Local organization promotes dyslexia awareness

For years, Jackie Blake navigated the path alone.

Her daughter, Jordan, now a 10th grader at Park City High School had first started showing signs of struggling with reading in kindergarten. But Blake didn’t know where to turn. She spent years scouring the Internet for help, searching for any resources that would explain how her daughter, who clearly was intelligent, lagged behind many of her classmates when it came to reading. It wasn’t until fifth grade that Jordan was diagnosed with dyslexia.

It’s from that experience that Blake understands how difficult it can be for parents to find resources for their children who are struggling with reading. So she began searching for a way to help, so that others would be able to diagnose their children with dyslexia sooner.

"I did this for years on my own to find the resources for my daughter and what she needs," Blake said. "Wouldn’t it be really nice if we can give other families who are struggling or questioning or not understanding what’s going on with their student as much help and support and resources that we didn’t get?"

Elissa Aten had a similar experience with her child, who also was diagnosed with dyslexia. And like Blake, she had a desire to help others in the same situation. So together, last year they founded Park City Reads, an organization dedicated to providing resources for local parents with children with dyslexia or other reading struggles.

Aten said more children have the condition than many people realize.

"Especially since dyslexia may reach up to 20 percent of our population, I thought that it would be helpful to have an organization that could provide a research list and referrals, so that every parent didn’t have to go through the same struggles that we did."

Aten said one of the many difficulties parents with dyslexia face is that it can easily go undiagnosed in young students, who are able to mask the fact they’re falling behind many of their classmates in reading.

"Many dyslexic children, including my own, can cover their reading deficiencies very well at a young age," she said. "They can fill in words that they don’t recognize or can’t sound out by using context clues. Often it’s difficult to figure out what’s going on in your child. … Identification and appropriate intervention are very important at a young age."

Blake’s daughter also was smart enough to cover up her reading struggles when she was young. But as time went on, it became clear something was amiss. And from then until her daughter was diagnosed, it was a constant struggle.

"It becomes a very difficult task when you look at your child and, on one hand, you see how smart she is and know she has so many skills and abilities," Blake said. "But on the other hand, you know she’s not reading as well as you think she should."

As soon as her daughter was diagnosed, things became much easier.

"Once you give something a name, the beauty of that is you can move forward. You can say, ‘This is what it is, and now we’re going to work on handling it and not being stuck in this hole.’"

Apart from getting students help with reading, Blake said screening for and diagnosing dyslexia is important for another reason.

"So many students, because of this, have a real lack of self-esteem and confidence and are confused," Blake said. "When they do get diagnosed, it’s like a revelation. It’s like a light bulb."

Though both Aten and Blake said getting their children diagnosed was the biggest step, they still found it difficult to find tutoring options and other relevant information on dyslexia. But parents who sign up with PC Reads get an e-mail distribution resource list with all of that information, as well as access to the group’s Facebook pages, which allow parents to have private discussions with others who have gone through the same thing.

Currently, PC Reads has about 50 members — consisting of both parents and educators — and Aten said that membership has spiked recently as more families learn about the organization.

"I think we’ve been very pleased with the outreach we’ve had so far and the effect it has had," Aten said. "Just recently, I’d say that one to two families a week have contacted us for additional information."

PC Reads is hosting its first event of the year on Sept. 11, focusing on school accommodations for students with dyslexia. Blake said dyslexic students can benefit from audio-assisted reading technology that allows them to follow along in a book as the text is read aloud, among other accommodations that can be made in the classroom.

Coinciding with dyslexia awareness month in October, PC Reads will be teaming up with Summit Pediatrics to host a parent night focused on reading. Blake said dyslexia awareness month is important for helping the majority of the population understand just what dyslexia is and how it affects those with it.

"People are very confused because dyslexia is a huge spectrum," Blake said. "If you have reading difficulties and they categorize your dyslexia, it could be very minor or to very major, where people can’t read at all. And that’s where the confusion falls into place, because everyone falls on a different part of that spectrum."

For information on attending the PC Reads events or signing up with the organization (membership is free), contact

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