If you know five people, chances are you know someone who lives with a learning disability.
Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity estimates of the individuals with a learning disability, nearly 80% have a form of dyslexia.
Rebecca Miller, founder of FixLexia, saw it consistently during her 15 years running a tutoring company in Omaha.
“My husband has a really good phrase for it,” she said. “It’s a problem everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”
Before opening FixLexia, Miller and her husband operated a Club Z! Tutoring franchise for 15 years that provided services for 3,200 students. They had also built relationships with public and private schools and state agencies.
“In our work, I found pervasive reading issues,” she said. “What we embarked on [next] was opening Nebraska’s first dyslexia clinic.”
Opened in 2015, FixLexia provides clinical evaluations to determine if a child meets eligibility for a language or literacy disorder, dyslexia being one of the most common ones.
“There are neural networks in our brain that help us match speech sounds with letters. Individuals with dyslexia have difficulty efficiently making those connections,” Miller said.
Because individuals with dyslexia have a hard time translating sounds to letters, many incorrectly assume that it’s a hearing on vision-based disorder.
“It’s not. We call it a deficit in the core phonological component of language,” she said.
“One of the myths is that reading is primarily a visual task. It’s not. We use visual memory for the storage and retrieval of individual letters, but we do not retrieve individual words. We store and retrieve them from a phonological system.”
One of the other significant misconceptions Miller hears regularly is that individuals living with dyslexia aren’t trying hard enough, or their parents aren’t doing enough.
“I have never met a kid that does not want to learn to read,” she said. “I have met frustrated kids. I have met kids that have given up. I have met heartbroken kids that just want to learn how to read.”
One of the challenges facing children with dyslexia is that parents and teachers often don’t begin to notice an issue until after Pre-K, Grade 1, and Grade 2 “where we can make the most gain.”
“If we used evidence-based instruction, like structured literacy, in school it would be good for all kids. The difference is kids with dyslexia need it earlier, more intensively, and for longer periods of time,” she said.
Presently Miller said many children are taught using balanced literacy, which maintains that the more a child reads, the better they get. That’s why a misconception persists that children who aren’t excelling in reading aren’t trying hard enough, or being given interesting content.
Structured literacy, on the other hand, is modeled by the teacher systematically and sequentially, which helps build foundational skills such as decoding words.
The evaluations to determine if a child has dyslexia take about 15-17 hours and are performed by a licensed speech-language pathologist and a specialist in the special education field.
For the past five years, after the evaluation, an intervention plan was developed using the structured literacy model, including coursework from the American Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators and Dr. David Kilpatrick’s program“Equipped for Reading Success.”
Children would often come to the clinic after school to work with the instructional staff, similar to tutoring.
However, that will change soon as FixLexia moves to an evaluation-only practice.
“Schools are beginning to bring some of these pieces in,” Miller said. “With regard to the instruction, it’s not very robust.”
But, she said, it could become a “too many hands in the cookie
“They’re going to school during the day and possibly learning two methods of how to read. Then after school, they’re going to the clinic,” she said. “It’s too much and it’s not the right thing to do by kids.”
Miller contends that there is plenty of work to be done in the evaluation space, and while they will no longer be providing interventions they will provide resources.
The move will also allow her to spend more time contemplating how she can make a greater impact in Nebraska for kids and educators.
“At the end of the day I may see 100 kids in my clinic,” she said. “But, if we can make teacher training accessible, one teacher is going to see 25 kids a year [then we could help more kids]. If you have one school with four first-grade classes, that’s 100 kids per year.”
Providing structured literacy instruction in school would also eliminate financial barriers for families, and reduce stigma.
Miller encourages parents to call FixLexia for a complimentary consultation if they suspect their child might have dyslexia.
“Parents are the frontline diagnostician,” she said. “They know something’s not quite right, but they don’t know exactly what to do about it.”
402-506-3606 • 7810 Davenport St, Omaha 68114
Social Media: Facebook