Between 70 and 80 percent of individuals with poor reading skills in America are likely dyslexic and as many as 20 percent of the population has a language-based learning disability, according to education and medical experts.
For as many as five decades, officials at programs in D.C. and in Baltimore have been working diligently to teach low-income children, adults and others with dyslexia and other language-learning disabilities how to read.
For more than a half-century, The Lab School in northwest D.C. has been a leader in the field of learning-differences education. It has a history as a pioneer in the field and a determination to continue to boldly trail blaze, according to officials there who noted that the school’s untiring innovation and groundbreaking methodologies have not only lifted their own students, but have inspired better teaching across the globe.
And for better than three decades, the Dyslexia Tutoring Program in southeast Baltimore has been training local volunteers to work in a program where they offer specialized tutoring consisting of at least 60 hours — on a one-on-one basis — to improve the skills, self-esteem and behavior of dyslexic youth.
Since 1982, the program also has helped to raise awareness for the learning disability that many acknowledge that they’ve never heard of.
“Remember, you didn’t hear years ago about autism either and all of sudden one of the big company CEOs came forward and his grandchild had it and now you see so many things about autism,” said Marcy Kolodny, CEO of the Dyslexia Tutoring Program. “When it came to dyslexia, everyone thought people were dumb or something else. But, those who are dyslexic are extremely intelligent and there are a lot of CEOs who are dyslexic and think outside of the box.”
Dyslexia can affect anyone regardless of race or social and economic status, Kolodny said.
“It’s all over the world,” she said. “If you suspect your child has a learning disability, the earlier you can get that child to a reading specialist, to a psychologist, to be screened and tested, the better it is so that the child can have remediation and avoid going through a lot of things.”
With October serving as National Dyslexia Awareness Month, Kolodny and others from the program are hoping to attract more volunteers.
“We are tutoring over 200 individuals, children and adults, and all of our tutors are trained,” she said. “We have tutors from all walks of life. Judges, retired teachers and others and many become mentors and we have a lot of wonderful success stories.”
Dyslexia affects reading, writing, spelling and sometimes speech, Kolodny said.
The problems displayed by individuals with dyslexia involve difficulties in acquiring and using language, reading and writing letters in the wrong order. However, those are just some of the manifestations of dyslexia.
“There are a number of warning signs including having trouble reading fluently; reversing numbers and letters; a lack of awareness of sound in words or rhymes; difficulty in handwriting; spelling; oral or written comprehension or focus and delayed spoken words,” Kolodny said.
To help sufferers, the Dyslexia Tutoring Program also has a summer program which provides students with the opportunity to increase their reading, spelling and writing skills in a short period of time.
For the summer program, program officials send students to camps at The Jemicy School in Owings Mills and Odyssey School in Stevenson, both located in Baltimore County, and The Gow School and Kildonan School in upstate New York, all private schools for dyslexic children.
At camp, students improve their self-esteem and social skills, and receive four hours of one-on-one and small-group instruction in the areas of reading, oral and written language, and math five days a week for five weeks, Kolodny said.
“We send kids to camp for the first time and they’re not bullied or picked on by others,” Kolodny said.
To learn more about dyslexia, visit www.dyslexiaida.org.