experiences. While attending Randolph Macon College, Pete worked in a Juvenile Training School as a houseparent. After graduation with a degree in Psychology, he worked in another Juvenile Training School and ultimately was honored as Virginia's "Juvenile Probation Officer of the Year." During that time, Pete was also attending evening college in a graduate psychology program at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 1977, Pete graduated from T. C. Williams Law School at the University of Richmond. In 1993, Pete successfully represented Shannon Carter, a child with dyslexia, before the U. S. Supreme Court. (510 U.S. 7) This landmark, 9-0 decision, resulted in the Carters, and many parents since, being able to recover the cost of their child’s private, Orton-Gillingham, special education tuition. We were honored to interview him. Camp Spring Creek: It’s been so moving for us to review and share your story over the past week and half with our readers, so let us begin by saying “thank you” on behalf of all parents, children, and advocates in the learning differences field. We’re thrilled that your grandson will be joining us at camp this summer. We know that dyslexia is genetic and that both you and your grandson have been diagnosed with it. Were you the first to recognize this learning difference in your grandson? What do you hope he will gain from Camp Spring Creek?

Pete Wright: No. Both my son and daughter-in-law recognized these issues early on, in part because of knowing my history and my son’s own personal experience with LD in his early elementary years. My grandson’s biggest issue is more dysgraphia than anything. He is very, very bright and yet, because of the dysgraphia, and being so far behind his peers, he feels very inadequate and it’s having an adverse impact on his self-esteem and perception of self. I’m hoping that, as his written language skills improve and increase, the self-esteem and emotional issues that relate to that will dissipate.

I can tell you from my own personal experience and having worked with so many kids since the ‘60’s, that children with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, often feel stupid because of their inadequate skills and they get depressed. When that happens, many individuals recommend counseling and therapy. I disagree. I have always taken the position with my clients that we have to teach the youngster how to read, write, spell, and do arithmetic and the self-esteem will improve, the depression will go by the wayside, and things will turn around. Almost always, that has been the case.

CSC: You were diagnosed with dyslexia before it even had an official name in the United States. Now, as a result of your work and Wrightslaw, “dyslexia” is much more of a household word and many parents of children with learning differences now understand that their children have a legal right to equal education opportunities. We’ve come a long way. That said, you’re still hard at work. What do you see as some of today’s greatest remaining challenges in the LD advocacy and legal rights world?

PW: I was actually diagnosed with Strephosymbolia, also known at that time, as Word Blindness. (See my YouTube video about Strephosymbolia and Dr. Orton.) Strephosymbolia was the word used by Dr. Samuel T. Orton on July 25, 1925 when he presented the concept to the American Neurological Society. Strephrosymbolia later became known as dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.

From a legal perspective the word “dyslexia” has been in the special education statute since 1975 when the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed. (It is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, i.e., “IDEA 2004.” The last revision was in 2004.) Even though it has been in the law as a part of the definition of a learning disability since 1975, some special educators and school psychologists around the country deny that it exists or assert that it’s a medical issue, not an educational issue, and it’s not covered by the federal special education law. This tells you that they have not looked at either the law or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which identifies it under “Specific Learning Disorder” subtype, “Impairment in Reading.”

Because of resistance in some school districts, parents have formed Decoding Dyslexia groups nationwide and approached their state legislatures to put the word in the state statute, define it, and also define the nature of services that children with dyslexia are supposed to receive. As a result, a number of states have since passed statutes that define dyslexia and spell out what needs to be done. The definition used by most of these states, word for word, tracks the definition used by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA).

The big challenge will be to change the outdated beliefs of many special education administrators and school psychologists in the bureaucratic sector and also those in the trenches working with the kids—getting them to accept that they do have to teach children with dyslexia the proper way so that the children will learn how to read, write, spell, and do arithmetic. Using talking books, having others read textbooks aloud to the child or having others write for the child,  becomes the focus, that is to provide modifications and accommodations, rather than teaching the critical reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling skills. Sadly, it is often rooted in the belief that, because the child has dyslexia, the child cannot learn how to read or write, spell or do arithmetic. The heavy reliance on modifications and accommodations does not help the child in later years, once they’re out of school and employed.

CSC: Many famous dyslexics have been interviewed about their struggles with early education and have moving stories to share about how they finally moved past their learning differences and were able to see them as learning advantages. Did you experience a similar pivotal turning point in your own education? If so, please tell us about that moment or realization:

PW: In 1952, at the beginning of my second grade year, I was totally illiterate. I could not read, write, spell, or do arithmetic. My parents were told that I was uneducable and that nothing could be done. They were also told that I was mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed. Fortunately a private evaluation identified me as having “Strephosymbolia" and my parents were told to find someone skilled in teaching children using the approach created by Dr. Orton and Anna Gillingham. They found Diana Hanbury King who tutored me, every day, one-on-one, after school, using the Orton-Gillingham approach, for two years. Her goal was to get me two years above my age and grade level. Several years later, when I was in the sixth grade, I was tested and my scores were at the eighth grade level.

The changes in me were slow, over two years, during almost all of the second and third grades. Thus there was not a pivotal turning point, or “eureka” moment or realization. I simply learned how to read, write, spell and do arithmetic, at a level surpassing that of my peers.

Diana Hanbury King is now considered to be one of the top experts in the world. Years after working with me, she founded The Kildonan School in Amenia, NY. Last year my grandson spent several days with her as she worked with him and my daughter-in-law. Since then, every day, he works on the exercises Diana created for him and we have seen great progress. It is hard work for him. I remember my own experiences with her and how hard the work was. She is a task-master and has very high expectations. My grandson has become quite aware that putting in the time and working hard is generating great benefits. As expected, at first he complained, but as he saw his own changes in legibility of the written letters, numbers and words, and increased typing speeds, he has become self-motivated.

On another note, there’s a lot of talk about the gift of dyslexia and that dyslexics think outside the box and I agree. But Diana Hanbury King has a different stint on that and she has absolutely nailed it! In December 2012, she spent several days with me and my wife Pam at our home in Deltaville, VA and I did a YouTube interview of her  in which she discusses her theory. All parents of children with dyslexia need to see it. It will surprise you and you, too, will agree. I won’t give away her theory here. Seeing it is believing.

CSC: There are so many resources online that are helpful, but the Internet can also be a dizzying place for a parent looking into his or her LD child’s educational rights. For a parent just starting out, what top three links can you share to help them understand their rights and options?

PW: In all honesty, there is nothing that is comparable to our website. We have more traffic than the US Department of Education. We have almost 100,000 subscribers to our online newsletter. If you research something related to special education law, so often Google will take you back to our wrightslaw.com website. Between our Wrightslaw: Special Education Law book, our Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy book, and our Wrightslaw: All About IEPs book, we have sold almost a half million copies. In my Wrightslaw training programs, (about 25 per year), I tell parents that they have to read our From Emotions to Advocacy book three times. The first read is an emotional roller coaster for the parents. The second read they can digest it and highlight and take notes. The third read is the synthesis of the second read and putting it all together.

Wrightslaw: The Orton Connection

Note: This article was originally published in the Winter 1994 issue of Perspectives, the Journal of the Orton Dyslexia Society, now known as the International Dyslexia Association. It is written by Peter W. D. Wright, Attorney at Law, Deltaville, VA  of Wrightslaw and reprinted with permission. For more about Peter, see our previous blog post featuring his educational experiences as a child with dyslexia and ADHA in the 1950's education system and stay tuned for his forthcoming interview on our site. The case of Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter was set in motion by four distinguished members of The Orton Dyslexia Association - Helene Dubrow, Diana Hanbury King, Roger Saunders, and Linda Summer. In 1953, Orton member, Diana Hanbury King tutored a severely dysgraphic, dyslexic and hyperkinetic youngster. During the next summer, that eight year old boy attended Helene Dubrow’s camp at the base of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont where he continued to receive intensive Orton-Gillingham remediation from his tutor and counselor, Roger Saunders, another Orton member.

Remediation with Diana King continued through the next academic year. Later, Diana King founded the famous Orton-Gillingham based Kildonan School, which is located in Amenia, New York. Dr. Roger Saunders founded the Jemicy School in Maryland and became one of the most prominent psychologists in the field of dyslexia.

Thirty years later, in 1985, another Orton member, Linda Summer began working with Shannon Carter, a severely depressed fifteen year old. Shannon had been misdiagnosed by the school system as a "slow learner," who was "lazy and unmotivated." Despite an average to above average IQ, Shannon was functionally illiterate. Linda Summer discovered and diagnosed Shannon’s dyslexia. She insisted that Shannon needed a self-contained classroom to remediate her disabilities. The public school refused to provide this and proposed to give Shannon three hours a week of special education. Her parents refused this.
As members of the Orton Dyslexia Society, Mr. and Mrs. Carter attended state and regional conferences. When the school refused to educate Shannon, the parents placed her into Trident Academy, another Orton-Gillingham based program. The parents sought reimbursement for the cost of the tuition at Trident Academy and took their case to court.  Eventually, Pete Wright, a Richmond, Virginia attorney and former pupil of Diana Hanbury King and Roger Saunders, represented Shannon.

Pete Wright argued Shannon’s case before The U. S. Supreme Court on October 6, 1993. Three generations of Orton Dyslexia Society (now known as the International Dyslexia Association) members were present during oral argument. While Pete argued Shannon’s case, Roger Saunders and Shannon Carter watched from the audience. On November 9, 1993, thirty-four days later, the Court issued a unanimous decision on behalf of Shannon Carter and affirmed the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Emory and Elaine Carter sought a more intensive program – and the school refused to provide this, in part because no such program was available in School District Four. After losing both a due process and review hearing, Shannon’s parents took their case to the U. S. District Court where they prevailed. On appeal to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the school system changed tactics. They argued that Trident Academy was not a certified approved school. Dr. Lucia Karnes, a member of the Orton Dyslexia Society, helped to set up Trident Academy. The public school argued that because Trident was not an "approved" school, the parents should not be reimbursed, even though the private school provided Shannon with an appropriate education. The Fourth Circuit upheld the trial court’s decision. In making their argument, Florence County School District Four followed the rationale and the rule of law that existed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

In that Circuit, a trial judge found that The Kildonan School provided a youngster with an excellent education and that there was not an appropriate education available either within the public school or on the state’s list of approved schools. Because of the prior Second Circuit precedent, the trial judge expressed concerns that he could not rule in favor of the child. The judge said that although the parents obtained an appropriate education for their son, it was not free.

In Carter, the Fourth Circuit took a different position. If the school system defaults on its legal duty to provide the child with an appropriate education and if the parents obtain an appropriate special education for their child, then the child’s education should be free -- regardless of whether the school was on an "approved list." (South Carolina did not have any pre-existing list.) Because of the "split" between the Second Circuit and Fourth Circuit, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the Carter case. School officials hoped that a favorable decision in Carter would reduce the costs of special education.

The U. S. Supreme Court did not agree. They gave short shrift to the "financial catastrophe" arguments raised by the seventeen states and dozens of educational organizations that filed briefs against Shannon. Legal scholars were surprised at the speed with which the Court reached its decision. Carter was considered a stunning victory for parents of handicapped children. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that Trident Academy provided Shannon with an excellent education and that the public school program was "woefully inadequate." Children with handicaps are entitled to a continuum of educational alternatives, including self-contained and residential programs. Schools that provide fixed rigid programs directed by staffing convenience are ill-advised to draw lines in the sand, provide inadequate programs, then suggest that parents "take it or leave it." Parents may reject the school’s proposal, secure an education privately, then present the school with a bill and collect in the end.

This was the outcome in Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, a case set in motion by the involvement of four distinguished members of The Orton Dyslexia Society - Helene Dubrow, Diana Hanbury King, Roger Saunders, and Linda Summer. Children with all types handicaps, disabilities, and learning differences benefit from the work of The Orton Dyslexia Society, now called the International Dyslexia Association.

(Note: Click here to see a YouTube video portion of Pete's Keynote at "Decoding Dyslexia Day - Richmond, VA and stay tuned for our next post--an interview with Peter Wright himself.)

Wrightslaw: The Untold Story

Note: Today's blog post is an excerpt from "The Untold Story" written by Peter Wright of Wrightslaw and is the first in a 3-part series exploring the inspiring story of one man's personal experiences with dyslexia, from student to nationally known advocate. We'll follow Peter through his early years all the way to his landmark Supreme Court victory that has made a positive difference for thousands of children that have learning differences. We'll conclude this series with a new interview with Peter himself. Read here and stay tuned! In 1951, my kindergarten teacher told my parents, "Peter does not listen to his teachers, does not respond to school rules and definite directions . . . listening and doing are necessary requisites for first grade." The following year, my first grade teacher said, "He makes most of his numbers backwards . . . I am having a little trouble understanding Peter; he is a nice little boy, but he does not appear at all interested in first grade . . . I know he has a good mind."

Later, teachers said that, "He is fussy, too free with his fists." "I am quite disappointed in Peter . . . He does not pay attention to directions and he has to be spoken to frequently for talking." (Next marking period) "Peter continues to disappoint me . . . He does not do his best at all times because he does not keep his mind on his work and wastes a great deal of time . . . I hope he will try to improve before the closing of the school year as he is a capable boy."

At different times, I was labeled as borderline mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed. During my public school career, I was never viewed as having college potential so I was placed in the general track, where I took touch typing for two years (when it was called typing, not keyboarding).

Who is Pete Wright? For the special educators in the audience, I was one of your children.

From elementary school to the third grade, I reversed not only my spoken speech, pasghetti, for spaghetti, concepts, over under in out, and reading and writings were filled with reversals. I also had what was called "mirror writing".

My teachers told my parents that I could do well if I would only try harder. I had ants in my pants and could not sit still. I was eventually diagnosed as having strephosymbolia and word blindness. These are labels for what we now call Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

I received extensive individual tutoring every day after school in 1953. In 1954 I attended a residential camp. I continued one-on-one tutoring the next year. I was prescribed Dexedrine and took that through elementary and junior high school years as a means to reduce the hyperkinetic behavior.

The tutoring technique used with me in 1953 is what is known today as the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory, visual auditory, kinesthetic tactile approach to language learning. My tutor was Diana King who later founded the Kildonan School and is referred to in several of the cases that preceded Carter.

I attended Washington D.C. public schools and, by the end of the 11th grade had a strong D+ average. My parents sent me to a small New England prep school with student teacher ratio of 6 to 8 students per class where the professors were aware of my dyslexia.

After graduating from that school, I attended Randolph Macon College in Virginia and worked in Virginia’s juvenile training schools and juvenile courts. At the same time I attended Virginia Commonwealth University and took 30 graduate credit hours in psychology, intending to become a psychologist. I needed a practicum which was hard to do while working full time.

While working as a probation officer, I became involved with the Orton Dyslexia Society and the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (now LDAA). Many of the youngsters that I worked with in the training schools and juvenile courts had undiagnosed, unremediated learning disabilities. I used educational remediation to reduce delinquent behavior and spoke at the National Conferences of the ACLD and Orton Dyslexia Society about LD and juvenile delinquency in 1974 and 1975.

Later in 1975 I attended Law School and immediately became involved in special education litigation after passing the Bar. By the early 1980’s I was handling a large number of special ed cases and in the Fall of 1984 was a primary speaker at the National Orton Dyslexia Annual Conference which was held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I held a training session for lawyers and parents about special ed law and actual trial tactics in the litigation of special education cases.

That led to my talking to parents and educators at the North and South Carolina Annual Orton Conference in the spring of 1985 at Wingate College, North Carolina. Shannon Carter’s parents were in the audience. Who is Shannon Carter? Stay tuned for next week's blog post about her landmark Supreme Court case...

Parents & Students: Know Your Rights

We recently came across two helpful links regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and the changes your child needs to know about when moving on to post-secondary school: First, check out this fact sheet from the Pacer Center, champions for children with disabilities across the spectrum: “It is crucial that students and their advocates become knowledgeable about their rights and responsibilities in post-secondary education because, although protections exist, the student has considerably more responsibility to request and design their own accommodations. And this responsibility is ongoing. For many students with disabilities, good self-advocacy skills will be key to success, and knowing your rights is one essential element of effective self-advocacy.” Read more and get empowered!

Second, please check out Wrights Law, founded by Peter Wright. Peter is dyslexic and, years ago, was actually tutored by Diana King. This summer, his grandson will be attending Camp Spring Creek. Look for an exclusive interview with Peter right here on this blog in the coming weeks. Meantime, check out the resources on his site.

Susie Presents in Florida!

This week Susie is in Florida working with mentor and friend Susan Russell for an in-service training with the teachers at The Little Place and The Little Place Too, both private, academic-based preschools. Susan was Susie's second boss, so the two go way back. This press release was published via local media outlets in Wellington, FL and shares more about their relationship and the goals of Susie's trip. Free Dyslexia Info Session for Parents & Educators

Wellington, Florida – February 25, 2014 – Esteemed educator and dyslexia advocate Susie van der Vorst offers free info session for parents, educators, and administrators interested in early intervention, teaching methodologies, and other issues facing children with learning differences.

The Little Place Too, an academic-based private preschool in Wellington, will host an info session on dyslexia featuring Susie van der Vorst, well-known education advocate and co-founder of Camp Spring Creek. Susan Russell, owner of The Little Place Too, invited van der Vorst to the region after sending one of her school’s teachers to Camp Spring Creek’s 70-hour Associate Level Orton-Gillingham training at the camp in North Carolina.

“We’re just getting into the Orton-Gillingham approach at The Little Place,” says Russell. “I can already see a positive difference. It helps all of us understand how to help our children in the best ways possible.” The OG approach, as it is commonly called, is one of the most highly effective methods for teaching the structure of language using multisensory techniques. Trained tutors, such as Ms. Shay at The Little Place Too, engage students in learning activities that ask students to see, hear, and write a concept. Processing a single concept in many different ways allows all children, and especially children with learning differences such as dyslexia, to grasp skills they cannot learn using traditional methods.

At the info session, van der Vorst will touch on early intervention techniques that help parents and teachers determine whether or not their child has a learning difference as early as age four. She will also answer common questions, dispel myths about dyslexia, and discuss resources available nationwide. “Dyslexia doesn’t necessarily mean you read backwards, as people often think,” says van der Vorst. “Children with dyslexia have difficulty processing language but they are often very gifted in analytical reasoning and creativity, which is why a high percentage of people with dyslexia become corporate CEO’s, engineers, artists, entrepreneurs, surgeons, and architects.”

With support, people with dyslexia lead lives of accomplishment. This has been proven with recent brain research, in the classroom, and also at Camp Spring Creek, one of only three residential camps in the United States accredited by the Association of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. “We often see students make two to three years worth of progress during a six to eight week session at camp,” says van der Vorst, who has nearly 30 years of teaching and tutoring experience. “Our approach is designed to target a child’s individual strengths and weaknesses and help them excel. But we also recognize the value of keeping kids active throughout the day. These kids can’t learn as well if they’re stuck behind a desk. The learning needs to be hands-on so that they can get multiple senses involved.”

Susan Russell and Susie van der Vorst have a history stretching back to 1987, when The Little Place Too first opened its doors. “I told Susie that she could start a kindergarten classroom at my school and do anything she wanted, as long as she could explain why,” recalls Russell. “She was just out of school, young, and very excited about teaching. I didn’t want to stifle that. She presented her plans to the parents and they could feel her enthusiasm, too. That’s exactly why she’s been so successful.” For van der Vorst’s part, the primary motivator in spreading the word about dyslexia is that she believes the right to read is a civic right. No child should be excluded because traditional teaching methods don’t teach some kids the ways they need to be taught.

The info session is free and open to the public. It will be held Tuesday, February 25 from 6:30-7:30pm at The Little Place Too, 2995 Greenbrier Boulevard in Wellington. For more information please call 561-790-0808.

Interview: Van Westervelt

Vermont2011047 Camp Spring Creek: Please tell us briefly how you become involved with the Learning Assistance Center at Wake Forest University and what your role is there:

Van Westervelt: Sure. I’m in my 16th year as the Director of the LAC and Disability Services. It has been a great experience here and I am highly engaged in providing academic support services for the undergraduate, graduate and professional school student body as well as disability services for any students who disclose a disability. We serve only Wake Forest students. To understand what we do, our mission statement best represents that. Here’s an excerpt: “…Our purpose is to strike a balance between providing direct assistance for skill building, while facilitating each student’s own discovery process for their individual learning and achievement style in and beyond the classroom…We strive to assist students in receiving accommodations that improve their ability to learn while assisting them to better understand their disability and realize that disability can co-exist with outstanding talents and outcomes.”

CSC: What fueled your interest in psychology and specifically in learning disabilities and dyslexia?

VW: My grandmother, Helene Durbrow, in the mid 1930’s had one son who in the 4th grade was struggling significantly with reading and getting very frustrated despite being quite bright in other areas.  From her educational connections as a kindergarten teacher, she was referred to Samuel Orton MD, a neurologist at Columbia in NYC, who was working on intervention approaches for children with dyslexia, so she took her son to him for a consultation.  Dr. Orton instructed her in a remediation plan for her son that was based on what is now known as the Orton-Gillingham Multisensory approach.  He responded well and she was so good at applying this methodology that Dr. Orton began referring other students to her and that became her educational specialty.  She received extensive training from Anna Gillingham, Mrs. Orton and Bessie Stillman as she started remedial programs at several private schools including  Sidwell Friends in DC and Phillips Academy in Andover, MA.

Spurred on by encouragement from Dr. Orton and Anna, in 1946 she started a camp in Vermont at the foot of Mt. Mansfield and called it Camp Mansfield.  Dr. Orton and his team realized that his students often lost significant ground over the summer and also the summer could provide an opportunity to focus on specific skills in need of remediation.  Along with the educational focus at times in the day for peak attention, the camp had an array of recreation and outdoor challenge activities.  My mother happened to be the Camp nurse, so from infancy my two brothers and I were able to escape the humidity of Baltimore city each summer and be fully involved in the nature and outdoor activities that Vermont had to offer. Helene took a position at Children’s Hospital in Boston training teachers there and continued to run the camp for 16 years.  I remember the large wooden plaque that had the camp motto carved in it “A Strong Mind in a Strong Body.”  I think that life style and philosophy must have really imprinted on me because first I became a physical therapist and then a child-adolescent psychologist!

Helene recruited a faculty of teachers who would reside at camp or commute from local towns for the whole 8-week session.  One British teacher from the DC area, Diana King, was so impressed with the remedial approach that she learned from my grandmother that she would go on to establish her own school, Kildonan, and summer camp, Dunnabeck, both originally in PA, geared for bright students with dyslexia. My brother, Mark, would also go on to establish camp programs in the Baltimore area and become the Assistant Head of the Jemicy School for dyslexic students in Baltimore.

CSC: Your area of expertise is assessment and intervention. What would you say to a parent who does not have extra time, energy, finances, or community resources…but has a hunch that “something’s up” with their child’s learning style? How can this parent get his or her child what is needed within the family’s means?

VW: I think the first step would be to consult with the child’s teacher and see what his/her current school has to offer as far as assessment and intervention.  A next option, if there is not insurance or funding for a private evaluation, would be to see if a local university has an evaluation clinic for learning difficulties.  For example in our area, UNCG has two clinics, one for LD and the other for ADHD (336-334-5662), that offer evaluations on a sliding scale basis as far as costs.  The testing is carried out by a doctoral student under the supervision of a faculty member.  The assessments are quite thorough and the students from Wake Forest who I have referred there have found the results to be very helpful.

CSC: If you could help dispel one myth or stereotype about children with dyslexia, what would it be and how would you address it?

VW: Some of the early descriptions of difficulties experienced by children with dyslexia focused mainly on letter reversals and writing backwards.  Through multiple research studies we now know the primary core deficit is in “phonemic awareness,” which for children without dyslexia is the rather automatic process involved in learning that words are comprised of particular component sounds that can be related to letters.  Visual process difficulties that may show up as letter reversals can be associated with dyslexia but that is not the primary problem to focus on in remedial efforts.

Parents are sometimes told by well-meaning physicians or teachers  “Oh he’ll grow out of it” but, as my grandmother used to advise, “You will either pay now or pay later!” This I took to mean that it was important to rally your resources early on to address the problem because addressing it later in a student’s life can be more complicated and require greater resources.

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Journey Into Dyslexia

MV5BMjE4NDEyMjE1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjczNTk3Ng@@._V1_SX640_SY720_We can't recommend this HBO Documentary highly enough. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will change how you think about everything regarding dyslexia--right down to the very word we've chosen to talk about it. According to the film synopsis, "Oscar®-winning filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond...visited innovative programs where dyslexic students learn to read and develop compensatory skills at schools throughout the U.S.  In talking with students from elementary grades to college, as well as teachers, researchers and thriving adults, the Raymonds reveal how dyslexia informs who they are and how they learn or teach, and explore the ways dyslexics develop different skills to navigate a world where standardization is the norm." You can read more here, view the trailer here, and order the DVD here. You won't be sorry! If you live locally, call us--we've got the DVD in our office library!