Something as routine as the flow of the ABCs and the pleasures of reading might not be easy or taken for granted by people who are dealing with dyslexia.
That’s why the Horry County Literacy Council, based in Myrtle Beach, which helps students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, has scheduled a free dyslexia information and awareness seminar for 6 p.m. Thursday at Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s Grand Strand campus in Myrtle Beach.
The council invited Susan Barton, founder and education director of Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, of San Jose, Calif., to address the public – parents, teachers, school principals, speech language therapists, counselors, psychologists and pediatricians – about the condition, new research and dyslexia’s genetic link, and effective ways to teach reading and spelling to someone with dyslexia.
The International Dyslexia Association, based in Baltimore, defines dyslexia as a learning disability “neurological in origin, characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.” Other consequences might show up in reading comprehension problems and diminished reduced reading ability that can affect expansion of a person’s vocabulary.
Besides helping prevent the lack of, or delay in, diagnosis in children and teens, which could lead to a lifetime of hardships that go beyond the school years, Barton wants to differentiate between myths and facts about dyslexia.
Question | Statistics show 1 in 5 people cope with dyslexia. Why has awareness about dyslexia gained a bigger foothold lately?
Answer | The federal government started funding scientific research into dyslexia in the 1970s. We have learned a ton from all the information and research coordinated through the National Institutes of Health. It started in our country, and we’ve coordinated outreach with six other countries ... including China, the United Kingdom, Israel and Sweden. ... Federal education laws were written way before the research, and so public schools are not required to screen for this in most states. A few states have statewide dyslexia screenings, but South Carolina is not one of them.
Q. | The means to observe symptoms of dyslexia come pretty early, so how do preventive steps help in the long run?
A. | Schools have waited until a child is struggling badly and has struggled for years, and they step in and test, but not to find out why. ... The sooner we pick this up and the sooner we deal this, the faster we can get them back on track. Struggles show up very, very early, and the classic warning signs show up before school, at around age 1 or so.
Q. | Covering these basics on identifying classic warning signs with this forum on Thursday, what will the public bring home to improve a loved one’s life?
A. | It’s up to caring parents and teachers to work with them and do the right thing when they see warning signs. The good thing is we now know what works. Research has shown programs will close the gaps, and we also know what won’t work.
Q. | What easily seen signs in tots should people observe so they can address possible conditions of dyslexia?
A. | A preschool warning is when the child is late to speak, not speaking at 12-13 months, which is when most kids speak. ... It’s when they speak and they’re saying multiple syllable words, and they get things out of sequence ... like if they say “aminals”: At first, it just seems cute, but several years later, you can’t correct them. Also, chronic ear infections, to the point of needing tubes, being late to establish a dominant hand, and if it’s extremely difficult to tie your shoes. ... It can be an inability to generate words that rhyme by the time you reach kindergarten. ...
It also runs in families. If you have a close relative who has these struggles, and you have a child with lots of these warning signs, it’s highly likely the child will hit the wall.
Q. | Through giving such presentations nationwide, are you finding schools more open to making room for addressing students with dyslexia?
A. | I find that private schools are the first to open their doors; they’re more flexible, with not as much bureaucracy. ... It takes time to change, but it’s slowly and surely changing, and it’s starting to happen. It’s a painfully slow process ... but our kids can’t wait. If a school does not have solutions, get them yourself outside of school. Once your child is safely on the way, then join with other parents for more change.
Q. | What about adults who have worked around their dyslexia and gotten by? How is the help they can obtain different from parents and teachers helping children deal overcoming their barrier?
A. | I started in adult literacy. ... The oldest one I’ve worked with was 69 years old. ... They never stop wanting to read better and to enjoy reading. ... Yes, they’ve learned to avoid tasks that require them to read aloud before groups. They marry people who are good spellers. They learn to use technology tools ... to work around their weak areas. They’ve learned to go into fields of work with their strengths, but we can still work to improve their reading skills. The same type of reading-based programs that work with teens and children work with adults.
Q. | So many famous people have coped and managed with dyslexia – such as Cher, Tim Conway, Carl Lewis, Richard Branson, and Presidents Andrew Jackson, Frankin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower – and not let it become a barrier in their lives. What names come to your mind?
A. | They can be successful in any field. ... Mark Twain was dyslexic; so was F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie and Edgar Allen Poe. ... They’re all over the place, including scientists. Most of the people on that list never got the proper tutoring, and they might have hated school. ... My goal is to make it so they end up staying in school, ... and get them early so they can enjoy school, and learn in school and love school.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.