Educators, community can get a read on dyslexia at PC READS event
As Jacqueline Blake and Elissa Aten spent the last two years advocating for dyslexic students through their organization PC READS, one trend became apparent: Dyslexia can be a mystery even to the best educators.
"We have talked to many teachers in the district and out of the district," Blake said. "So many of them have shared with us that they’ve never had any education on many learning disabilities, dyslexia being one of them, and don’t really know what to look for — when they do see it, they’re not sure what it is. So for us, this first awareness factor for teachers is so important."
To that end, PC READS is devoting its efforts to educating teachers, administrators, parents and other community members about dyslexia. It has organized a free event, called Dyslexia for a Day, scheduled for Saturday, April 23, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Utah Olympic Park. Space for the event is limited. To register, visit parkcityreads.org.
The event is being put on with the help of financial contributions from the Ty & Karen Hall Charitable Foundation. The Halls, who are relatively new to Park City, also have a dyslexic child and see the event as a way to make a difference in the community.
Karen Hall said teachers in Florida were often unable to give her son the help he needed, and she had to advocate for him throughout his school years. She hopes the event makes it so some families here don’t have to go through a similar experience.
"Teachers want to understand it and they want to learn," she said. "We’re just trying to bring about awareness so people don’t have to fight the way we had to fight every year. Park City is so progressive, and it has such a great school system. We think we’re at the right place at the right time to bring that awareness."
Two speakers from the Dyslexia Training Institute in San Diego will give a presentation at the event. There will also be a simulation designed to show people what it’s actually like to have the reading disability.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to spread awareness and increase knowledge in our community," Aten said. "We’re particularly excited for educators to attend."
Blake added that the Park City School District has been supportive. Teachers who participate will earn a certificate of attendance, which can be used toward relicensure credits.
"We are consulting with the district, and it’s a positive relationship," she said. "And it’s moving better every day."
As well as putting on the event, PC READS is beginning a new program designed to pair young students with older students who are also dyslexic. The goal of the program, called Mentors Inspiring and Nurturing Dyslexics (MIND), is to show young dyslexic students that they are not alone. The older students will show them that the reading disability doesn’t have to hold them back.
"One of the hardest things for kids with learning disabilities and dyslexia, for sure, is the anxiety and stress that they’re under," Blake said. "There’s a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety in school, and so these young adults have kind of gone through all that and come out on the other side very positively."
The mentoring program will include social events, and the older mentors will also call and spend time with the younger students. The first event is scheduled for April 30, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Jupiter Bowl.
Blake is hopeful the program will change the lives of the students involved. She said she has seen the difference friendships with other dyslexics can make for young students.
"They have shared that, once they saw there were other kids struggling in certain areas, they learned that there is a light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "Once they saw all that, it did become much easier for them. You get somebody you can turn to instead of going to your mom and dad. I think that’s a really great resource for them."
For more information on how to participate in either event, visit PC READS’ Facebook page at facebook.com/ParkCityREADS.
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.