Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


Educator Turned Dyslexia Advocate: Interview with Barbara Steinberg
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October is Dyslexia Awareness Month! To honor the occasion, we interviewed Barbara Steinberg who is a Dyslexia and Educational Consultant and our October Specialist of the Month! She'll be speaking at our upcoming 2016 Spotlight on Dyslexia online conference! Read her interview below, then sign up for Spotlight on Dyslexia to learn more from top leaders in the field, like Barbara. This conference is unique because you can attend live on December 2nd and still have access to the full recordings until February 2nd, 2017.

Hi Barbara! It's great to speak with you today. Tell us, why did you decide to go into this field?

Barbara HeadshotMy story begins in the classroom, as a teacher. I was born to teach and after twelve years, I was still as passionate, excited and committed as ever. But year after year, I would lie awake at night thinking about the four or five students who were bright and eager to learn...yet struggled with the basics of reading, writing and spelling. I worried about these kids and was frustrated because I didn't have the appropriate knowledge or tools to help them. One day I stumbled across the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz. As I learned about the prevalence of dyslexia, the warning signs and the science that confirms its existence, the faces of all the students I had “failed” flashed in my head…and it was at that moment the fire in my belly was ignited. My search for answers led me back to graduate school. The more I learned, the clearer it became—dyslexic learners, and those that work with and love them, need a mentor and a guide. In 2010, PDX Reading Specialist was created with a simple mission--to inspire individuals to become CONFIDENT and CAPABLE learners. Since then, PDX Reading Specialist has helped hundreds of students overcome the challenges of dyslexia through remediation. Equally important, we've inspired these remarkable individuals to discover their hidden gifts and become self-advocates. Above all, I’m an advocate and educator. Every year, hundreds of teachers attend “Dyslexia 101”, a workshop I developed.
During the workshop, I can see other teachers having their “aha” moment…the same one I had so many years ago. And I know that when these teachers go back to their classrooms, their mindset will have shifted. And maybe they’ll try out audiobooks or speech-to-text.
Knowing my impact is exponential, is powerful, and is rewarding. PDX Reading Specialist provides a variety of services to meet the diverse needs of dyslexic students. Although we are based in Portland, OR, technology has enabled us to work with families nationwide.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Seeing students evolve from believing they “are dumb” to embracing their learning profile. And knowing I facilitated this change.

What advice can you offer a parent who is concerned about his/her child's reading ability?

Parents might not be trained educators, but they are a child’s first teacher and they know their child better than anyone. Unfortunately, because of widespread misunderstanding about dyslexia, teachers often tell parents to “wait and see”. This is the worst thing we can do for two reasons: 1) A student who fails to read adequately in 1st grade has a 90% probability of reading poorly in 4th grade and a 75% probability of reading poorly in high school.” (Gabrieli, 2009) 2) We can teach a child to read if they are taught in a way that works for their brain, but the older a child gets, the harder it is to repair his self-esteem.

How do you use Learning Ally's services in your practice?

I tell parents and educators that it’s not enough to just teach a child to read…we must inspire them to want to learn to read. That means giving them text at their intellectual level. Growing their oral vocabulary. Teaching them comprehension strategies so they can think deeply about the stories they are reading. And how do we do this? Learning Ally. Before a child leaves my office, we’ve found a great book they are excited to listen to. And nothing makes me happier than a parent reporting they have to pull the earbuds out of their child’s ear and tell them to go to bed! I appreciate the work Learning Ally has done to bring parents and educators together. It takes a village…and it’s great to have organizations like Learning Ally leading the way.   Spotlight LogoFind out more about Barbara by visiting her website, PDX Reading Specialist, LLC. Then, sign up for Spotlight on Dyslexia. The family of Carly Simon will be speaking about dyslexic strengths, and Dr Louisa Moats will be our educational keynote. We'll also have over 20 speakers on topics ranging from assistive technology to teaching methodologies. Go to LearningAlly.org/DyslexiaConference to see the full line up!  


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