Professional development presentations offered by Reading Success Plus are an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of learning disabilities. Participants also will learn how those how people with those disabilities can thrive in school, the community, and the workplace.
“It’s about understanding dyslexia on a deeper level than most people know about,” says Lawrence Kloth, co-founder of Reading Success Plus.
“We want to understand dyslexia in a different light, explain that it isn’t just about spelling words backward or flipping letters. It’s a lot more than that.
“We try to dispel myths and misconceptions, using the latest research. We talk about ADHD in depth. We talk about how dyslexia and ADHD correlate and how they are different. That’s super-important because we want to make sure we have the correct diagnosis.”
These sessions also explain some of the conditions that often coexist with dyslexia, such as dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting) and dyscalculia (difficulty with numbers). They also discuss autism, which is a separate condition from dyslexia but often affects our students, sometimes complicating remediation.
“People often think dyslexia exists just by itself, and that’s just not the case,” Lawrence says. “Not with the students we deal with.”
A key part of our professional development presentations is the use of simulations that help participants understand what it is like to have dyslexia. While lectures, PowerPoints and statistics are useful, the simulations create a powerful, personal understanding.
“We want them to get the experience so they can say, ‘This is what it’s like to be dyslexic,’” Lawrence says.
In one such exercise, workshop participants are given handouts to read. These worksheets start out normally, but then become jumbled and difficult to read.
Another activity asks participants to write down what a speaker is saying. That is difficult for students with dyslexia because it takes them longer to process language than typical students.
“We’ll start out at normal speed, and then we get faster and faster and tell them, ’Why aren’t you keeping up? We’ve got this material to get through and you have to take notes.’”
This drill shows participants that if dyslexic students aren’t given accommodations, they will fail – not because they don’t understand the material, but because their brains do not allow them to process it quickly enough.
Then, consider a student with dyslexia plus dysgraphia, which interferes with the hand-mind connection needed to write.
“Suppose you ask them to write something on the board,” Lawrence says. “They’re going to have an awful time, because they need more time to think about how to spell the word, then will struggle to write it, and before they finish that, oh, we’re on to the next slide.”
These exercises give participants a first-hand understanding of the importance of accommodations.
“Make sure the students have the proper information to complete the assignment by giving them the teacher’s lecture notes or having someone else share their notes,” Lawrence adviseas. “That way, they can relax and focus on the information instead of taking notes.”
Sharing the latest research
This first-hand experience of what dyslexia is like is always eye-opening. But we also share hard, clinical evidence about these learning disorders.
One fact often startles those unfamiliar with the condition: dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting 15 to 20 percent of the population, with varying degrees of severity.
Dyslexia is is the leading cause of reading failure and school dropouts in the nation. Recent research points to a higher prevalence than once thought.
“Everybody likes to see the data, right?” Lawrence says. “So, we give them statistics and explain the latest research. We want them to understand that what we’re saying isn’t just hyperbole. It’s actually backed up by science.”
The presentations also explain the warning signs and symptoms of dyslexia, so teachers, parents or even bosses may understand why someone is struggling in school or on the job.
Our professional development programs would be beneficial to anyone. After all, with dyslexia affecting one in five people, everyone is bound to know someone affected. But some will find the information especially useful.
Educators. No group is more involved in the world of learning disabilities than educators. Teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, and other administrators deal with struggling students every day. Many are immersed in the same world of IEPs and 504 (c) plans that our students and their families must navigate.
But that does not necessarily lead to an understanding of dyslexia. Many teachers – even many reading specialists – go through college without a meaningful discussion of that disability. Not all special education departments accept a diagnosis of dyslexia. Many do not use programs demonstrated to be effective in dealing with it. Schools sometimes neglect student accommodations and assistive technology required under IEPs and 504 plans. And some educators deny that dyslexia even exists. So, while all teachers work with dyslexic students, not all are equipped to teach them effectively.
“We want to give teachers the opportunity to reach these students that they might not have been able to reach before,” Lawrence says.
He acknowledges the difficulty teachers face in adapting to teaching styles for which they haven’t been prepared. A professional development session could be the first step in an educator’s personal evolution.
“We want to help the teacher or administrator to understand what these kids are going through,” Lawrence says.
“Let’s give students the proper accommodations. Let’s give them the tools they need, and the understanding, and the compassion.”
Health professionals: Reading Success Plus has long worked with psychologists and medical professionals by providing remediation in reading, spelling, fluency, comprehension, writing, grammar and math for students and adults. Professional development adds another dimension to that relationship by providing up-to-date research and best practices for helping those with dyslexia.
RSP presentations are useful for psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, speech and language pathologists, social workers, occupational therapists and vision professionals.
Businesses: It’s apparent why educators, psychologists, and therapists would have an interest in understanding dyslexia. But why would business operators be interested in a reading disorder?
“There are big potential benefits,” Lawrence says. “People with dyslexia are bright, creative, they think outside the box. They have so many great ideas. They can be fabulous employees.”
The Reading Success Plus Wall of Fame highlights some of the best-known of these thinkers. Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Robin Williams, Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs are among the world-changing figures with dyslexia.
Many of the biggest success stories come from the worlds of entertainment, music, and other creative arts. But they are excel at a disproportionately high rate in parts of the business world.
A 2008 study found that though people with dyslexia make up 15 percent of the general population, they account for 35 percent of entrepreneurs in the United States.
“Dyslexic entrepreneurs were more likely to own several companies, employed more staff and were better at delegation,” it found, perhaps because the coping skills they developed to compensate for dyslexia gave them an edge in the business world.
Many companies already have such workers on their payrolls, their talent perhaps obscured by poorly written emails or a mediocre GPA in school.
“Chances are they’ve got some really bright employees at their company who are flying under the radar, or maybe even struggling, because their reading is holding them back, or because they have trouble spelling,” Lawrence says.
“If employers want to give them a fair chance by providing accommodations, and if they’re open to paying for tutoring as a job benefit, they can help a not-so-great employee become a great employee.”
Set up your professional development session
Reading Success Plus professional development presentations can be made in our offices, or we can come to your site. Online presentations also are available. We can scale them for groups of any size, from a handful of participants around a table to hundreds of people in an auditorium.
For more information, including costs, or to set up a program for your group, call Reading Success Plus at 833-229-1112.
Reading Success Plus has offices in Grand Rapids and Troy. It offers one-on-one tutoring online or in person in reading, math and writing, as well as personal and family coaching. You can get more information at readingsuccessplus.com. To contact us, call 833-229-1112 or go online to https://readingsuccessplus.com/#contact.