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Friday, March 03, 2006

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Bill

Because they are too busy trying to make sure proficiency test material is covered instead of recognizing any problems a child might be having and the source of the problems.

Jackie

Being from the Painesville Township School district it is clear with my children that all that is being done by the district is the teaching of proficiency materials to cover up for a less than adequate school system.

There is no reason for this.

Sammi

If identified early, the language disability can be treated

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Maria LaVan watched her daughter's frustration grow as the hours of study she put in each night failed to result in better scores on her tests at school.

"It's not like she wasn't working hard," LaVan said of Michelle, now a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Notre Dame Elementary School in Munson Township.

"We weren't sure what was wrong, but we knew it was something," said Michelle, who lives in Chardon Township.

A test at the Cleveland Clinic when Michelle was in fourth grade revealed that the long hours of study at home weren't going to be enough to make a difference.

The test revealed that Michelle was dyslexic.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability in which people have difficulties with specific language skills, such as spelling, writing or speaking.

For the past year, she and her mom have spent two days a week during the school year studying with Vicki Krnac, a language therapist in Concord Township.
"It's been a lot better," Michelle said of the progress she has been making with Krnac. "I'm getting better and better at reading words, and I know how to sound out words now better than before."

Krnac has been helping dyslexics for about 10 years and currently tutors about 14 students from second grade up to 10th grade.

If dyslexia is identified early, it can be treated successfully, Krnac said.

"You can catch this in kindergarten, pull them out for 20 minutes a day to work on it, and keep them where they need to be," she said.

The Baltimore-based International Dyslexia Association estimates that 15 percent to 20 percent of the population has some type of reading disability. Out of that group, about 85 percent probably have dyslexia, the agency reports.

"Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels," states a fact sheet from the agency.

An informational seminar to discuss dyslexia is planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Madison Public Library, 6111 Middle Ridge Road, Madison Township.

The seminar is titled "Dyslexia: What Is It and What Can Be Done?"

"Our purpose at this point is just to raise awareness of the facts of dyslexia and awareness that there are remedies that need to be instituted as early as possible if children are to succeed," said Karen Austen, the seminar's coordinator.

Many misconceptions

Many people have several misconceptions about dyslexia, Austen said.

"Some people believe it is caused by an injury to the brain," said Austen, a certified reading specialist who lives in Madison Township.

"Most people believe it is a very rare disorder and that nothing can be done about it. Some think that dyslexic people are not intelligent, or that they are lazy."

In actuality, Austen said, those with dyslexia often have very special gifts.

"Further research and studies have shown that dyslexic people have special talents and abilities in spatial relationships, problem solving and other creative endeavors," Austen said.

But left untreated, dyslexia can make progress through school a significant challenge, Austen said.

"These are the children who 'are not working up to their capacity' or 'are not motivated,' " Austen said. "These are children who are very bright, and who have some exceptional talents and abilities, but they are unable to read and therefore unable in many cases to make use of their gifts."

LaVan said her daughter has increased her reading ability from about 80 words a minute to close to 200 words a minute since her diagnosis.

"She would memorize words quite well, and that's how she would read," LaVan said. "That's OK to a point, until you have words that look similar."

Look for the signs

Mary Ann Glasgow, a private tutor in Parkman Township, said there are signs that parents can identify to determine whether their child might have dyslexia.

"This might be a child that doesn't enjoy being read to and doesn't enjoy the play of language," Glasgow said. "He might have trouble learning the alphabet or have trouble rhyming. He might mean 'cat' and say 'fat.'

"I always tell mothers to trust their gut. They know this child, and they are often the first to know if something is wrong."

Dyslexia is often hereditary, which can either help or hinder early diagnosis, Glasgow said.

"They might dismiss it as, 'I had trouble with that too,' " she said. "Or they will be more attuned to it, and they'll say, 'I will not allow my child to go through that, too.' "

She said early diagnosis is critical to a child's long-term development, especially when they begin going to school.

"More is demanded of a child in school," she said. "You're combining oral language with the written language. There's no reason it can't be picked up on early."

John Miley, principal at Hale Road Elementary School in Painesville Township, said it's "very, very hard for schools" to diagnose dyslexia in their students.

"We do a lot of diagnostic type testing and assessment of children," Miley said. "The fact is, you need to know the child to see if there is a problem."

When problems are identified, Miley said teachers work collaboratively with parents to determine the best way to get the students on the right track.

"Sometimes, the recommendation might be the student's accommodations in the classroom, sometimes it might be more in-depth testing," he said.

As for Michelle LaVan, the discovery that she had dyslexia has made a huge difference in her life, her mother said.

"She has gained so much more pride," she said. "When all of a sudden, you are getting As and Bs, it just gives you so much confidence."

For more information on dyslexia, go to www.interdys.org.

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