This month, we're continuing our specialist of the month series with Dr Elizabeth Cox
, a licensed psychologist who specializes in assessment from Knoxville, Tennessee. Elizabeth offers psycho-educational assessment and consultation via her business, Educational Assessment & Consultation,
and she’s also part of Learning Ally’s specialist network
. We sat down with her earlier this week to find out why she got into the field, and to get her tips on helping others. Our full interview is below.
Dr. Cox, it is so nice to meet you! We all have personal reasons for helping children who have learning disabilities. Why did you decide to go into the assessment side?
I began my psychology career in counseling but quickly found that my strengths and interests were much more aligned with assessment. When working in a program that involved court-referred assessments for children, I became intrigued with the assessment process and the high occurrence of learning issues among the children who were referred. I decided to return to school to continue my education in school psychology. While completing my degree, I attended a National Association of School Psychologists conference and participated in a training workshop led my Nancy Mather, Ph.D. that focused on the assessment of reading and writing disorders. This gave me a vision of a career path that could combine my love for children, assessment and reading. I went on to specialize in dyslexia and the assessment of reading and writing disorders throughout the remainder of my doctoral program and have worked in this area for about 15 years.
I love how everything fell into place to put you on this path of helping others! Do you have any tips that you've learned along the way for other specialists or parents, tutors and teachers?
Most every reading expert will agree that early intervention is critical in minimizing the frustration associated with
learning challenges as well as maximizing the rate of progress. Although there is a great deal of variability in children's academic growth and development, parents and any child-focused specialist should be aware of and take seriously the early warning signs. Children for whom there is a family history of reading delays or other academic issues should be very closely monitored. The following websites are wonderful resources for warning signs and other information as well:
IDA Dyslexia Basics
Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
You've met many students over the years. Can you give one example of a time you felt truly rewarded after helping someone?
It is hard to come up with one story, and I am blessed for the opportunity to help parents and students deal with challenging academic issues. My favorite moments at work share the common theme of helping parents and students realize that challenges in reading and writing do not define a child's ability, worth or potential. This usually happens in two ways. One is when we do an intellectual assessment and reveal areas of strength.
For children, and often their parents, worth as a student and as a learner is often defined in early elementary school by the ease with which he or she learns to read and write. When there is a struggle, the natural assumption is that of generally low ability. To be able to convey to parents and students that this is not the case and to be able to identify and illustrate for them areas of strength is such a joy.
I love to see the spark in students' eyes as they recognize their capabilities and begin to view academics with more hope and confidence.
In the same way, to introduce them to audiobooks and tools such as speech-to-text that allow students to perform at the level of their potential is also very rewarding. Just the other day, a very bright student struggled severely to write a descriptive sentence for me. We went into my office with the attempted sentence, I turned on Dragon Dictation, and showed her how to dictate the sentence. She did very well and dictated it perfectly on the first attempt. She was absolutely amazed to see her sentence pop up on the screen, neatly typed with no spelling errors. She went on to dictate more sentences beaming with excitement. This same student has been able to utilize audiobooks in a similar manner.
Why do you recommend Learning Ally to your clients?
I recommend Learning Ally
because one of my main goals in making recommendations for struggling learners is to allow students to function academically at the level of their potential rather than at the level of a specific challenge they might have. When that challenge is reading, audiobooks available through Learning Ally provide a wonderful way to bridge that gap. Through audiobooks students can have independent access to reading material that matches their ability to comprehend rather than their ability to read independently. As a result, the continued growth of important skills such as vocabulary development, visualization, and comprehension will not be thwarted by challenges in basic reading skills or fluency. Students will maintain a love for reading that might otherwise be destroyed.
Dr. Elizabeth Cox
is a licensed psychologist. She graduated from the University of Tennessee
in 2002 with a doctorate in school psychology and a focus on the assessment and treatment of dyslexia. Opening her own practice in 2012, Cox enjoys working with local speech/language therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, physicians and reading specialists to help in matching the students she assesses with local professionals who can best meet their needs. She also consults with teachers and parents involved in Berean Christian School's Soar
program, a unique educational program designed to meet the needs of bright, struggling readers through specialized instruction, technology and curricular modifications. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and fly fishing.