July 26, 2013 by Christina Hamlett
A Conversation with Holly York
For people born with a learning disability such as dyslexia, it can be a lifelong challenge to not only process and interpret visual information but also to express themselves clearly in conversations. Not surprisingly, the frustrations inherent in performing tasks that come easily to their peers can lead to low self-esteem, lack of confidence and high levels of stress. Holly York, Dyslexia Specialist and Founder of York Educational Services, LLC (www.yorkeducationalservices.com), is passionate about screening for dyslexia, offering specialized tutoring, and providing advocacy, speaker and informational workshops.
Q: While a lot of people have heard the word “dyslexia,” not everyone knows what it means. Can you start by enlightening us about its causes and symptoms?
A: Dys= Difficulty with
Dyslexia= Difficulty with Language
The simple answer is dyslexia is an inherited condition, which makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell in one’s native language—despite at least average intelligence.
Dyslexia is a language processing disorder so it can affect all forms of language, whether spoken or written. Dyslexia is considered a Specific Learning Disability, neurological in origin.
Dyslexia is not a disease, and people with dyslexia are not unmotivated, stupid or lazy. Typically they have average to above-average intelligence, and they work very hard to overcome their learning challenges.
In fact, there is a long list of famous people with dyslexia! The list includes Patrick Dempsey, Cher, Orlando Bloom, Anderson Cooper, Keira Knightley, Tony Bennett, Jewel, John Lennon, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Tommy Hilfiger, Erin Brockovich, Magic Johnson, Richard Branson and Charles Schwab, just to name a few.
Q: Is dyslexia a rare condition?
A: No, it‘s very common. In fact, the numbers are staggering. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately one in five people have some degree of dyslexia. And in schools, most students with dyslexia will go unidentified and, therefore, not get the instruction they need for a successful education.
It’s a sad reality that it can be a struggle for children with dyslexia to get the type of instruction they need and deserve. Because most schools’ methods of instruction do not meet the needs of students with dyslexia, these children are forced to endure trials and tribulations far beyond typical peers. Their parents and/or caregivers are left to fight for what should be a child’s basic educational rights. This happens every day in school districts across the country!
Q: What are some of the common misconceptions about dyslexia? For instance, does a person with dyslexia see everything backwards?
A: That is a great question! There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding dyslexia but the two most common are:
1) Myth: That people with dyslexia see things backward.
Fact: People with dyslexia do not see things backwards, and they don’t have a vision problem. People with dyslexia see things the same way you and I do.
What is really happing is the dyslexic learner is running through a rolodex of words in the mind and searching for a word they know. That is why a dyslexic person will read “saw” instead of “was”, “girl” instead of “grill”, “from” instead of “form” and so on.
All of those words have the same shape or the same letters in a different order. This is why dyslexia is not a vision issue and why vision training does not work for my students.
2) Myth: That dyslexia doesn’t exist or falls under the “umbrella” of reading disorders.
Fact: Dyslexia is one of the most researched and documented conditions impacting children and adults. Over 30 years of independent, scientific, replicated, published research exists on dyslexia. Much of this research has been done through the National Institute of Health and is funded by taxpayer dollars. This research can be found in books, websites and Dyslexia organizations.
Take a look at the Dyslexia Fact Sheet published by the International Dyslexia Association.
Q: Is there a cure or a treatment available for people with dyslexia?
A: No, there is no cure for dyslexia. It is a lifelong issue. However, with the correct diagnosis and instruction, people with dyslexia can learn and succeed. Early intervention is critical!
That means, waiting in hopes that a child’s struggles in school will disappear, as they get older, is the worst thing you can do. Dyslexia will not go away and the child will only get further and further behind unless that child gets the right type of instruction. Research shows that 95% of reading failure is preventable when using appropriate reading systems, well-trained teachers, and teaching with fidelity.
As far as treatment is concerned, it is all in the instruction! As far back as the 1930’s, Dr. Orton and Anna Gillingham developed a unique method and sequence to significantly improve the reading and spelling skills of children and adults with dyslexia.
All the latest scientific, independent, replicated reading research supports using the Orton-Gillingham sequence and methodology when teaching reading to students with dyslexia. And yet most teachers, reading and resource specialists are not exposed to even one of the Orton-Gillingham-based systems during their years in college.
I can personally attest to this fact because my oldest son just graduated from college with a teaching degree in special education, yet he did not have one class that discussed this method of instruction or the impact of dyslexia.
Here is a list of some of the most well known Orton-Gillingham based systems:
Orton-Gillingham: The pure, unchanged, original method. Taught by Eileen Faggiano, Orton Gillingham Associates, in Massachusetts. (781) 934-5548
Slingerland: Designed for classroom settings of young children in the first, second, and third grades. The Slingerland Institute is in Washington. (425) 453-1190—www.Slingerland.org
Barton Reading & Spelling System: Designed for one-on-one tutoring of children, teenagers and adults by parents and/or caregivers, volunteer tutors, reading or resource specialists or their aides, and professional tutors. The Barton System is the easiest one to learn because all of the tutor training comes on DVD, along with fully scripted lesson plans. Published by Bright Solutions for Dyslexia in California. (408) 559-3652— www.BartonReading.com
Recipe for Reading: Published by Educators Publishing Service (EPS) (516) 242-8943— eps.schoolspecialty.com/products/details.cfm?seriesonly=491M
Language!: Sopris West, which was acquired by Cambium Learning Group. (800) 547-6747— www.SoprisLearning.com
Wilson Reading System: Wilson Language Training Corporation in Massachusetts. (800) 899-8454—www.WilsonLanguage.com
Q: At what age can dyslexia be detected in a child?
A: A child can be professionally diagnosed with dyslexia as early as 5½ years old. Dyslexia cannot be officially diagnosed using one single test because dyslexia can range from mild, moderate, severe, or profound.
Also, dyslexia can impact multi areas of development. That’s why a professional will use from 10 to 12 tests to investigate each area which might be impacted by dyslexia and to determine to what degree.
Most public schools are reluctant to test children before third grade, and often suggest that their child will “outgrow” his or her reading, spelling, or writing difficulties. However, research shows that waiting is the worst thing you can do.
If it’s dyslexia, a child will not outgrow his or her difficulties. And it takes less time to fix the reading and spelling difficulties when dyslexia is discovered at age 6 than waiting until age 9—or 19, or even older. The older the child, the more failure and stress they have experienced both at home and school. Often times, when working with a child over 9 years old, I will have to work really hard to break down the walls of “failure” before my student can be “available” for learning again. Parents and/or Caregivers need to understand that using the right tests is only half the battle. A person who is not an expert or is not trained by an expert in dyslexia may give the right tests but may not know how to accurately interpret the results for dyslexia.
That’s why it is imperative that testing be done by a professional who is an expert in dyslexia or by a professional who has received intense specialized training in how to give, score and accurately, interpret the testing results.
Unfortunately, most school psychologists have not had this type of specialized training. If you want to find out if a school psychologists, or any other potential professional that you’re considering, is trained, a caregivers should ask; “What specialized training have you completed that qualifies you to test a child for dyslexia?” If they can answer that question easily and confidently, you be assured that they have been trained.
Q: In order to get help for their child, what steps does a parent need to know?
A: Learn About Dyslexia
Parents and/or caregivers will need to expand their knowledge via books, documented research, attending conferences or seminars, and speaking with specialists in the field of dyslexia. The following is a list links that will help parents and/or caregivers start their journey of understanding dyslexia.
Talk to your child about Dyslexia
It is extremely important that children understand dyslexia and why they struggle in school. Knowledge is power, and children at any age are capable of understanding their challenges with dyslexia.
Collaborate with educators
I have found that open and honest communication works the best. It is important to remember that schools do not diagnosis dyslexia, and even today, educators are given misinformation regarding dyslexia. As of January 2013, only 13 states have laws in place regarding dyslexia.
Be prepared to hire a specialized tutor
There is no quick fix for dyslexia and most schools do not provide instruction that works for children with dyslexia. Depending on the severity of the individual’s dyslexia, frequency of intervention, their age and grade level when they find the right help, it can take from 1 to 3 years to get a dyslexic child reading and spelling at grade level.
Appreciate the strengths of individuals with Dyslexia
I think it is important that parents and/or caregivers understand the challenges of dyslexia but also celebrate the strengths of their child. Dyslexics have many exceptional strengths; an informed parent will be empowered to effectively communicate their child’s needs. Exercising this power leads to a better understanding of your child and the joy of knowing that their child will succeed.
Q: How did you become interested in dyslexia?
A: In order to understand my interest in dyslexia, you need to know a little bit about me. I was one of seven children and, as a result, I didn’t have much support for my schoolwork at home. I was a struggling student throughout school, but I was determined to go to college. My childhood dream was to be a teacher of struggling students and that never changed. I remember being in a classroom feeling stupid and not knowing why learning was so difficult for me.
As a special education teacher, I often came across students who did not respond to my methods of instruction. I would meet with the school psychologist and present my concerns and find that they would not be able to help me. Because I would mention the fact that these students showed reversals with letters and numbers, they would tell me it was dyslexia and nothing else. At the time, I didn’t know any better and the brain research was not available.
I remember going to a reading workshop once where the speaker explained that dyslexia fell under the “umbrella” of reading disorders. Again, I believed what I was told and shared the same information with parents and/or caregivers for many years. Boy was I wrong!
It wasn’t until I became an administrator and attended a reading conference, that I learned the truth about dyslexia. The first comment out of the speaker’s mouth was “I get very frustrated when I hear administrators and teachers tell parents that dyslexia falls under the umbrella of a reading disorder.” I wanted to hide under my chair at that very moment! I was sure that the speaker was talking to me!
During that two-hour session, I learned about the extensive research that had been done on individuals with dyslexia. This information changed my life forever! The good news was that my school district was using a curriculum that was appropriate for dyslexic learners. Whew!
Over next 10 years, I started using this new information to educate teachers, administrators, parents and/or caregivers. My job as a Special Education Supervisor was to write Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) and make placement decisions for students with special needs. My knowledge about dyslexia enabled me create IEP’s that met the unique needs of students with dyslexia.
At the same time, my youngest son was struggling in school and was given an IEP. Now I was the mom on the other side of the table trying to figure out what my child needed to succeed in school. I now fully understood how parents and/or caregivers felt when they were trying to figure out their child’s needs in a school setting. Furthermore, I also felt the frustration of the school not providing the services my own child needed.
Using the knowledge I acquired through various classes, training, seminars, and research, I spent three years volunteering my time to tutor students with dyslexia as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of the methods I had learned. The results were amazing! I was making a difference and witnessing my students gain confidence in their abilities and have a better attitude toward school.
By 2010, my position at the district was changing and I viewed this as an opportunity to pursue my passion for working with students with dyslexia. Shortly thereafter, I formed York Educational Services, LLC.
Q: What inspired you to open York Educational Services, LLC?
A: For over 28 years, I have devoted my life to creating better educational opportunities for students with special needs. My professional experience as a special education teacher and administrator in the area of Special Education, as well as my own personal experience as a mother of a child that struggled in school, has given me a unique insight into the world of education. I have used this insight to blaze the trail of educational rights for students and adults with, through York Education Services, LLC.
I established York Educational Services, LLC in July of 2010 with one goal in mind: to empower students and adults with dyslexia to realize and fulfill their true potential. I provide screening services for dyslexia, specialized tutoring and informational workshops about dyslexia, professional development for educators and advocacy services for my clients in order to change the lives of children and adults who may not have previously had the ability, or even the opportunity, to be strong learners.
Q: What types of services does your company provide?
A: York Educational Services, LLC provides specialized tutoring, Screening for dyslexia, informational seminars for educators and parents, caregivers, and advocacy for students and adults with dyslexia. As part of my ongoing commitment to stay informed with current research and practices regarding dyslexia, I am constantly in touch with experts in the field and regularly attend classes and training about dyslexia.
Q: Any special success stories you’d like to share?
A: Yes, it is with great pleasure that I share a poem written by Shawn who came to me because he was failing his senior year of high school.
Last winter Mr. Cork contacted me about his son, Shawn, who had always struggled in school and was now a senior in high school and failing every class. After reviewing my webpage and watching a video that I had posted, Mr. Cork saw himself and the struggles he experienced in school. This realization was very emotional for him and, with his new understanding that dyslexia is inherited; he was desperate to find help for his son.
You see, Mr. Cork never went to college because he didn’t think he was smart enough! He is a gifted coach and was a blue-collar worker. He now sees his potential for college and has begun tutoring with me.
As for his son, I worked with Shawn for five months and he flourished! He now has the “tools” to understand how to turn his learning challenges into successes.
Shawn wrote this poem in his creative writing class. The teacher shared it with the Principal of the school and asked Shawn to read it during an all-school assembly. This was an incredible moment for Shawn! He read his poem at the assembly and then answered questions about dyslexia!
I am thrilled to say that Shawn passed all of his classes and graduated from high school in May 2013. This poem is an excellent example of how knowledge is power!
DYSLEXIA POEM by Shawn Cork
Scribbles on a page
Bring me into a haze
Words fly around
My head just wants to beat them
To the ground
Dyslexia is hard to overcome
But I know for a fact I’m not dumb
Matter of fact I’m really bright
Brighter than a light
My ideas soar higher than a kite
D – U – M – B
Does not stand for me
S – M – A – R – T
Now that sounds like me
Hard work and dedication
Is my motivation
Dyslexia is not hard to conquer
But it can be a big monster
I need to continue to keep my spirits held high
I need to give the disability a drive-by
Q: How did you go about marketing your services to prospective clients?
A: All of my clients have been through referrals of prior students, my website, and my name is on a specialized tutoring list of an expert in the field of dyslexia that I trained with several times of the past 10 years.
Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
A: Everything I now know about dyslexia has been the result of the perfect timing and personal life circumstances. It’s been a journey of discovery. As much as I wish I’d known more about the condition early in my career, I would not change a thing. The years it has taken to expand my knowledge and expertise has created a passion and a drive that I may not otherwise have. That passion causes me to want to empower parents to advocate for their child and raise awareness to administrators and teachers who have the opportunity change lives every day! If I keep planting seeds of information about dyslexia within the school systems, one-day teachers will use an Orton Gillingham method to teach all children. In a nutshell, I know so much more about dyslexia, but I also understand more about myself too. That awareness, to me, is what helps my business prosper. It’s not just a job it’s a passion.
Q: Does social media factor into educating and enlightening others about dyslexia and raising their awareness?
A: Social media is a powerful way to educate and enlighten my followers by providing updated information about dyslexia. I am able to post videos, articles, helpful hints, and provide feedback to questions, based on my experience. I belong to several dyslexia parent groups online, and I enjoy hearing success stories and offering hope to people who are just learning to navigate dyslexia.
Social media is an area that I continue to explore and learn as I go. In the next twelve months my goal is to expand my presence via social media as a way to engage more people in discussions about dyslexia.
Q: How can readers learn more about York Educational Services?
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: First, I would like to thank you Biz Buzz for the opportunity to spotlight my business and help me spread the “truth” about dyslexia.
Next, I would like to add some of the warning signs for Dyslexia.
If you have three or more warning signs, it could be Dyslexia! If your child has trouble in the early levels of school, GET HELP IMMEDIATELY! Do not wait to see if your child will grow out of it.
SYMPTOMS OF DYSLEXIA
- Delayed speech
- Mixing up the sounds & syllables in words
- Chronic ear infections
- Severe reactions to childhood illnesses (colds, flu, etc.)
- Trouble memorizing their address, phone number, or the alphabet
- Constant confusion of left versus right
- Late establishing a dominant hand
- Prefers Velcro shoes due to difficulty learning to tie shoes
- Cannot create words that rhyme
- A close relative with dyslexia
- Dysgraphia (slow, non-automatic handwriting that is difficult to read)
- Letter and/or number reversals continuing past the end of first grade
- Extreme difficulty learning cursive
- Extremely poor spelling
- Often cannot remember sight words (i.e. they, were, does)
- Slow, choppy, inaccurate reading – guesses based on shape or content – skips or misreads prepositions (at, to, of) – ignores suffixes – cannot sound out unknown words
- Difficulty telling time on a clock with hands
- Jokes are frustrating because they don’t understand the humor in words.
- Frequently omit beginning sounds (pisgetti for spaghetti or pacific for specific) or changes a sound within a word (aminal for animal or gril for girl)
- Problems in math – memorizing multiplication tables – memorizing a sequence of steps – directionality
- Difficulty in finding the correct word – lots of “whatchamacallit” & “thingies”
- Extremely messy bedroom, backpack, & desk
- Dreads going to school – complains of stomachaches or headaches – frequently asks to stay home from school
- All of the other symptoms plus:
- Limited vocabulary
- Extremely poor written expression – large discrepancy between verbal skills and written
- Unable to master a foreign language
- Difficulty in reading printed music
- Poor grades in many classes due to low test scores and missing work.
- May drop out of high school
- Education history similar to above plus:
- May have to read a page 2 or 3 times to understand it
- Extremely poor spelling
- Difficulty in putting thoughts onto paper – dreads writing memos or letters
- Difficulty with right versus left continues
- Confusion of north, south, east, and west. Often gets lost, even in a familiar city
- Understanding or reading a map is extremely difficult
- Sometimes still confuses b and d
Finally, in life anything is possible as long as you are willing to explore the world around you! Remember to dream BIG and in FULL color!