Middletown, New Jersey-based mom Diane Taranto
is her daughter Caroline's biggest advocate. As a mother, Diane considers her
biggest advocates to be fellow parents. When Diane was first navigating the often confusing world of learning disabilities, she credits the support and guidance of other parents with getting her through those difficult times. Now well-versed on the subjects of dyslexia and advocacy herself, Diane helps other families bypass the confusion and avoid dyslexia roadblocks as a Learning Ally Parent Support Specialist.
The road to finding help for Caroline, who is both dyslexic and dysgraphic, had a rocky start. Dyslexia is widely misunderstood and Caroline's school did not identify her learning disability. As a result, she struggled with reading and writing for several years before the family was able to secure a correct diagnosis.
“We were woefully misguided by our school system—not maliciously—but they assumed a lot of things that turned out to be incorrect," Diane says. "By the time my daughter got into third grade, she was still reading at a first grade level. I suspected she might be dyslexic, but I was told by the reading specialist that it couldn't possibly be dyslexia because 'she wasn’t reversing her letters.'"
This misconception is sadly all too common, in both the educational system and the public, and could have caused years more struggle for Caroline. Fortunately, the reading specialist's conclusion didn't dissuade Diane from exploring other possibilities.
"I was taking her to private speech therapy and they introduced me to the Wilson Reading Program. I took her to a Wilson provider and with just one hour a week she was about to jump a grade level over the course of a few months. I knew I was on to something. After that she just took off."
With her daughter finally on the right path, Diane took it upon herself to learn everything she could about dyslexia.
"I became sort of obsessed with reading up on the literature. I dog-eared Sally Shaywitz’s book. I couldn’t get enough of it.
"I decided that, however small, I was going to make a change. I felt like I was on a mission. Now it’s my mission to make sure the next generation of dyslexic kids and their parents don’t face the roadblocks I did."
"I started learning about our rights and became very involved in the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network
as a Resource Parent. Over the years I’ve been called on many times by my Friends of Different Learners group and I’ve often counseled parents who suspect their kids have a learning disability."
This is the same type of role Diane has taken on at Learning Ally as a Parent Support Specialist. For her, the most satisfying aspect is being able to pay it forward and help another struggling family.
"I get a lot of satisfaction from helping families and empowering parents. I know what it’s like to be in that position, and it’s a very difficult position to be in. It’s scary and I felt angry. I felt betrayed by people I trusted my kids to. And the people who got me through that were other parents who I reached out to in my community, and even online. There were people who helped me, and I helped them. I found that very rewarding."
Diane and other Parent Support Specialists are available to offer guidance to any Learning Ally member. For a limited time, free consultations are also open to non-members, based on availability.
To schedule a 30-minute phone consultation with Diane or one of Learning Ally’s other Parent Support Specialists, visit Our Parent Support Team or call 800-635-1403.