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"How Finding a Dusty Old Book Changed My Students' Lives!"

Categories: Disability Type, Education & Teaching, Learning Disabilities, Uncategorized

by Ruth Bevan, Learning Ally's Tutor of the Month Ruth Close UpI've always had a heart for children who have dyslexia because my own brother struggled greatly when he was trying to learn how to read. I was in about 5th grade at the time, and this was before the Orton-Gillingham methodology really was well known. It broke my heart. He had just a terrible experience in school! Even today, 50 years later, it's been on my heart and mind for all that time. After high school graduation, I decided I wanted to become a teacher. When I went to college, nothing was really being done about average children with difficulty reading beyond the regular classroom curriculum. I graduated in 1971 and started working with children who have learning disabilities. I found myself always seeking that magic bullet which, to my knowledge at the time, didn't exist. By the 1990s, I was frustrated enough that I went for my Masters Degree in Learning Disabilities at the University of Florida. Even then, I still could not seem to put my finger on what would work. Finally, while working with the Florida Diagnostic & Learning Resources Center, I began poking around one of the back rooms. There were several dusty books there - programs that had once been used, but for whatever reason abandoned.  
It was in that room that I found the Wilson Reading Program in a closet, gathering dust. It must have been there for at least 10 years. When I found it, I thought "Wow! This is awesome!" It had training videos and everything, so I tried it out.  
So, I worked with my first student using Wilson. That child was 7 years old, and couldn't even spell her own name, but I could tell she was brilliant. I used Wilson with her. It was a real battle because she resisted. She had been so frustrated for so many years - her siblings all learned to read quickly, so she couldn't understand her problem, and she was very angry. But once she got into Wilson, it was amazing to see the flower open! She is now an honors society student in 6th grade! After that, I decided to get further training, so I took the Institute of Multi-Sensory Education program. Ruth FishingAfter working for a bit longer, I finally listened to my husband who had been trying to convince me to retire for years. So, I did! We immediately took a month-long vacation to celebrate, but I found out that I really missed my kids (the kids I tutored). Needing to find a way to still work with my kids, but also enjoy our retirement lifestyle, I decided to research ways to tutor online. I found Lexercise. They had a certification exam. Even though I was still on that initial celebratory-retirement vacation, I was so eager to reach my kids that I decided to go ahead and take the exam then and there! I passed! The beauty of online tutoring is that I can tutor my kids from almost any location! I really feel like, even though it's online, I connect with these kids just like they are in my office. You really connect with them, and feel like they're with you. The parent participation part is key. For my students, Learning Ally audiobooks are also a critical service. To new parents, I always make sure to mention the research that's showing the benefits of audiobooks for students with learning disabilities. Schools that do offer audiobooks to their students have tremendous gains in fluency, comprehension and standardized test scores. When parents don't take advantage of it, I'm at a loss. It goes hand-in-hand with tutoring.  
One of the biggest tragedies of our society is having so many children dropping out of school due to the feeling of failure and lack of services, and there's absolutely no excuse for it.  
Ruth Tutoring OnlineOne-on-one tutoring with the Orton-Gillingham methodology is so beneficial for children with learning disabilities. I understand there is a cost factor, but I wish more schools and parents would invest in this methodology because I've seen the tremendous gains. It's very disheartening when, after consulting with parents, some decide they don't want the services.  I've always loved reading, and reading to others, and teaching reading.  
I'll probably die working because I love it so much! I love working with these kids! I love seeing them make this progress, it's just so tremendous!


About the author: Ruth Bevan, M.Ed, is an Educational Therapist and Diagnostician, a member of the Association of Educational Therapists, a Certified Lexercise Clinician, and a COGMED Qualified Provider. She's also Learning Ally's April 2016 Tutor of the Month, and a member of our tutor network. Check out Ruth's website called Educational Solutions. For more information on Learning Ally, visit our website at LearningAlly.org.    

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