Help is at hand for struggling readers

Nancy Grindstaff
It can be daunting for both students and parents trying to navigate educational challenges that come with learning differences, including dyslexia, a neurological, language based learning difference that affects one in five, according to studies by the National Institutes of Health.
 Last week, Weiser’s Public Library hosted an hour-long presentation on the topic of dyslexia, led by Kelley Phipps, the director of Fruitland’s CenterPoint Learning Solutions and The Tutoring Center. Families and educators attending got a closer look at characteristics of dyslexia, some insights into new Idaho school requirements, plus ideas for helping students at home.
 Although she comes with an impressive educational and career background, Phipps said her own experiences as a mother is what drives her. In her introduction she said seven of her eight children had specific learning differences, three of them with dyslexia.
 Phipps career in education spans the past 30 years, and includes both general and special education settings, as well as having held directorships in both special ed and special services.
 “I’ve taught in public and virtual schools, I’ve homeschooled, I’ve taught overseas, and then doing the specialty work that I do,” she said. “I’ve kind of seen it all. But, when push comes to shove, I’m a mom.”
 Dyslexia was first identified as a learning difference in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until the early 1980s that less than a handful of states began adding dyslexia specific legislation to their education statutes. Over the past 20-30 years 46 states and Washington D.C. have added and updated legislation, according to, with a majority of those after 2000, and Idaho getting onboard in 2022.
 Since then, Idaho schools are now mandated to screen all kindergarten through fifth grade students for characteristics of dyslexia. Phipps considers the mandate a good start, but hopes the state will beef up the statute so schools have the tools to meet the need, saying she anticipates it to be better effective in another three years..  
 “They didn’t give everyone a screener, they didn’t say exactly what you needed to do, they didn’t set up best practices,” she said. “But, it’s a start. 
 “Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence, whatsoever,” Phipps said. “It has everything to do with language, which has everything to do with perception.
 “When I went to college, and I got a special ed degree and an elementary degree, we didn’t learn anything about dyslexia,” she said. “I moved through working with students having no idea that the reading difficulties they were having could have some kind of name. The characteristics of dyslexia stem from a perceptual standpoint.”
 Phipps provided lists of warning signs that might be apparent in different stages of growth: preschool, elementary school, high school, and as adults. She pointed out that “characteristics are things we look back upon,” especially in very young children. Because of the developmental range of preschoolers, the indicators are not immediately obvious.
 Phipps’ list of recommendations for parents emphasizes reading to their children.
 “Reading to your child is not going to cure them of dyslexia, but it will improve their vocabulary,” she said. “Use big words. Get a dictionary. Read the word. Point to the word. Talk about what that word means. Grow your child’s language because being able to recognize words in speech, so when they hear them they have an idea of what it means and they will be more able to recognize that word pattern in print.”
 Phipps added that dyslexic children can’t afford to take a break from learning.
 “If they get a break from the consistent seeing of words or interacting with math facts, they are going to regress,” she said. “Do what you need to do to keep them engaged, so that they never go a whole summer. Typical kids either stagnate or have learning loss, and  it’s so much worse for our children. I include families because we all feel it.” 
Parenting class offered
 Phipps is offering a 10-week, two hours per week parenting class at the Weiser Public Library,  beginning Monday, Feb. 19. The class is the same course series she took 27 years ago when her own children were small.
 Adding that she had taken the classes because she could earn a credit for it, she is now certified to give credit for the course to educators through NNU.
 “It changed our world,” she said. “The only way I ever changed for me as a parent was to learn some tools to help me control me.”
 The only cost for the course is a $35 fee for the parent handbook, and Phipps said there is help for the cost for parents who need it. Families may register by contacting Phipps at 208-402-6482.


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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