Families

Three to five students in a typical class of 30 have dyslexia; here’s how to help

Research shows that 15 to 20 percent of the population has mild to severe dyslexia.
Research shows that 15 to 20 percent of the population has mild to severe dyslexia. Tribune News Service

Linda Gorsuch expresses passion for helping people with dyslexia when she talks about their challenges in learning to read effectively, especially at an early age.

Gorsuch, the director and founder of the five-year-old Whatcom Learning Lab, runs a school-year tutoring program for school-age children along with adults. She has an extensive career background in educational psychology and is trained in teaching special education.

Question: Linda, why did you found Whatcom Learning Lab?

Answer: I founded it to provide affordable tutoring. I have more than 20 years in the field of dyslexia. We offer one-hour classes Mondays and Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Northwest Baptist Church, which graciously allows us to meet in their facilities.

Question: What should parents look for if they suspect dyslexia?

Answer: Parents usually notice their child is a poor speller; that’s definitely a sign for further investigation. Other signs are difficulty in learning names of letters, difficulty in sounding out words (phonics), painfully slow reading, extra help required in school and reading below grade level.

It’s wonderful to see children blossom in self-esteem and develop more confidence. Kids know when they’re learning.

Linda Gorsuch, director and founder of Whatcom Learning Lab

Question: How important is it for children in first grade to get help?

Answer: It’s critically important to help children read in early grades. As soon as children start to fall behind their peers, they should get specialized, intensive help. Studies show that being unable to read well in first grade predicts about 90 percent of poor readers in fourth grade.

Question: This sounds like something you’re passionate about.

Answer: I love what I do and what our volunteers do (there were seven volunteers this past school year), with intensive one-to-one tutoring. We develop real relationships by the end of the school year. It’s wonderful to see children blossom in self-esteem and develop more confidence. Kids know when they’re learning. We are always looking for more volunteers.

Question: How do children feel when they realize they don’t read well?

Answer: Children often come up with one reason: that they aren’t smart. Most of the time, that’s not the case. Dyslexia does not indicate a lack of intelligence. Research shows that 15 to 20 percent of our population has mild to severe dyslexia … 3 to 5 students in a typical class of 30 have dyslexia.

Question: What curriculum do you use?

Answer: We use the Barton method, which has been used across the country for years. It’s well established.

Question: What exactly is dyslexia?

Answer: It’s a neural-biological genetically-based problem. We’re talking about a very complex subject. We need to develop more public awareness of dyslexia. Brain studies comparing groups of dyslexics and non-dyslexics reveal differences in how their brains function when reading, the differences between dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains are an example of what neuroscientist Dr. Maryanne Wolf calls “cerebrodiversity.”

TO LEARN MORE

Linda Gorsuch can be reached at 360-371-3978 or whatcomlearninglab@comcast.net. The web site is WhatcomLearningLab.org.

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