‘Unleashing the Dyslexic brain’

Thanks to a generous supporter's gift, we are training community members to be Dyslexia tutors, bringing much-needed resources to the Dubuque region.

By Kelly Krause, Ed.D
Education Officer

Reading is a wonderful tool for learning about the world around us. For many children, reading comes easily and learning how to read is exciting and fun. But for others, reading can be a challenge that casts a shadow over their experience in school.

In some cases, Dyslexia might be the cause of that struggle. Once thought to be uncommon, Dyslexia actually is estimated to affect "20 percent of the population and represent[s] 80 to 90 percent of all those with learning disabilities,” according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Taking this percentage into account, there could be up to 20,000 children and adults within Dubuque County who are impacted.

At the same time, there are limited services available in many U.S. communities — including Dubuque. The nearest tutoring centers to Dubuque are 1 hour and 30 minutes away in Madison and Cedar Rapids. Now, we are working to change this reality. Thanks to a Community Foundation supporter who is passionate about this issue and wants to bring additional resources to the region, we are working to help train local residents to be Orton Gillingham Dyslexia tutors.

Dyslexia is not just a literacy issue, it’s a community issue, says local resident and business owner J.B. Priest. Both he and his son have Dyslexia.

“Our community will benefit when Dyslexics are allowed to use their unique skills to contribute,” says Priest, says. “Unleashing the Dyslexic brain to work within our society benefits everyone through creative invention and unique perspective.”

The Dyslexic brain functions differently than the non-Dyslexic brain, making it difficult to identify and separate speech sounds within a word and learn how letters represent those sounds. Consequently, what children see and what they say may get mixed up in their processing, resulting in challenges with reading, spelling and writing. Those with Dyslexia might switch similar words or need extra time to read something.

Iowa schools are required to provide universal screening from kindergarten through the third grade as a way for educators to identify reading concerns, but the screening does not diagnose Dyslexia. A diagnosis is done by psychologists or speech and language pathologists after considering several factors such as specific test results and medical history. Once diagnosed, school personnel can assist students, and it is of the utmost importance that the community works to provide resources and support for those who are affected, as well.

Training tutors will enable us and our nonprofit and school district partners deliver on the goal of ensuring all children have the resources they need to succeed in school and life. This includes supporting reading proficiency by the end of third grade, a key predictor of high school graduation and major component of our Every Child Reads initiative.

While Dyslexia can pose challenges, it doesn’t have to limit children’s learning. Thanks to the generous supporter helping fund our tutor-training initiative, we are bringing much-needed resources — and peace of mind — to families in the Dubuque region.