Learning to Read with Dyslexia

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reading with dyslexia

Many children enter Sand Hill School feeling broken and alone. Why? Because they learn differently, school has always been a struggle for them, and they haven’t yet discovered their inherent strengths.

We live in a complex world where children are expected to navigate information in a variety of ways at a very early age. Students who learn differently face the world with added challenges piled atop of their academic day. This is especially true when it comes to dyslexia: imagine what it must feel like to be lost in the puzzle of sounds, letters, words and expectations. As a result, these kids shut down, hide, beat themselves up and lose hope.

Struggling with a Learning Difference

Take Lizzie, a third grader at Sand Hill, who came to us last year with a unique profile of academic needs. Before she arrived at Sand Hill in second grade, Lizzie was diagnosed with dyslexia and was reading at a beginning kindergarten level. Lizzie worked extremely hard every day and had tutoring several times a week, but showed little progress. As her mom, Joanna, explained, “It was exhausting for her and her spirit was crushed. She used to love [looking at] books and listening to stories, but over this period of time, she grew to hate them. At home, there were so many tears about everything and anything. She’d cry if she couldn’t find her shoes or if she didn’t get to sit in her favorite spot. Underneath her tough shell was a ball of raw emotion.”

Support, Encouragement, and Personalized Instruction

From the moment Lizzie arrived at Sand Hill, a team surrounded her with support, encouragement and evidence-based methods of instruction. Led by our Literacy Specialist, Lisa Parnello, the staff made an immediate impact on Lizzie’s life. The first step was finding the right small reading group for her through a personalized assessment. She was a perfect fit for Ms. Jones’ Wilson reading group. From there, Ms. Jones embraced Lizzie’s learning differences and empathized with her anxiety, while using coordinated strategies to open her up to the world of reading.

The combination of small group learning, positive classroom environment and intensive instruction has been transformative: “Early this year there was a spark in Lizzie,” remembers Ms. Jones. “She began memorizing the Wilson strategies in class and ran with the instructional methods. Soon, she was applying the strategies across settings.” Sand Hill’s small group format and personal interventions allow students to step back from the competitive realities of school and learn to read at their own pace, using strategies tailored to their unique strengths. The result? Empowered students with a newfound love of learning.

A Renewed Sense of Confidence

“She’s a lighter child,” says Joanna. “She’s quick to laugh instead of quick to cry. Her confidence is back, her smile is back and she’s ready for whatever challenge the day brings. Our family couldn’t be more proud of the growth we’ve seen in Lizzie. We are so very grateful for the loving care and skilled instruction she’s received at Sand Hill School.”

Adds Ms. Jones, “At recess you can now find Lizzie lying under a tree with a smile on her face, enjoying one of her favorite books.”

Jeff Kozlowski


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