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.

Solutions

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.

Bibliography

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.