Dyslexia is the most common known learning disorder, but specialized resources for both students and teachers is often lacking. Sioux Falls Christian Schools is looking to change that in their community.
Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia does not just mean a reader confuses letters. It exists on a spectrum and can render a person illiterate without direct intervention.
Carmen Heethuis is the director of the Pathways Literacy Center at Sioux Falls Christian Schools. She says they focus on dyslexia because it’s so common: 1 in 5 people fall somewhere on the spectrum.
“When you think about a classroom size of even just 20 kids, if 20% of those kids potentially have dyslexia that’s a large number of kids that aren’t being reached.”
Heethuis invited Iowa-based dyslexia expert Nina Lorimor-Easley to lead a workshop for Sioux Falls Christian’s elementary teachers. Lorimor-Easley developed a program to help parents and teachers identify the disorder in their students after two of her own children were diagnosed with dyslexia.
“Parents and educators, they need it in a format they can apply today," she says. "Giving them homework to do, you know, ‘Study this over the summer and hopefully it will help you in your classroom,’ is not helpful. They need to be able to sit and go, ‘Ok I can do this tomorrow in my classroom.”
The workshop covers common signs of dyslexia, from poor spelling to behavioral issues caused by frustration in school. It also includes simulations of dyslexia through scrambled words.
Lauren Fey teaches fourth grade at Sioux Falls Christian. She says the workshop will help her empathize with her students.
“I think it’s just gonna be more on my brain now, those little warning signs for each student, so, knowing that I’ve got resources around me that I can go to somebody and ask for help if I think that somebody is showing some of these warning signs of dyslexia,” she says.
The Pathways Literacy Center offers tutoring for both Sioux Falls Christian students and members of the surrounding community.