Children's Dyslexia Center in Bay City serves families through the region

If you think dyslexia means reading words backward or reversing letters, think again. 

“Dyslexia is the number one most misunderstood disability that exists. It's also the most underdiagnosed disability,” said Nancy Williams, director of the Children’s Dyslexia Center in Bay City. Since opening in 1998, the center has served hundreds of families from throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Dyslexia is a spectral disability, meaning it's a range of linked conditions with similar symptoms and traits. Spectral disorders look different for each person, so they're often difficult to diagnose. Experts estimate the number of people with dyslexia at somewhere between 5-25% of the population. Williams believes dyslexia may affect up to 20 to 25% of the population.

“There is not a test you can give that at the end of the test, we will have an answer. (Diagnosis) is the interpretation of several different tests,” said Williams.

The most common misconception of dyslexia is that words are read backward or that dyslexic people reverse their letters. “That really doesn’t have anything to do with it… It's the way the brain processes language,” said Williams.

For a non-dyslexic reader, the left side of the brain is activated while reading. This side of the brain is responsible for logic, analysis, sequencing, linear thinking, mathematics, factual thinking, and language.

For the dyslexic reader, the right side of the brain is activated. The right side of the brain is responsible for creativity, imagination, emotion, holistic thinking, melody, and feelings. “Which is not in any way related to language or reading, so we create a pathway from the right side of the brain to the left side of the brain.”

To combat that, the Children's Dyslexia Center relies on the Orton-Gillingham’s Multi-Sensory Method, which teaches reading through a multi-sensory approach. Tutors convey Information through sight, hearing, movement, and touch. For example, students may tap out each sound of a word with their fingers and thumbs to help them break the words down.

“Multisensory structured language teaches 100% of kids how to understand language better, but for kids with dyslexia and struggling readers it's the only way they are going to understand language. They say statistically 80% of the population will figure out how to read regardless of what you do. Twenty percent will only learn using this type of multisensory method,” said Williams. She added, “We need to teach kids how to read based on how their brain processes language so that 100% of our kids have the best chance possible.”

William’s educational background is in Special Education. Her master’s degree is in Reading Specialty and diagnosing reading difficulties and interventions. She had never heard of the Orton-Gillingham method of teaching before visiting the Children’s Dyslexia Center when her son was diagnosed with dyslexia.

“My goal is to get teachers to understand that and teach kids from kindergarten on because all of our students could read better.”

Signs of dyslexia can be subtle. One sign of dyslexia, for example, is the inability to choose a dominant hand. “Even handwriting. Kids who start the at the [vertical] red line on a piece of paper but then keep going farther and farther to the right going down each line where now they can only fit one or two words on a line because they kept angling over... It's a spatial issue where they don’t have the ability to see that you can go straight down on one side,” explained Williams.

Other signs may include:
  • Skipping crawling and going directly from sitting up and scooching to walking.
  • The inability to understand time.
  • Taking stairs one foot at a time, not alternating going up.
  • Difficulty counting money.
  • The ability to gallop but not skip.
  • The inability to isolate sound and manipulate sounds within language, or to rhyme.
“It's so much more complex than just they reverse their B’s and D’s or see “ was” as “ saw”. It's a comprehensive way the brain is processing information.”

For over two decades, the Scottish Rite Masons, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, have lead the effort to help children with dyslexia. Their mission is “To help children with dyslexia reach their full potential; to help families end the frustration, guilt, and disruption caused by dyslexia; and to help communities by developing Children’s Dyslexia Centers to help youngsters succeed in and out of school.”

Children's Dyslexia Centers, Inc. provides tutoring at no charge to children from early elementary through high school who have been diagnosed as dyslexic. Children are eligible regardless of economic status. The tutoring program for students involves individual one-on-one sessions twice a week for one hour, 34 weeks a year.

Today the Scottish Rite Masons fully fund 40 dyslexia centers in 13 states. In 1998, the Children’s Dyslexia Center in Bay City opened with 3 tutors and 5 children. Hundreds of children have now completed the program in Bay City, with a success rate of 92% reading at or above their grade level.

“We start our tutoring training every year in June, so right now we are looking for people who will come in and take the training! If we could get 10-12 tutors we could virtually eliminate our wait list.”

Click here to learn more about dyslexia or to learn how to help the Children’s Dyslexia Center in Bay City. Click here to visit the center's Facebook page.
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