EASLEY — Reading is complex. It requires our brains to connect letters to sounds, put those sounds in the right order and pull the words together into sentences and paragraphs we can read and comprehend.
People with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when they have trouble with that step — all the other steps are harder.
Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence.
In fact, according to professionals in the field, dyslexia is often an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.
“I was a special ed teacher and I taught dyslexic children for 21 years,” said Nancy Linvill, chair of the Founding Committee for Lakes and Bridges. “I had a masters degree, I taught elementary and I thought ‘I know what I’m doing!’”
As it turns out, Linvill said, she had a lot to learn.
Linvill enrolled in an Orton-Gilingham class in Greenville and that’s “when everything started to happen,” she said.
In the 1930’s neurologist Dr. Samuel T. Orton and educator, psychologist Anna Gillingham developed the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction for students with dyslexia.
This theory combines multi-sensory techniques along with the structure of the English language. Those items taught include phonemes and morphemes — such as prefixes, suffixes and roots.
Common spelling rules are introduced as well.
Multi-sensory education incorporates the three learning pathways: auditory, kinesthetic and visual. This approach is beneficial not only for students with dyslexia, but for all learners. It can be implemented in a large group setting as well as with individuals, small groups and at-risk populations.
The approach allows for implementation of Response to Intervention (RTI) at all levels while allowing for differentiation of instruction.
“It (the class) revolutionized the way I taught,” said Linvill. “I was probably the first public school in S.C. that was Orton-Gillingham trained.”
Recognizing the growing need for a school specializing in dyslexia, Linvill and a small group of retired teachers decided to take matters into their own hands.
Lakes and Bridges was born.
“Public schools have so many mandates regarding special education that dyslexic learners get lost in the crowd,” a spokesperson for the charter school said. “They are grouped with students with so many types of learning abilities that it becomes impossible for public schools to provide the unique instruction needed for children with dyslexia to become successful.”
The plan is simple: Lakes and Bridges Charter School will meet the unique needs of children with dyslexia.
“People with dyslexia have average or above average intelligence but have difficulty learning to read, write and spell,” they said. “Many dyslexics are exceptionally creative and productive, seeing the world in a way that has historically led to solving huge problems and making enormous contributions to the world.”
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), 20 percent of the population has dyslexia.
The school received a charter in April 2017, and is currently enrolling.
Lakes and Bridges will be open August 2018.