ST. GEORGE – The opportunity to find out whether your child has a learning disability and how to treat it is priceless, and now the necessary screenings are too, but only for a limited time at the Liberty Youth Academy.
A learning disability, dyslexia was first identified by German physician Oswald Berkhan in 1881. Its various forms are estimated to affect anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the world’s total population. Though many theories exist as to the cause, one has never been proven.
Dyslexia can affect both adults and children as young as 5 years old. The majority of dyslexics suffer from reading and writing challenges, though there are a wide variety of symptoms. Common signs include delays in speech, difficulty memorizing, poor spelling (specifically reversing letters while writing), slow reading, poor reading comprehension, difficulty reading aloud and being easily distracted.
For many dyslexics, their learning difficulties are a source of embarrassment and stress and they often lose interest in studying. Without proper treatment, children and teenagers are very likely to receive poor grades, fail classes or even be held back in school.
The Washington County School District currently identifies 1,509 students as having dyslexia or a related learning disability. Students who are suspected to suffer from one will be given a battery of assessments by a special education teacher. Those who qualify are then placed in unique classes and programs with material tailored to his or her individual needs.
Through a widely used method called Response to Intervention, teachers are frequently able to spot learning disabilities in students and arrange treatment to reverse poor learning habits quickly. Depending on the severity of the disability, treatment can include anything from weekly behavioral reports to individual and group therapy sessions. With the help of RTI, the district expects to see a reduced number of learning challenged students in the future.
Special Education Coordinator Hollee Cullen encouraged parents who suspect their child may be suffering from dyslexia or another learning disability to speak with their child’s classroom teacher and arrange for testing. And regardless of the child’s age, time is of the essence as early detection is the single best tool for managing dyslexia.
“(Without corrective treatment), students will continue to struggle to read, spell and comprehend material,” she said.
Though there is no cure, dyslexic individuals can manage their condition with educational and emotional support. Specialized tutoring focusing on the problem areas is widely used. Many public and private school teachers also employ exercises and games to strengthen handwriting, memory, phonics, speaking and listening and reading comprehension. A wealth of information for those seeking to learn more about the disability, the Dyslexia Center of Utah offers learning strategies, seminars and endless resources.
Liberty Youth Academy
Nearly 20 years ago, Stephanie Dale, the founder of Liberty Youth Academy, learned that her son had a form of dyslexia called Visual Processing Disorder. His diagnosis sparked her search for answers and assistance. She first went to her local public school district, whose staff informed her that special education classes were the only suitable place for him. But she disagreed; she knew her son, despite his disability, still had great potential. She elected to teach him entirely at home, which would later provide inspiration for the creation of her school.
“Children (who suffer from dyslexia) come to believe that they are not as smart as others and their love of learning is extinguished; education becomes a source of anxiety,” she said. “I knew I had to create an environment where kids could gain confidence, receive beneficial (help) in areas where they struggled and learn to love education again.”
Dale said that the majority of students with learning disabilities also have exceptional talents in other areas. “We want to celebrate those talents,” she said. Often they just need a different environment to excel and discover their individual aptitudes.
Liberty is an LDS faith-based private school. Its teachings focus on literature, American history and individualized learning with the goal of maximizing each student’s potential. Though over half of the student body has been diagnosed with dyslexia or a learning disability, enrollment is open to all.
A joint project between Liberty and the Dyslexia Center of Utah, the dyslexia screenings take approximately 20 minutes to complete and consist of three standardized tests. Afterwards, the student and/or their parents will meet with a Liberty staff member to discuss the results and, if needed, treatment options. Because the screenings are not an official diagnosis, Dale recommended that parents of students who are found to be at risk for dyslexia contact the Dyslexia Center of Utah to schedule more comprehensive testing.
Starting at 9 a.m. today, screenings will be held at the Liberty Youth Academy at 558 East Riverside Drive, Suite 105 in St. George. Children and teenagers from grades 1 to 12 are eligible. Although some walk-ins are expected, due to the limited amount of appointment slots, Dale requested that interested parents contact her personally at 435-668-4804. Screening times for this morning remain during the 11 o’clock hour.
For those unable to make today’s screenings, Dale has agreed to extend the free screenings by appointment for those that call her anytime this week through next Saturday, to schedule an appointment. Telephone Stephanie Dale at 435-668-4804.
“Liberty and the Dyslexia Center of Utah have combined our efforts because we have seen an increase in children with learning disabilities and a lack of resources to help them,” Dale said. “We want to be that resource for the parents and children of St. George. We want to let people know that there is help (available) for their children and that they are not alone.”
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.