Higher Education and Teacher Curricula in Reading: Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Why can't we be friends
Why can’t we be friends?

Reading wars, structured literacy programs, early screening, multi-sensory interventions delivered with fidelity, IEP, IEE, assistive technology. When I began to get my arms around what I define as the “dyslexia space” I had no idea how complex the underlying issues were, and all of the controversies! Good heavens.

Many years ago, when we were told that our daughter had a reading difference we had one goal in mind. Teach my kid to read. That is what I call this site, and that has always been our goal. All we have ever wanted is for our daughter to read. What we didn’t know then is how complicated that would be. Sadly, our story is not unique. There are millions of kids like our daughter, and some are not so lucky as to have our life-wrenching choices that at least offer some solutions.

I have written in other blogs about the immense improvement our daughter demonstrated after she received services with fidelity at Camp Dunnabeck. As a friend often says, we peeled away a layer of the onion. Our daughter was happy, she was learning, and she was reading! Did we solve our challenges or come to the end of our story? Hardly. The journey never ends, even into adulthood where workplace challenges for dyslexic adults are starting to garner some attention. And, just because our daughter can decode or pronounce a word does not mean that she can understand what she is reading.

What Is Reading?

Being able to read is really, really complicated, and it’s not something that happens naturally. As reading specialists and other professionals know, reading comprises several different skills that are all very important for someone to be considered “a reader.” The National Reading Panel essentially defines the components of reading instruction as follows:

Phonemic awareness

The structured reading programs that are scientifically proven to help people who are dyslexic, and everyone for that matter, include these components. You may be surprised to learn that K-12 teachers responsible for teaching young children to read may not understand or have training in this area. The reason is mainly that many colleges and universities do not include dyslexia training or structured reading programs as part of the teaching curricula (you can Google the reading wars to get more in-depth information on this long-standing- battle). Matter of fact, there are very few college programs accredited to offer multi-sensory language education. I have no idea how many unaccredited programs integrate dyslexia awareness and a phonics-based reading program into the curricula.

reading wars
The reading wars. (Photo retrieved from psychologytoday.com)

So, What Do We Do About All This?

I say this in every post. I am not an expert. I’m a Mom navigating a complicated landscape, and an educational publisher trained tried and true to identify gaps and find learning solutions. I believe in higher education, and I am encouraged by some of the best practices that are simmering. It’s not enough, though, and the fact is that higher education is still more part of the problem than the solution.

So, here’s how I see it:

1. Higher education-Higher education teacher education and training programs do not prepare enough teachers to address dyslexia and reading differences adequately.
2. K-12-Many K-12 teachers responsible for teaching reading are not equipped to understand and teach kids with reading differences.
3. Policy-Each state has its own set of unique laws related to dyslexia. Some states have no laws on the books. There is wild inconsistency in how states, school districts, and schools deliver services.

What Can We Do?

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Seuss

It’s the holiday season so I’ll end with a partial wish list of solutions for 2018:

• Curricula reform in colleges and universities-including a focus on assistive technology.
• More teacher training partnerships between colleges and universities.
• Affordable options to train teachers or potential tutors.
• Fundraisers to send more kids to specialized camps for services and summer activities.
• More specialized schools for kids who need a curricular solution to thrive.
• Increase and pass more state laws that ensure that kids with learning differences are identified early, and have access to a proper education.

I hope that Teach My Kid to Read can be part of these solutions, and welcome your feedback on this article. Happy Holidays, and here’s to 2018!


Gray, P. (2013). The Reading Wars: Why Natural Learning Fails in Classrooms. Retrieved on December 15, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201311/the-reading-wars-why-natural-learning-fails-in-classrooms.

The National Reading Panel https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/Pages/nrp.aspx


One Parent’s Perspective on the Republican Tax Overhaul: The Luxury of Choice

There was never any question that we would send our daughter to public school. We were living in a small, diverse urban school district, and we hoped that our daughter would get accepted into one of the magnet schools of our choice. She didn’t. We had a choice. So, we enrolled her in a private Montessori school with the intent of moving back into the public school system the following year once the lottery re-opened. We never had the chance.

Once our daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability, she was ineligible for the lottery. Matter of fact, we were told that two elementary schools offered reading services, and she would be enrolled in whichever one had an opening. We decided that staying in the private Montessori school was the best decision. It wasn’t easy, but we had that choice.

After several years, our daughter was not making adequate progress in the public school system. A private school for language differences was recommended. I wondered if we could use our 529 college savings plan to pay. We couldn’t. The funds were only eligible for higher education. If we didn’t do something now, higher education was moot.

For families like ours, using our 529 education savings to pay for a specialized school is a solution. It is an imperfect solution as it leaves out the many people who are unable to put aside money in a 529 to save for their kid’s college education. For the general population, there is concern that it creates a broader class gap in education, and this is valid. So, it is with mixed emotions that I embrace this piece of the Republican tax overhaul. I see it as a short-term solution for families like ours who have documented proof that the public school is not working for them, and private, specialized schools are necessities. For everyone else, I’m not sure. #Dyslexia


You’re So Smart

“She’s so smart. I told her that every day,” said our daughter’s tutor when I asked her how our daughter had progressed so quickly after six weeks of Orton-Gillingham tutoring. Our daughter is smart. Most kids with reading and learning differences are smart. Have we told them enough that they are smart? What if every parent, teacher, and tutor told each of these kids every single day that they are smart? Would it make a difference? According to groups like Eye to Eye, dedicated to mentoring and changing lives of kids with dyslexia, and other experts who touch on what is commonly referred to as social and emotional learning (SEL), the resounding answer is yes.

An elementary school girl at a microphone presenting to a parent audience.
You’re so smart!

International Dyslexia Association Annual Conference

It’s a unique experience to attend a conference in a dual role. First, as a mom on a singular and often lonely quest to decipher the world of reading differences from every angle, and second as a blogger with a new organization determined to make a difference in this area that requires all-hands-on-deck. I’m just back from The International Dyslexia Association’s 17th annual conference. I attended the Family Conference that is essentially the last two days of the full conference with several sessions more specifically tailored to parents.

Over the course of my career, I have been to countless conventions—first as an editor for large educational publishers and eventually as a vendor—but the experience was never personal. The theme of the International Dyslexia Association convention was “until everyone can read.” Those of us whose lives have been upended on that simple quest understand the power of that short-phrase. It may sound light, but it’s not—it’s very personal.

Between the exhibit hall and the fantastic, information-packed sessions, my head was genuinely spinning as I tried to wrap my thoughts around all of the information and how it might quickly translate into improved content, better services, and better quality of life for all of the people struggling each day to read. What models and best practices could we jump on and implement in our communities to start making change? To focus, I thought of our daughter, what she needs, what her teachers need, and what I, as a parent, could do to make the right decisions as we continue on our journey. What struck me, is that there are so many promising ideas, but initiating the solutions remains a head-scratcher. What can we do now, today, immediately, that will make a difference, make it better? Time is of the essence.


Our kids are smart. Kids with LDs are smart. Tell them every day “You’re smart.” Until more bills are signed, we need to tell them they are smart. This affirmation will change their day. Meanwhile, perhaps we can create a better educational environment for our kids without creating more bills. For example, a Ridgewood, New Jersey school trains their general education K-2 teachers in 30 hours of multi-sensory reading through The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education and also serves as a test site where their teachers can become multi-sensory teacher certified. Pennsylvania is piloting an early intervention program throughout the state for screening kids at an early age. In the Capital Region, A Different Way in Reading offers services for free or at nominal cost to kids who would otherwise not receive a structured literacy program. Let’s replicate these best practices and start getting more kids the services they need. In the meantime, tell them they are smart. “You’re so smart.” It’s the most significant change we can make today.


Stolz (correspondent) District Boasts Above-Average Dyslexia Detection and Response Program (July 1, 2017) Retrieved on November 19, 2017 from http://amp.northjersey.com/

Pennsylania Department of Education (2017). Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program. Retrieved on November 19, 2017 from http://www.pattan.net/category/Projects/page/Dyslexia.html.

Dyslexia and Adoption: Let’s Connect the Dots

It’s dyslexia awareness month. As such, I would be remiss in continuing our story without mentioning adoption, particularly international adoption. What about adoption and dyslexia, or learning differences for that matter? Where is the research, and why isn’t adoption cited more frequently as a subgroup within the broader dyslexia community? Maybe it would over-complicate a very challenging educational space, or possibly most people have no idea that such a high percentage of adopted children, especially those adopted internationally, are dyslexic. If only we knew.

Statistical and Empirical Evidence of High Rates of Dyslexia in Adopted Children

The first person who told us that our daughter would have a learning difference was our adoption attorney. Go figure. While preparing some adoption paperwork, she indicated that our daughter would not get through college in four years—if she went at all. I was insulted. How dare she stereotype our perfect child! Because she had worked with internationally-adopted children her entire career and since our daughter came to us at around the age of two, the attorney predicted our daughter would have some type of learning difference. We knew we would prove the attorney wrong, but sadly, we didn’t.

What I learned is that in 2014 alone 110,373 kids were adopted through foster care, and domestic and international adoption (Jones and Placek, 2017). Kids who are adopted are twice as likely as non-adopted kids to have learning and attention issues, and one in five has a learning disability (Morin, n.d). So, of the 110,373 kids adopted in 2014, 22,075 of them could have learning differences, such as dyslexia.

Adoption in the Dyslexia Space

With such a high percentage of adopted children eventually diagnosed with learning differences, how much of the published or ongoing research or initiatives take their many differences into consideration? Several years ago, I followed a study on language disruption, and the havoc it wreaks on children when a first language is suddenly halted, and they are only exposed to the new language (Gindis, 2004). I have also followed work that speech-language pathologists conduct on this very same issue. Yet, despite the growing awareness among professionals, we rarely hear how adoption is a factor in reading differences when we are meeting with professionals to talk about interventions for our daughter. Maybe the feeling is that at this point, it’s just too late; dyslexia presents as dyslexia, and the underlying reason is a moot point. I’m not sure I buy that, though.

Isabella age 2
Abruptly stopping a first language may have consequences.

Like so many areas, adoption and dyslexia are presented in different silos.

With dyslexia and adoption rarely mentioned together in mainstream studies, several questions come to mind. For example, are the brains of non-adopted kids with dyslexia and adopted kids with dyslexia organized similarly (Wolf, 2017)? Are adopted kids more likely to have dyslexia based on missed milestones and other related issues rather than inheriting the difference through genetics? It seems obvious, but experts should validate that vital point. It is hard to believe that we are the only ones attempting to connect the dots. So, why does all of this matter, especially to adoptive families? Not being a speech pathologist, reading specialist or even an adoption specialist, I offer three thoughts from the perspective of a parent with a child from Guatemala, and why it matters:

1. If we know that sudden language loss contributes to learning issues, a decision to continue the first language could be part of the post-adoption plan.
2. International adoption agencies could prepare parents better.
3. Funding sources to maintain the first language could be sought.

Maybe we just need a closer alliance or a bridge between the adoption and the dyslexia communities. Please let me know your thoughts or comments on this post. I would also welcome any information about ongoing or published research on this topic.

Bibliography and References

Hanford, E. (2017). States’ Laws to Support Dyslexic Children Mostly Lack Funding, Accountability, Training Mandates. Retrieved from https://www.apmreports.org/story/2017/10/24/dyslexia-laws-by-state

Gindis, B. (2004). Language Development and Internationally Adopted Children. China Connection, volume 10 (2), pages. 34-37. Retrieved from http://www.bgcenter.com/LanguageDevelopment.htm

International Dyslexia Association. About Dyslexia: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://dyslexiaida.org/frequently-asked-questions-2/

Jones, J., Placek, P. (2017). Adoption: By the Numbers. Retrieved from https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/publications/2017/02/adoption-by-the-numbers

Morin, A. Learning and Attention Issues in Adopted Children. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/getting-started/what-you-need-to-know/learning-and-attention-issues-in-adopted-children

Wolf, M. (Interviewee). (2017). Rewiring our Thinking on Literacy, Dyslexia and Learning Difficulties. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/radio/perth/programs/mornings/dr-maryanne-wolf/8820194

PART 2- Chasing the Dream: Who Pays to Teach my Kid to Read?

Isabella looking surprised
You want me to pay!

Early on in most relationships, it can be a bit murky deciding who should pay for dinner regardless of who is the bread-winner. Eventually, it works itself out although it can continue to be a source of frustration if both parties are not forthright or comfortable with the situation. If your kid has significant learning or reading issues then who is responsible for paying for all of the recommended services?

The Independent Evaluation

When it became airtight evident that our daughter was not progressing or progressing inconsistently, with confidence I requested an independent evaluation from the school district. Perhaps I could have or should have done this earlier, but I bristled at the idea of our daughter sitting through six weeks of assessments. The kid is continuously pulled out of school and all the sitting! She’s a kid. She should be running around.

When kids miss school for learning assessments, they are counted as absences!

Additionally, I felt a bit ill about potentially doling out a few thousand dollars if the school district turned down the request. Many of my friends had requested an independent evaluation through the school or district and were denied or decided just to pay out-of-pocket. I want to make it clear that I am not an expert on Wright’s Law and cannot comment on the legalities of any of this. There are people more in the know that may have more informed things to say about our rights to an independent evaluation, and how to navigate the probable loopholes on both sides.

In our case, the school district was footing the bill, and there was no challenge getting their blessing. Admittedly, the documentation was undisputable, but still, for families not used to getting good news from the school district, getting the green light for the assessment so quickly was thrilling! I’ve written in previous blogs about the impact that the results of the neuro assessment had on our family, but there’s another twist. What about all of the money spent on the assessment and the potential financial implications of the results of the assessment?

Who Pays to Teach My Kid to Read?

The district just spent a few thousand dollars to have an expert recommend potential solutions. Thank you for this! The highly educated and paid expert recommends a private school for language differences, homeschooling, or the most widely accepted, research-backed multi-sensory interventions. Radically these solutions, most notably the private school, is the cost to keep our daughter dreaming. So, now what?

If a district spends a few thousand dollars on an independent evaluation shouldn’t there be specific criteria they follow to accept, reject or mildly disagree with the recommendations or is the assessment just protocol and the results up to the whim of the school district to support or comply?

I’ve heard stories of schools where the recommendations are blatantly ignored. Thank heavens we did not have that experience, but there is no doubt that there’s an elephant in the room-private school for reading differences, amongst others. Perhaps the current intervention, READ 180, needs to be tried before the school considers the “gold-standard” intervention or maybe private school will never be an option unless we work with an educational attorney. There are no clear paths in this world.

The Journey Continues

The next post will look further at who pays to teach my kid to read, and why the potential solutions continue to remain elusive.

Part 1-Chasing the Dream: When School Choice Seems Like the Only Option

They say the cobbler’s children have no shoes and that’s a little how I felt when it became apparent that our daughter had a reading disability, difference, gift or however you are most comfortable hearing it described. While I’ve personally had to work really hard to simply be adequate at many things, nothing has ever come easier to me than learning to read and write. In second grade, I remember hiding behind the bookcases in the back of the classroom to read and avoid math and other subjects that were less appealing to me at the time. Surely my daughter, whom I had read to incessantly, would also be a good reader. Even though she’s adopted, my constant reading must have marked her in some way- not the case. At least in the context of being the precocious reader I was expecting.

age 4 writing her name for the first time
Isabella writes her name for the first time.
Writing Isabella
At the age of 4, it is not unusual for the letter B to be backwards.

Wondering How to Dream

Our daughter reads emotions better than I could ever hope to. If being dyslexic really is a gift then perhaps one of her talents is that instead of reading words she can read people. She would be great working a room at a convention. She is athletic, artistic and mechanical. She is social and talkative when she wants to be, but she can’t easily read words. She just can’t. Because she can’t read words, it’s hard for her to believe that she is smart. When most of the world does something with minimal effort that’s so hard for you, it’s difficult to believe you can achieve. So, when the headmaster of a private school for reading disabilities/differences asked us why we wanted our daughter to attend his school, my answer was twofold:

1. The neuropsychologist who provided our independent evaluation specifically recommended two private schools for language disabilities, and, naturally, we chose the one closest to our house. OK. Perhaps we put a little more thought into it, but we had heard good things about the school, and it seemed to be well thought of by the dyslexia community in our area.
2. We want her to dream about her future!

Dreaming about what you want to be when you grow up seems little to ask, but how can our daughter dream when she perceives herself as less than her peers in so many academic areas. As parents, the message we are hearing is that a traditional middle school and high school will be challenging to get through, and her diploma options could be limited. She could be like some of the more famous dyslexic people like Richard Branson, Henry Winkler  or even Cher, and break through all of the barriers and overcome the obstacles, but we’re not willing to bank on it. Those beautiful people are really the exceptions.

I don’t think my daughter really knows how to dream anymore. It ended by third or fourth grade when the academic gap became apparent. Right now, the only way we can teach her to dream comes with a cost.

Cher is a great role model as someone who has overcome a learning difference and become a major success.
Cher is one of the most famous celebrities with a reading difference.

The Hornet’s Nest

Our daughter goes to a private Montessori school with services at a public school. We love the Montessori school, but, in fact, we are public school advocates at heart. Yet for many reasons, the public education system just never worked for our daughter. I have not entirely given up on it, but sometimes families like ours need other choices for our children to be properly educated. Our daughter has a severe reading difference, and a neuropsychologist pointed out to us that she cannot easily learn in a traditional school environment. Even so, we are not carte blanche for school choice. It is way too complicated of an issue to present as black or white. Like other families in our situation, we are just singularly focused on getting an education for our daughter that will allow her to dream, and we are unwilling to accept that we have to pay for it.

The Cost of the Dream

So, our family, along with many others, carries the torch of the dream, often resulting in gut-wrenching and wallet-emptying choices. Stay tuned for Part 2 to read more about the cost of the dream.

Reading Progress & the Launch of Teach My Kid to Read

Progress, progress, progress. The overall impression from the tutor and some of the administrators is that our daughter progressed at Camp Dunnabeck. Mostly we hear that she is making incredible progress, but we simply need to hear the word “progress” to be relieved. It has been years since the word progress has been used relative to reading skills without the terms gradually or inconsistently preceding it. Progress. She is improving. She can get better. She can strive. We can hope. She is not just artistic, creative and athletic. She is smart-period. We never had doubt.

Bella flying
Isabella at age two is flying over the ocean.

It’s time to go home. It’s time to figure out school for next year. It’s been six weeks of commuting and staying in rental properties in remote areas with mixed WiFi and cell service. For these past few days, we are in a studio, basement apartment two miles from the camp. It is Hudson River School of American Landscape painters breathtaking, but so secluded. I’ve had a fever each night along with aches and pains in my neck and shoulders. I’m ready to go home. I miss Tiana. I miss our cats. School starts in less than a month, and we haven’t figured out what we are doing. It’s time to make a decision. A decision doesn’t mean we can’t change paths, but we need to make a decision.

millerton view
The view from our studio apartment near Camp Dunnabeck.

Back to our Montessori School. Isabella loves her school. We are fortunate in that with all of her learning challenges relative to reading; her confidence is still intact. At her darkest, she shouts out that she is dumb, but most of the time she is OK. When I ask her where she wants to go to school this fall she says she wants to go back to her current Montessori school. It is familiar, and she feels safe there. They make great efforts to teach her, but it is not a school for language differences, nor do they have multi-sensory reading services delivered with fidelity. It is just a good place with lots of committed teachers that do their best to encourage each child’s strengths. Our daughter needs more than that. She needs specialized services so that she can grow up to be independent and have the necessary life skills to follow her dreams.

Multi-sensory services with fidelity should be offered in every school. Most schools are not set up to deliver those services, so the solutions and costs fall to the parents to figure out, or not.

Solutions and advocacy. I have spent my career creating content for different learners. Some of my time has been devoted to creating content for non-traditional students, but most of my time has been focused on traditional or what some call neuro-typical learners. Creating so-called traditional content is not where I belong right now. I’m tired of just talking and listening. I need to be part of a plan or the action. It’s cheesy, but being up here surrounded by all this natural beauty has given me the strength and courage to share our story.

Teach My Kid to Read. I hope to grow Teach My Kid to Read into an organization. While that is being figured out I will continue to share our story and stories of other families. Continue to follow us to see how services work out this fall, and to learn about other topics related to reading and learning differences. If you would like to get involved with Teach My Kid to Read contact me at: marion.waldman@gmail.com

Teach My Kid to Read: Parents and Other People

The Parents

There is our story. Yet, there are so many other stories to tell. Over time, I hope this website can feature tons and tons of stories and serve as a repository to document the heart-wrenching decisions that families are faced with to get their child the correct reading services. While every story is different, with a parent’s awareness I recognize, that there are poignant commonalities between us; we the parents of kids with learning, behavioral and physical differences. We see a hope and resilience and an unwavering vision of our kid as brilliant, perfect and deserving of happiness. Even if there are times that only you see it and people around you are skewing your vision or taking away your hope, you stay on your path. For us, our path is to get our daughter to read, and keep her self-confidence intact in the process. That’s what we owe her.

Keeping our kid’s dignity and self-confidence is the hardest part of being a parent of a kid with a learning difference.

The people I have been meeting this summer are a lot like me. So many Moms (and some Dads) staying up here with their kids. Dorothy was only here for part of the summer, and I miss seeing her smiling face in the morning. Dorothy would leap out of her truck with her young son, Caleb, fresh from the campground where they were staying. Although her son was newly diagnosed with a reading difference, Dorothy was a fountain of knowledge and a bundle of positive energy. I learned a lot from her. Then there is Linda from Australia who found Camp Dunnabeck after an exhaustive search for the right services. We got to know each other a little in an Orton-Gillingham seminar which is like extra-curriculars for those of us in this world of reading and language differences. Someone said we go to the ends of the earth for our kids. Here’s to Dorothy and Linda.

Dorothy and Caleb_01
Two beautiful people. Dorothy and her son, Caleb.

The People

And then there’s people I happen to meet. Each day I take my dog for a walk on a lane that is usually deserted except for the typical wildlife we encounter. The other day a car actually drove by, and stopped. The driver introduced herself as Stephanie. She thought I was one of her tenant’s guests staying in a cottage on her family compound. She was as surprised to see me as I was to see a car. She asked where I was living and I told her where, and that my daughter was attending Camp Dunnabeck in Amenia, New York. As often happens, Stephanie then told me that she was dyslexic and how much harder it makes everything. She was on her way to see a young woman she had mentored for years who had grown up without a lot of parental support, and even at thirty, she was still struggling. As our impromptu/serendipitous/chance meeting came to an end, she smiled perceptively and reassuringly told me not to worry. She said your daughter will be fine. You are doing something here and she has support, that will make all the difference. That’s what we are all doing here. I hope Stephanie is right. #Teachmykidtoread #Dyslexia

The lane that leads to Stephanie's compound.
The lane that leads to Stephanie’s house.

A Bittersweet Reflection on Post-Camp Testing

It’s Sunday, July 30th the height of summer, and it’s a beautiful sunny day at Camp Dunnabeck, nestled between The Berkshires and The Catskills. So, what are we doing today?

Post-Camp Testing

There’s something bittersweet about arriving at a kids’ camp at 8 am on a Sunday and seeing all of the campers lined up for testing. Bittersweet in that most kids are still sleeping, or if they are up this early on a perfect July day, then they are getting ready to go swimming or to do something summer-like. Parents who have a kid with a reading difference have to walk that delicate tightrope of allowing their kid be a kid and giving them enough services so that they don’t fall even further behind; especially true when dealing with long-term retrieval and working memory challenges. Combining services with a typical camp experience is a prime example of why a place like Camp Dunnabeck is so needed. The kids have so much fun that the reading services are a non-issue; at least for us. I wish all kids with reading differences had an option like Camp Dunnabeck.

Doesn’t every child deserve a summer?

So, what is post-camp testing all about, and why are we here on a gorgeous Sunday morning in late July:

1. The tests measure progress after nearly six weeks of intensive services.
2. The data then goes to the home school district for seamless delivery of reading or learning services-in an ideal world of course.
3. While the results of only testing tell a piece of the story, this data can be used to demonstrate how a kid, who progresses gradually or inconsistently, like our daughter, can thrive with the right services delivered with fidelity. Matter of fact, she went up three grade levels in decoding!

The Other Piece of The Story

The other piece of the story is how our Montessori school perceives the child. Each child is different and unique with their strengths and weaknesses. Without saying, many kids with reading differences get hammered in the typical school system. They lose confidence, motivation, and a child who has previously been curious and excited about learning gives up. While testing results are a necessary tool to gauge progress, seeing a kid at Camp Dunnabeck get excited about learning, showing confidence, and gaining maturity I would argue, is just as important as any test result. We are watching our daughter regain her love of learning and enthusiasm this summer. She is happy in this community that accepts each other’s reading differences, and the extra work has become second nature. It is no wonder that so many adults who had reading differences as kids become leaders. These kids work so hard!

I will forever be grateful that my daughter had the best summer of her life, and I will also always remember her running out of the car to join her camp group in the lineup before post-camp testing. She couldn’t wait to be with her friends and start her day. And I cried because I realized that she had no expectations or idea of what it means to have a typical summer; she is happy, and that is what matters.

Stay tuned to hear more about the end of Camp Dunnabeck.

5K Award at Camp Dunnabeck
Our daughter proudly displays her 5K medal for placing first in her age-group at The Camp Dunnabeck 5K


What about school for next year? We had an awesome day at Kildonan. What’s not to like? The curriculum is structured around intense Orton-Gillingham tutoring, they have a state-of-the art assistive technology lab, strong academics, wonderful arts options, a great sports program, and the kids seem to be thriving. All of the teachers are trained to teach kids with reading and learning differences. Matter of fact, all kids with intense reading differences who need more than multi-sensory tutoring should have access to a school like this; an end goal of solving one of the major issues of reading differences as it makes all the difference and can be a lifesaver-really!


So why isn’t Kildonan our definite choice at this point? It simply comes down to the fact that it’s not around the corner and it’s not free. We have never given up hope that there must be a way to make it work for us here, and as it turned out, we had the infamous IEP (individualized education program) meeting shortly after our visit to Kildonan. The IEP meetings are when you set goals for the following school year and learn what services your kid can receive through the school district. There are blogs, webinars, and workshops on preparing for IEP meetings and those of us in this complicated world know that IEP meetings are usually the pinnacle of our many stressors. These are the meetings that when we’re through, we go home, have a drink or two, or in my case go for a run, and then have a drink. Fortunately, our IEP meeting went really well because the district surprised us with an option of a reading program called Read 180 at the public middle school and then bussing our daughter back to her regular Montessori school for the rest of her day. This is definitely the most comfortable or least disruptive route for us, but is there one-on-one self-paced tutoring? Probably not. Do we think she will succeed or progress with this type of program with a sprinkling of tutoring? Sigh. I want to be optimistic. I really do.

Let’s just figure out what to do this summer. We were on information overload. Our options for the school year seemed so overwhelming, but then there was the summer. What if we tried Camp Dunnabeck at The Kildonan School for the summer? Previously, when we had researched sending our daughter there it seemed scary expensive, but after looking at private school tuitions it no longer phased us. Besides, this was a way to test the waters and see if Kildonan’s approach was a fit for her.

• What would it be like for our daughter being around other kids with similar learning profiles?
• Would she finally progress with intense, one-on-one Orton-Gillingham tutoring?
• Could she finally have a real summer instead of an occasional camp workshop scheduled around reading services?

We’re going to Camp Dunnabeck. We completed the paperwork, received the acceptance letter with a small grant to boot, and off we went to the where the states of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts meet. Someone asked me if I was going to camp too. The short answer is no, but I was there, which gave me a taste of what life would be like if it were just my daughter, dog and I living by ourselves in a rural area where she could get an education that fits her learning style, but where we would otherwise be separated as a family.

Our daughter is off to Camp Dunnabeck where we have high hopes for her academic and emotional growth. Stay tuned to see how she likes camp, and how the parents, notably me, survived six weeks in a lonely paradise.

the barn in Hillsdale, New York
The restored barn down the road from our rental house in Hillsdale, New York.