Dyslexia is a language-based learning difference that makes it difficult for people to learn to read. And though this neurological disorder never goes away, it is in no way a serious deterrent to success in life. It is merely a hurdle that can be cleared, defeated, and even embraced, especially with the proper intervention at a young age.
According to Betsy Fanning, Head of School at Trident Academy in Mount Pleasant, recognizing the problem early is the key. Using the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach to teaching reading gives students with dyslexia the tools they need to successfully navigate through school. Trident Academy, founded in 1972, infuses OG in everything they do.
“Orton-Gillingham is multi-sensory, sequential and prescriptive, which simply means we focus on the individual needs of each student and offer them a new way to learn,” Fanning said, mentioning that October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. “Dyslexia can present challenges, but there are many successful people with dyslexia who manage beautifully once they get through school.”
Fanning emphasized the importance of recognizing early that children have dyslexia, mainly because their self-esteem can be seriously damaged by a problem they simply don’t understand.
“They are embarrassed, and it becomes a real problem,” she explained. “Children deal with it in different ways. By the third grade, if they cannot read, they are in big trouble. They feel terrible about it. At the tender age of nine years old, some children determine that they aren’t smart and cannot learn. It’s heartbreaking.”
That does not have to be the case, Fanning said. Though Trident accepts students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade, the vast majority can return to a traditional school long before graduating and moving on to college.
“If they come to us early, they are usually able to crack the code and move back to a traditional learning environment. Three to four years is the sweet spot for most kids,” she said, “however, the older a child is when they get to us, the longer they tend to need our expertise. We are so committed to helping our youngest students that we have lowered tuition for our primary grades, Kindergarten - 2nd”, she said.
As important as early intervention is, all is not lost for those whose dyslexia is caught later in life. Steven Spielberg was not diagnosed until he was 60 years old. Richard Branson dropped out of school at 16 and went on to found Virgin Records, Virgin Air and Virgin Galactic, among many other ventures. When Orlando Bloom was diagnosed with dyslexia, his mother encouraged him to take art and drama. From George Patton to Charles Schwab to Christopher Lowell to Magic Johnson and Jim Carrey, people with dyslexia not only survive but thrive. These famous dyslexics struggled with learning yet moved on to great things.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, Trident Academy has limited spots left this year as classroom sizes have been reduced to eight students. “It is imperative that our students be on campus with their teachers”, Fanning says. “We practice the Three W’s: Wear a Mask, Wash your Hands, Watch your Distance”.
Fanning, who has been with Trident Academy for over a quarter of a century, insisted that a diagnosis of dyslexia is not the end of the world. Instead, it’s more like a beginning.
“Parents have hopes and dreams for their children, and when they are told their precious child has this condition limiting their ability to learn, those hopes and dreams seem shattered. Moms and dads should relax and take a deep breath. Things will be okay,” she said. “This is the beginning of a grand adventure. Your child is going to be a creative and out-of-the-box thinker. They are going to be successful.”
To learn more about how Trident Academy can help your child survive and thrive despite issues such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and ADHD, visit https://tridentacademy.com or call 843-884-3494.