by Kelly Haws, Learning Ally's Specialist of the Month
When my son was in kindergarten, he was referred for reading services. I just couldn't believe it because I had read to this child even before he was born! So, that got me started on the path to learn more about dyslexia.
Currently, I work part-time for two different school systems - a public school and a private school. It's a unique situation! For the past 28 years, I've been a special education teacher in the Sartell-St. Stephen
public school district in Minnesota, but I'm also in my very first year as a dyslexia specialist for All Saints Academy
, the private school, where we use a co-coaching model (more on that in just a bit).
The Barton Reading and Spelling
program is used in both school systems. I love the Barton program! Twelve years ago, I actually went with a former principal of mine to listen to Susan Barton
speak. My principal felt some kids at our school were falling through the cracks, and this would be a good system to put into place.
What we're finding is, once students get to about level 4 of the Barton program, they are just SOARING! Once parents start to see the progress, they are sold on it as well. By about the middle of level 4, we've got readers on our hands and kids who are so motivated.
In the public school, we use Barton primarily for kids who are referred for reading services. It's our "go to" program. However, last year, All Saints (the private school) hired me part time as a dyslexia
specialist to participate in their new co-coaching model.
In this program, kids are referred for reading help by either a teacher or a parent. For those kids, we do something really special and unique! While they are in Barton levels 1 and 2, I tutor them after school or on the weekends, and their parent will sit at the table with me during the session. This is at no extra cost to the parent.
Once a child reaches Barton level 3, the parent has two options: they can either continue with me on the co-coaching model or they can transition back to campus where a hired Barton Reading Coach will take over full time. The reason we do levels 1 and 2 with parents is so parents can get a solid foundation in how to help their child at home. It's really been a wonderful experience so far, and I wish more schools would do it!
Enjoy this short video of one of my students explaining the co-coaching model:
I also do dyslexia screenings. Not too long ago, a young teacher at a private school contacted me. We suspected he had dyslexia, but it had never been diagnosed. He was working on a temporary teacher license, and doing a fabulous job - but he needed to pass an exam in order to get is full licensure. If he didn't pass this year, he could no longer teach. He had taken the exam and failed 7 times before coming to me! So, I tested him for dyslexia. The exam board accepted my results, and approved him for the accommodation of time and a half. On the next try, he raised his score by seven full points and PASSED THE TEST! Students with dyslexia really need that extra time. It doesn't change the rigor of the exam, but they need that extra time to process.
In addition to proper intervention and screening, I also love audiobooks! That is a go to strategy in both of my public and private school districts. My students just LOVE Learning Ally
! Parents that I work with say that Learning Ally has opened up a door for their children.
Students are building vocabulary and turning into readers - especially when kids are finding series of books! They can't wait to get to the next one!
One thing of note - many schools nationwide do Accelerate Reader
. I've found students who have dyslexia are so often assigned what they consider to be "baby books." They are frustrated! Learning Ally can change that as they can finally ear read at grade level. These students had something they were avoiding doing because it was difficult, and now they are excited!
To circle back, my own son is now a sophomore in high school. Even though he has had Orton-Gillingham and can read, he still puts everything on Learning Ally. It really puts the joy back in reading for our kids!
About the author:
Kelly Haws is a special education teacher in the Sartell-St.Stephen public school district in Minnesota as well as a dyslexia specialist at All Saints Academy, a private school. She has 28 years of experience, and is Learning Ally's April 2016 Specialist of the Month
To find out more about Learning Ally, visit LearningAlly.org.