Read Rise Fly Blog

Welcome to the Read Rise Fly Blog, a collection of essays, inspiration, and helpful information from Schenck School experts.

Peggy Hendrix
Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

I’m sure many of you have had trepidations about the start of the school year. This is the first time any of us have had our temperatures taken before leaving the car or stopped at the door for hand sanitizing. But quite remarkably your kids adapted to the strangeness of the new normal and are taking it in stride. Every day, despite all of the uncertainties in the world, your children come through the doors of Schenck School happy and eager to start their day.  

Yes, they’re wearing masks, and we greet them with a smile and a squirt of hand sanitizer! Weird, right?!  And yet they smile. Easily. Their eyes twinkle above those masks. Their personalities shine through even though I can’t see their smiles. Their jokes and polite “thank-yous” bring me joy. You would never know they’ve been through something in their young lives that none of us had to experience as children.  

What distinguishes your kids? Resilience – they have it in spades. But this isn’t the first time they’ve demonstrated resilience, either at Schenck or even before Schenck. Because they’re dyslexic, they’ve had to work so much harder than their peers throughout their young lives. They’ve had hours of tutoring, extra help from their teachers, spelling tests they had no hope of passing. School has been just plain hard. And yet, they’ve possessed the resilience to keep going. To forge ahead, even when they didn’t see the immediate results of the extra effort they’ve had to put into learning. 

And now, as they enter the school doors during a pandemic that has changed the world around them, they come with a smile. Many of them skip or even run into the building, full of exuberant expectations. They embrace each new day with joy and a sense of adventure despite their previous struggles in school.  

Resilience. All of us can learn from our children, especially during these challenging times. In fact, I know I’ll look forward to carpool duty this year!  The joy your kids bring to Schenck continues to inspire us all.

  • covid
  • dyslexia
  • resilience
That Schenck School Magic!
Director of Admissions Peggy Webb Hendrix

Every fall we in the Admissions Office make plans for the upcoming school year.  We review our assessment tools, go over our screening procedures, and plan for campus tours.  Our tours may be the very best recruiting device we have, because they enable us to pull back the curtain, so visitors can catch a glimpse of the “Schenck School magic.”  Most of the parents I talk with during the parent interview portion of the application process have spoken to some of our current or former parents. They are eager to experience the “magic” that is Schenck.  

The thing is, there’s really no magic involved.  The transformation that occurs in our students happens because of a number of factors, not the least of which is the hard work of our children.  When I was new to this position as Director of Admissions, I was always amazed by the sheer number of parents who described their children as “very hard workers.”  Mr. Schenck used to talk about the grit and determination that our students possess.  These traits typically continue throughout our students’ lives, propelling them to ever-increasing success, because after all, little success is earned without putting in the time.  Doing the hard work of the job, whatever that job may be.
Truly, no account of the Schenck School “magic” would be complete without talking about our teachers and the support they receive from our administration.  Professional development is encouraged and expected.  Our teachers receive intensive instruction in the Orton-Gillingham approach.  They learn to teach in a multisensory way in order to better reach all learners.  Our teachers have already become good at instruction before coming to us, but it is our training that makes them exceptional reading and writing teachers.  

Okay, you say, they are well-trained.  Is that where the “magic” happens?  Yes, it is part of it, but there is an intangible element that is really where the magic lives.  That intangible is passion . . . passion for teaching, yes, but even more important is their passion for teaching these children.  Our teachers understand that their students possess great potential, and they deeply believe that it is their duty to help each child achieve their potential.  Our teachers are driven to excel every day because they know that this is the only way to ensure that the children entrusted in their care will meet the challenges of the outside world as the best learners they can be.

I remember that a professor once told me not to ever sit in the teachers’ lounge because I’d become jaded by the teachers’ negativity.  But when I came to teach at Schenck, I learned that the teachers’ lounge was the very best place to go . . .  for ideas, inspiration, guidance, and support.  Lunch conversations center around the children and the best ways to teach them. Happy stories are shared about children’s breakthroughs and progress. 

But the most powerful Schenck School magic comes from love.  It began with Mr. Schenck’s love for dyslexic children and his understanding that they need to be taught directly how to read.  It continues today with parents who love their children enough to get them the help they need.  It continues through teachers who understand that dyslexic children deserve to be taught the way they need to learn.  It flows through this community that appreciates each family, each child, each learner for who they are.  The magic, if you want to call it that, is us.  All of us.  Every member of the Schenck School family, past, present, and future, who sow and reap the benefits that The Schenck School has to share.

  • dyslexia
  • Schenck School
  • Schenck School teachers
Fall Is in the Air
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

I don’t know about you, but awakening to temperatures in the 60’s on an August morning sends my thoughts to fall. Summers are long here in the South, and any hint of the season transitioning to comfortable weather makes my heart glad. Schools here open during the dog days of summer, with soaring temperatures and high humidity.  

But no matter how uncomfortable the weather is, the arrival of children at school breathes fresh air into the building. Children have the ability to make us smile, even while wearing masks during carpool in 95-degree heat. They enter the school joyfully, anticipating another happy school year.

Sadly, this isn’t the experience of most dyslexic children. For most, the approach of school is often met with anxiety and stomach aches. Children who have been healthy and well all summer suddenly become the frequent clinic visitors they were during the last school year. And now, given the myriad instruction delivery systems offered by schools in this uncertain year, dyslexic children have even more reason to worry. Schools with even the best support systems for different learners will be hard-pressed to continue this support. They are struggling to figure out how to space children six feet apart and how to negotiate mask-wearing for six-year-olds.  

What are parents to do when confronted with this loss of support for their struggling readers?  Where can they turn to find the help their children need, when schools have been turned upside down. Children can not lose a year of reading instruction . . . without it, they will continue to fall further and further behind.  

Parents can reach out to their local branch of the International Dyslexia Association for help in finding tutors who can begin working with their children right away. The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators is another excellent resource for finding trained teachers and tutors who can provide the intensive, targeted approach to the teaching of reading that dyslexic children need. Here at our school, our teachers have continued to tutor virtually, with tremendous success.  

Children cannot afford to lose time learning to read. Literacy is the foundation for all learning. Schools are doing the best they can to cope right now, but if parents find that reading support has suffered at their school because of all the demands teachers and administrators are facing, then it is time to seek that support outside the school.  


  • dyslexia
  • Tutors
Children Will Show Us the Way
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

A year like no other. That’s what we kept telling ourselves throughout the summer as we prepared for an uncertain fall.  For those of us who chose to go into teaching, the first day of school was always like Christmas or Hanukkah. I’m pretty sure anyone who’s a teacher was always that kid who loved new clothes and back to school shopping for shiny new school supplies. We eagerly set up our notebooks with dividers and finished up our summer reading early. The first day of school was an event to be eagerly anticipated.

We teachers were excited as usual for this year to begin,  but with trepidation as well. What would the year look like, we asked ourselves. Would classes be in person or on-line?  Would the children be sad about returning to school after so much time at home with their families?  Would the children be frightened by the mask-wearing, face-shielded adults who eagerly greeted them at the door?  

We take our responsibility as educators very seriously, believing that it is our job to provide a safe, happy, nurturing environment in which children can learn. But with all the emotion swirling around about the virus, and school reopening, and what school would look like with masks and desks six feet apart, would school feel safe and welcoming to our students? 

I confess we were all a bit nervous as the first cars unloaded wide-eyed children, headed first to the hand-sanitizing station and then to have their temperatures checked. We so wanted the children to be cheered by the fact that they were back among us, loved and cared for, surrounded once again by friends and adoring faculty.

But we needn’t have worried. What we forgot to account for was the resilience and trust of children. I don’t think any of us truly realized the amount of faith children put in their teachers. Even though they may have been a bit frightened at all the changes, they entered the building willingly and trustingly. It was surely hard to see what we looked like under our masks, but I can assure you that we were smiling so hard that the joy we felt at seeing the children was unmistakable. The feeling you get when you walk into our school is palpable . . .  you feel the warmth as you walk down the halls.

The children felt that warmth, and they responded in the way happy children do, with love and smiles. As we loaded the children into their cars at the end of that first day,  it was so rewarding to hear their answers as parents asked, “How was your day?”  “It was great!”  “I had so much fun!”  “Best day at school ever.  I can’t wait to come back tomorrow!”  “It was the best day of my life!”  And finally, “This is going to be the best year of my life!” 

Ah, the lessons we can take from our children. Even though their world is filled with uncertainty, there is one thing of which you may be sure. If you follow their example and embrace the world with an open heart and faith in others,  suddenly the world feels pretty much the way it always has.  Like home.

Welcome back, children.  We have been waiting for you.

  • children
  • dyslexia
Early Screening For Reading Differences Has Tremendous Benefits- Why the Passage of Bill 43 is Important
Margaret Sasser, First Grade Teacher


        Schenck School students have unbelievable gifts and talents. Finding those does not take much looking. There are challenges, too. Everyone has his or her own difficulties, and that becomes readily apparent. Early on, when we attempt Kindergarten journal writing, two children sit with one teacher and write about what they did over the summer. Often the writing consists of beginning sounds for each word and a picture to go along with this. Though seemingly straightforward, teachers quickly experience how agonizing it actually is. One confident, bright, articulate child dove under the desk and pulled her hair over her face in a very hairy shield. Another child dutifully stayed in his seat and feigned deafness. Generally, children don’t react so strongly to something they don’t have negative experience with, especially since a teacher was there to help. It was evident these children in our Kindergarten class had become miserable writing and reading the year before. The most troubling aspect was that these kinds of reactions were coming from five and six-year-olds. The wonder of reading, writing, and learning had been denied to them before they had a proper introduction. 

      Our students walk into Kindergarten thinking reading is magic that they somehow missed but all their friends got. Dyslexia is neurobiological; no one wakes up one day dyslexic. It is hard-wired in your brain. There is no doubt that students who need our help are out there. In fact they come in a tidal wave in second and third grades. The resounding question is why don’t we get them earlier? First, as in so many fields, scholarly research takes an eternity to trickle down to the classroom; second, (generally) teachers and parents do not like to predict problems on the horizon for students; and third, there is not cultural precedent for screening potential reading difficulties. A repeated discussion we have in the early grades is why are we not identifying reading difficulties in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, when there are clear indicators of such difficulty? Some of the best funding nationally is for identification of and intervention for speech, language, and occupational therapy from birth to Kindergarten but not for reading. 

The wonderful thing that is we are witnessing change in this arena. Passage and subsequent implementation of Bill 48 are the realization of long known scholarly research. The great hope is that we will have incoming students whose learning styles have been recognized and who have been taught using methods suited to how they learn, rather than those who know only frustration with reading and writing.   Bill 48 represents a cultural shift toward recognizing traits and tendencies and proactively addressing them. 

After doing many preschool presentations on early intervention, talking incessantly about neurobiological characteristics of dyslexia, and reviewing early reading screeners, we are on the cusp of change. It is strikingly like the beauty in teaching children who are dyslexic. They teach us to show up and keep trying. It is possible that we teach something not once, twice, or three times but so many times and so many ways that it feels as if we have taught it a hundred times. When we least expect it, there is an almost magic click and glimmer of understanding. Here’s hoping Bill 48 is a magical click that enables finding and educating students likely to struggle to read and write before they experience that unnecessary struggle.  

Margaret Sasser is an Atlanta native. She graduated from Westminster and Vanderbilt University. Margaret is in her sixth year of teaching at The Schenck School, where she currently teaches first grade after spending many years teaching Kindergarten. She has particular academic interests in early intervention and identification of reading difficulties.  In that vein, she visits Atlanta-area preschools to support teachers, performs preschool screening, and tutors four-year-olds.

The Year of Dyslexia
Josh Clark, Head of School

I grew up with my father’s harrowing stories of walking ten miles to school in the rain, snow, sleet, hail, and heat. While I never understood how one small area could contain so many weather patterns, I knew better than to ask. When not traversing back and forth, my father spent his school years working at McDonald’s and still credits himself as inventing the Egg McMuffin. As a child, when I complained about too much homework or my boring teachers, he was quick to remind me that at least I did not have to sprint past old Mrs. Wilson’s rabid and unchained dog, the smell of french fries wafting behind him.

Like all myths, these stories were no doubt kernels of truth wrapped in exaggeration and meant to teach me a lesson. As a parent, I find myself tempted by the same distorted sense of school-age nostalgia. I did not walk ten miles, but if I forgot my lunch, I just chewed rocks because there was no calling home.  If I did not know the answer, I had to rely on my 1987 Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition of the truth. And as I often remind my son when he complains about having to practice his Learned Words, “Well in my day, dyslexia was not even an option!”

I imagine many of us share similar experiences. You were either struggling so much that you were put in a special education program that vastly undervalued your potential, or you were told to just work harder. Even after graduating from high school and studying education at Indiana University for four years, it was not until I began teaching and noticed exceptionally bright students who had an unexpected difficulty learning to read, write, and spell that I even began to learn about dyslexia.

While the term dyslexia was first used in 1887, and Anna Gillingham began using Dr. Samuel Orton’s research to work with children in the early 1930’s, as far as I can tell, dyslexia did not exist in 1980’s Collierville, Tennessee. 

David Schenck had been revolutionizing education for over 20 years at that point, and even then, I believe he knew he was building a vehicle for systematic change and not just a safe harbor for a few. As The Schenck School approaches its 60th anniversary, I think David would laugh at our surprise that we also are entering the year of dyslexia. 

On May 2, I joined current and former Schenck School families and students as we watched Governor Brian Kemp sign the Georgia’s first dyslexia legislation. While only a beginning, this law symbolizes an important recognition that we can and must do more for the tens of thousands of dyslexic learners in our state. 

Beyond Georgia, dyslexia and The Schenck School are even on the international stage. Through our partnership with Made By Dyslexia and Microsoft, in just over three months, more than 65,000 educators have learned about dyslexia from Richard Branson, Keira Knightley, and Schenck School teachers. The recent Made By Dyslexia Showcase hosted by the School has 16,000 Facebook views to date.  While it is no doubt a good time to be dyslexic, there is still tremendous progress to be made. The vast majority of young people with dyslexia continue to go undiagnosed. In the media and even within schools of higher education, the science of dyslexia is ignored, and damaging misconceptions are spread.

We cannot become complacent with our success, and instead we must wave David’s banner high and proudly. As more resources and information about dyslexia become available, it is our job to educate the masses.

My hope is that one day all of our children will lament to our grandchildren, “You know, in my day, schools did not just screen everyone for dyslexia and then give them the appropriate support! No, in my day, you had to work for it!”

College…Now what?
By Carolyn (Sears) Arnold ('83), Senior Coordinator, Disability Services at the University of Georgia

One of the most-asked questions by prospective students (and parents) is, “Now what?”  I wish I could provide an in-depth answer to that question, but I can’t. To quote one of my favorite college professors ….Here is my 25 cents worth .

You are your only avocate in college.

Your rights as a student change when you enter college. It is now your responsibility to advocate for disability support services and for appropriate academic accommodations.  Colleges are not responsible for identifying your disability, and they are not required to communicate with the faculty and staff or your family on your behalf.  Instead, you have to be your own advocate. This includes notifying the college about your disability and advocating for your accommodations. 

This is a big change from high school when schools were responsible for recognizing whether or not students were having academic difficulties that may be related to a disability. It was then up to your school to provide the needed accommodations (change to the environment, i.e., a private room for testing, a notetaker) and/or modifications (a change to the content of the curriculum or to what the student is supposed to learn).  

Accommodations in college are difficult.

In high school, academic accommodations and modifications are implemented to help students overcome the difficulties associated with their disability. Colleges do not modify instruction, but they are required to provide reasonable accommodations in accordance with the law for students who disclose their disabilities. A reasonable accommodation can be defined as an accommodation that does not compromise the essential requirements of the course nor weaken the academic standards/integrity of a course, but rather provides a level playing field. Some examples of reasonable accommodations are providing notetakers, extended time for testing, and testing in a low distraction or private environment.

The registration process can vary from college to college, so it is a good idea to research the disability services office before you apply to the school. You can do this by looking at their website, calling and asking questions, and/or scheduling an in-person appointment when you visit the campus. It is important that you register with the disability services office before you start your first semester. At some colleges, you take placement tests during your orientation, and you are able to utilize your approved accommodations.

Additional testing may be needed.

Colleges have different documentation guidelines. Therefore, you will need to provide documentation that meets the guidelines of that college. The documentation should provide enough information for the college to decide what is an appropriate academic accommodation.  If your documentation does not meet the school’s requirements, and a new evaluation is needed, it is your responsibility to pay for the evaluation. An IEP or 504 plan is generally not sufficient documentation because of the differences between high school and college. However, it may help to identify services that have been effective for you. 

Upon submitting the necessary paperwork to the disability services office, you will meet with someone (usually referred to as a specialist or coordinator) to discuss how your disability impacts your academics (also referred to as functional limitations). Academic accommodations are individualized and may vary from course to course.  Examples of academic accommodation are notetakers, use of a smart pen, extended time for testing, testing in a low distraction environment, and priority registration. The purpose of the academic accommodations is to level the playing field and to provide equal educational access in accordance with the law. The accommodations should not alter the essential requirements of the course. 

You got it - You’re a Schenck School Alumnus.

The transition from high school to college is a stressful time for students, but your experience at The Schenck School and the support you have received thus far will help make the transition easier. To this day, I tell stories about my time at Schenck — my first grade teacher, Gail Swift taking the extra time to comfort me when separating from my parents was difficult, Mr. Schenck, coming into the classrooms to interact with the students (who knew then how great that was!), and how Schenck's teachers helped students develop confidence in their abilities to be successful students. 

With college on the horizon, think back on your experiences at The Schenck School. Take what you learned, and apply it to college. It will serve you well. If attending UGA is a plan for you (or your child), I invite you to contact me if I can be of assistance. 


Carolyn Arnold joined the Disability Resource Center staff at University of Georgia as a Coordinator in 2000 and was promoted to a Senior Coordinator in 2013. Carolyn specializes in working with students diagnosed with ADHD, LD, psychological disabilities, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Before joining the DRC, Carolyn earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from UGA. She is also a licensed Master Social Worker.




Jack Sullivan at Soaring On Ceremony
Jack Sullivan, alumnus (2013)



Do you know something? You and me … we are forever, awesomely connected. No matter where we go, we always have a common ground of hope, healing, and peace. The Schenck School is your “welcome home” no matter how far you go.

If you are going to a new school, or if you are returning to your old school, please remember, you have a place here. YOU BELONG! You are fantastic just are you are!

Now, I have a really important question for you … How many of you have seen the original Star Wars? Do you know the story? The main character is Luke Skywalker, and he is a Jedi Knight, but he didn’t know it. He was like a kid with dyslexia who has this super-power but hasn’t gone to The Schenck School to learn how to use this awesome gift.

Luke Skywalker had this amazing gift inside; he just needed to learn how to use the Force. He studied with Jedi masters, like Schenck School teachers, to learn all he needed to conquer life and the dark side. It was hard! He had to undergo adversity, study with strange creatures like Yoda, go through rigorous training, and discover how to get along with people.

Like Luke, ALL of you are Jedi warriors. You have unique powers, and you are growing stronger every day.

Like Luke, we ALL have to learn how to overcome pain, worry, and doubt to become a mighty Jedi.

There are wonderful things ahead. Every once in a while, you will have tough days. This happened to Luke when his friends got captured, his hand was cut off, and his greatest enemy turned out to be his dad. Don’t worry when hard times come; healing happens. It just takes time.

I’m sure some of you have had a day when so much is on your plate you feel overwhelmed. That happened to me last year when I was in the hospital with a hole in my back.

It was a big, deep cavernous hole caused by an M.R.S.A. infection. It nearly killed me. Doctors told me things like I would never play football again, and that the injury would impact me the rest of my life.

During a two-week stay in the hospital and ten months of recovery, I’ll admit there were times I felt hopeless - like Luke Skywalker, alone wondering about his destiny. But my parents gave me strength, my brother and sisters made me laugh, and friends brought me confidence and hope.

I had to train hard and go through immense physical therapy. I went through wound changes multiple times a day. But it wasn’t just me who got stronger on this journey, people around me did too, and we let each other in. My youngest sister, for example, dreams of being a surgeon. She was trained to do my wound care once a day - and, she did it!

My friends, you will face tough times. You will face a day when someone lets you down. You will, at some point, have a hole that needs healing. But you can marvelously heal. You are incredible warriors! We are Schenck School kids, and we have already overcome!  

Today begins a new journey! An exciting, scary, hard, and wonderful journey after The Schenck School. As you go forward, I want you to remember three things:

  • Be brave.
  • Be bold.
  • Be ready.

First, be brave. If you have a thought, an idea, or a vision of something you’ve always wanted to do, go for it! The biggest and hardest part of doing anything is taking the first step, and once you take that step, you’re already walking in the right direction to becoming a more confident and powerful person. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make the team, if you don’t get the part, or if the person you like turns you down! The more you try, the more comfortable and confident you become. It is okay to fall down. We all do. Get back up, and try again. Be brave. People admire and respect bravery!

Second - be bold. Be comfortable being yourself. Be proud of your dyslexia. You are going to see throughout your life that it is a wonderful gift.

Be bold in making friends. I met some of my best friends in high school because I walked up to them, and talked and listened. It’s always hard diving into a new pool, but you go boldly and take the initiative to find your friend group.

It’s hard to stand up to someone doing the wrong thing, and it’s even harder when that person is your friend, but if you stay true and don’t compromise who you are on the inside, people will respect you. If they are really your friends, they’ll understand. If may be scary to stand up. Do it anyway. Be bold in kindness, compassion, and empathy. You will find great people there.

Third - be ready. You don’t have to know your college major or choose your career in high school! Just enjoy and be ready for the discovery of who you are. The best way to be ready for life is to read. My dyslexic friends, do not let anyone intimate you and cause you to stop reading. If they are reading a thick chapter book, and yours is shorter and has pictures, just smile and keep reading! We live in an age where our generation relies heavily on social media for entertainment and knowledge. But the more we read and retain through works of great literature, the more intelligent, compassionate, and patient we become.

My Schenck School family, the world needs you. Be ready for your journey to be amazing, even in the hard. Friends, I congratulate you. I am proud of you. I am here for you.

Be brave. Be bold. Be ready. Soar on Schenck Phoenix! Soar on!


Jack Sullivan (‘13) is a senior in the international baccalaureate honors program at North Atlanta High School. He is captain of the debate team, a two-star varsity athlete, captain of the Georgia All-Star football team, leader anchor on the school news, and Atlanta Public School ambassador.  This fall, Jack will be a freshman at Wabash College where he will play football.


Peggy Hendrix
Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

Have you heard of it? SB 48 is a new piece of Georgia legislation, signed into law on May 2, that has the potential to change the lives of dyslexic children across our state. Key provisions include mandatory screening of children in kindergarten through second grade for markers of dyslexia and requiring local boards of education to create policies for identification of and assistance for students with dyslexia. Equally promising, the law calls for post-secondary teacher preparation programs to include instruction about dyslexia. Good teachers have known for years that many of their students struggled to read, but they had no idea why the reading programs they were using failed to work with up to twenty percent of their students.

This is hopeful news. I talk with families every day whose children struggle to learn to read but whose teachers haven’t even been allowed to use the term “dyslexia.” Imagine how different our schools could be if educators were trained to both identify as well as remediate dyslexia. We could be looking at a sea change here . . . there have  been few changes in educational policy that have had a more potentially significant impact on large numbers of schoolchildren. When implemented, dyslexic children will now have the possibility to reach their true potential.

And what of the impact on society? I have had so many parents voice their concerns about their children’s peers who, for one reason or another, do not have access to the splendid work of The Schenck School. I have long commiserated with them over these children’s unfulfilled potential, given their inability to read. We know that dyslexics are creative, outside-the-box thinkers with the capacity to find unique solutions to the world’s problems. Might the cure for cancer or the answer to climate change lie locked inside these young, untapped, minds?   

When these provisions are implemented, all Georgia schoolchildren with the requisite cognitive capacity will be taught to read. The playing field will finally be leveled, and the future for Georgia’s children will burn brighter.  

  • dyslexia bill
  • dyslexia law
  • SB 48
Josh Clark
Josh Clark, Head of School

I have been told I have a problem. Some call it a dependency; others say addiction. I say it is just who I am.

Staring November 1, I am decking the halls and lighting the lights. From Christmas to Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Diwali, I love all the winter holiday traditions and celebrations!  Yep, I am that guy. 

Some find holidays a source of stress or even shame. I find it sweet relief. When others do not know if they can take anymore, I dive in deeper. Passive aggressive family dinners, weird Uncle Ed, and that distant cousin who always has an “investment opportunity” for me - I love it all! My enthusiasm is most notable in my Christmas tree obsession. Last year I put up 12, and the number continues to grow.

I appreciate that for many people this is a trying time of year. It can be a reminder of loss or loneliness, and I empathize with the stress of family gatherings. For me, though, the opportunity to reflect on the opportunities and blessings of my life outweighs the drama. A little late night eggnog never hurts either.

As with so many things, I believe the holidays are what we make of them. We can succumb to the stress, or we can celebrate the opportunity for joy. It can be the same with dyslexia.

Recently, the School was fortunate to have the Director of the Florida Center for Reading Research, Dr. Don Compton, on our campus. In addition to visiting the School’s outreach work at Thomasville Heights Elementary School and providing a half-day workshop for our teachers, Dr. Compton gave a public presentation. As part of his talk, Dr. Compton questioned whether dyslexia should be characterized as a gift. In a print-saturated world, difficulty learning to read, write, and spell can be a tough sell as a positive trait. 

As a parent of a dyslexic learner, a leader of a school that specializes in dyslexia, and dyslexic myself, I lean hard into the “dyslexia-as-a-gift” narrative. Without question, there are many highly talented and successful people who credit their success to dyslexia. The billionaire Richard Branson is a notable example. Recently, he founded Made By Dyslexia, a global not-for-profit organization with a mission to change the world’s understanding of dyslexia and recognize its potential.

I appreciate Dr. Compton’s caution, though. When I learned my son, Rigby, is dyslexic, I found myself looking at his Lego creations in a new light. What two days prior was a red box became a post-modern estate reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. His Minecraft obsession was suddenly not a distraction; it was his training ground for inventing the next iPhone. My son was not dyslexic; he was a superhero!

After reflection, I realized I was searching for a balance. If my son was destined to struggle in school, it had to be outweighed by a superhuman talent. If dyslexia meant that something was wrong with him, I had to find something right. With the best of intentions, I was creating a new normal for my son to live up to.

I consider myself a reasonably creative and successful person. I love thinking about the big picture, and I often make connections across ideas many people do not see. Is this because I am dyslexic? Maybe, but it is not why I consider my dyslexia a strength.

When I sat down with Rigby to explain he was dyslexic and had ADHD, I told him he had inherited my gifts. I conceded that there would be days when he wants to return them. There will be times when they seem not to fit and feel more like a weight then a present. I promised him I understood, but that when he grows up and is navigating his career and starting his family, I hope he comes to see those times as the best parts of my present.

I am living proof that there exists a distinction between “giftedness” - a talent or proclivity that exceeds normal expectations - and taking the opportunities, obstacles, and circumstances given to us and choosing to see them as gifts. I am not gifted but enjoy a life full of gifts.

I am not sure if dyslexia made me more creative or a better problem solver. I do know that it forced me to forge my own way. The path most of my peers followed was not available for me. My path was hard and often unfair, and it was the best present I could have received.  

I am thankful my son is dyslexic, because it is another wonderful part of who he is. I hope some things are easier for him because of it, and I am thankful that some will be harder. He probably will not be the next Albert Einstein or Pablo Picasso (both dyslexic), but that will not stop me from putting a chemistry set and art easel under the tree.

I mean, you never know….

Peggy Hendrix
Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This past weekend, over 500 folks connected to our school came together to raise money for dyslexia awareness at the Dyslexia Dash 5-K. It was a wonderful day, filled with proud, smiling faces.  Everyone was happy to come out and celebrate dyslexia. It was easy to see the excitement of the participants as you looked out over the crowd, and I loved reconnecting with so many alumni and parents.  Everyone was so happy to be together on that very early, very rainy Saturday morning. 

After I got home, I continued to think about the event, and I remembered a conversation I had last week with a prospective parent.  This parent had accepted her child’s dyslexia diagnosis and was eager to get her child the remediation she sorely needed. As she talked, she mentioned that a couple of other children in her daughter’s class had also been recently diagnosed.  One, she said, was also applying to our school. The other child’s parent, unfortunately, was in denial. She didn’t want her child to be “labeled,” so she was not going to seek help for his reading difficulties.

I was shocked at first to hear that some parents still feel that dyslexia is something to be ashamed of.  We celebrate dyslexics here at my school and revel in their creativity and out-of-the-box thinking skills.  We understand that dyslexia can be remediated and know that our students will go on to achieve their full potential.  

But of course, this isn’t the experience of most dyslexics in this country.  Schools like ours are very rare, and remediation is completely out of reach for millions of dyslexic children and adults.  The academic life of an unremediated dyslexic is difficult at best. Children who struggle to read are left behind by today’s school systems.  Even though it is possible to screen four-year-olds for potential reading disorders, most states have chosen to ignore this fact. 

There is hope for children in Massachusetts, however. On October 19, 2018, Governor Charlie Baker announced his support of Senate Bill 2607, “[a]n Act relative to students with dyslexia.”  Massachusetts Senator Bruce Tarr said, “Parents have told us time and again about the hardships as a result of failure of the proper recognition of dyslexia.  You cannot help but be compelled to act . . . When dyslexia is properly recognized and confronted, there can be a remarkable difference in a student’s learning career.  This is long overdue and absolutely imperative . . . It’s appropriate that we in the Senate do our part and stand up and say for once in the commonwealth of Massachusetts that we will recognize this issue, make a bold decision and take appropriate action . . . this is not a partisan issue, a geographic issue or a socioeconomic issue.  It’s about responding to a group of students who have been ignored for too long . . .”

Let’s hope that legislatures across the country will recognize the wisdom of the Massachusetts legislature and provide the children of this country with the tools they need to be successful.  It’s way past time. 

Happy Children
Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

Ever wonder what your child is like while he/she is at school? Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall, so you could observe them in their unguarded moments? See if they’re smiling . . . or not? Find out what makes them smile, and what causes them to doubt themselves?

I’m lucky because I get to observe children in these situations every day. I watch them at play with their friends, or when they are engaged in a lesson in the classroom, or when they’re unsure of an answer and ask their teachers for help.

I have to acknowledge that the children in my school are very lucky. You see, they’re all dyslexic, and they are being taught to learn in the ways most effective for them. Our teachers know that no two students are alike, and that individualizing the curriculum is what we’re all about.  

Pretty wonderful, huh? But what about all those countless dyslexic students who are not receiving appropriate instruction? Dyslexic children must be directly taught to decode words, break them down, and then blend them back together so they can be read. These students must be directly taught comprehension and writing skills, and they need opportunities to improve fluency. As many as one in five children in school today is dyslexic, yet very few of these students have access to direct phonics instruction. Traditional learners practically teach themselves how to read. They have strong visual memory for words and a solid grasp of the sound/symbol relationship. They are able to retain and quickly retrieve information from their memory files.  

So how do we help struggling readers? How do we make sure they receive the resources they need to become successful learners? We can work with state legislatures to make sure lawmakers are aware of the needs of dyslexic students. We need to educate elected officials about what it means to be dyslexic . . . the strengths and weaknesses of dyslexic children’s cognitive profiles. We need to work with colleges of education to be sure that tomorrow’s teachers are prepared to teach EVERY child in their classrooms to read.  

We owe it to ourselves to ensure that children are equipped with the tools they need to be successful. Our futures depend upon it. Dyslexics are creative problem-solvers with grit and determination. They are builders, tinkerers, mathematicians, artists, scientists, and inventors. Without enabling each child to reach his or her potential, there are untold costs to humanity. A dyslexic could find the cure for cancer, design an economical water system for developing countries, create art so profound that it feeds the human soul. We owe it to these children, and to ourselves, to help them unlock their innate gifts. Find a way to get involved, and help pave the way for these unique thinkers.

  • happy children
Is dyslexia really a gift?
Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

I have had the pleasure of working with dyslexic students for two decades, and I continue to marvel at how extraordinary they are. They are proficient problem-solvers, out of the box thinkers, creative, often “think in 3D,” have tremendous verbal skills (the proverbial “gift of gab”), are compassionate with high levels of emotional intelligence, can see patterns that others fail to observe, make connections that exhibit great skill in higher order thinking, and have grit and determination to excel despite the obstacles in their paths. I have seen my students go on to college and graduate school, often performing at exemplary levels and winning awards for high academic achievement.

So dyslexia is a gift, right? Easy for me to say since I’m not dyslexic myself. I basically taught myself how to read at age four, spelled easily, wrote beautifully, loved school, and excelled academically, admittedly with very little effort. Standardized test days were among my favorites, because I was eager for the opportunity to demonstrate just how far above grade level I was this time.

But a very good friend of mine who happens to be dyslexic herself helped me see that dyslexics may not view dyslexia as a gift. She certainly possesses all of the strengths that often accompany dyslexia. She is extremely bright, with a steel trap mind that assesses situations and arrives at solutions before most of us have even recognized the problem. She is generous in spirit and has a keen understanding of human interaction. Her ability to do mental math astounds me, and she is quick and accurate in her calculations.

She is tremendously gifted, but she struggled in school. Her memories of standardized testing and long novel assignments are not the same as mine. She very much remembers the pain of being different from traditional learners. School was hard. Yet she had the grit and determination to succeed and overcome.  

If your dyslexic child bristles when he or she hears dyslexia described as a gift, try to understand. As parents, we often want to ease our children’s pain and paint rosy pictures of their futures. Their futures can indeed be rosy, but it is important to know that school probably will be hard for them. Remember to support them when they are struggling, and realize that they really are trying to do their best. Understand when they complete their work more slowly and give them the tools they need to be successful, such as audio books when they are required to read Walden or The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

There are many wonderful gifts that accompany dyslexia, but those gifts are not usually related to school tasks such as reading, spelling, and writing. Looking at your child’s dyslexia realistically and proactively and understanding the pitfalls as well as the benefits, may be the greatest gifts you can give them. Be in their corner for the setbacks as well as the celebrations.

Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

Fall is in the air. It’s almost time for college football, apple-picking, falling leaves and . . . the beginning of a new school year. Here at my school we have been busy putting up bulletin boards, meeting about exciting curriculum changes, sharing our very best teaching ideas, opening boxes of materials. The excitement is palpable.  

Teachers love the beginning of school because it means a year of hope and promise lies ahead. We are as eager to meet our new students as they are to meet us. There’s just something about seeing those eager young faces that makes it all worthwhile. It’s why we all went into teaching. There is nothing like watching the light bulb click on when you’re introducing a new concept or listening to a child speak articulately about something new they have just learned. We live by the successes of our students.  

But we also realize that the beginning of the school year may not mean the same thing to all students. There are always those kids who just “get school.” They read well, memorize easily, and grasp all concepts quickly. These children already have their file folders labeled, their binders color-coded, and their pencils sharpened.

Then there are those students who struggle academically. Here, our children are all dyslexic, and they come to us from schools where learning was not much fun. They were not taught to read the way they need to learn, and reading is of course the foundation for all learning. Even math, which used to be a safe place for many children, now presents stumbling blocks to the struggling reader, since we are using words to talk about and describe what happens in math. Fortunately for our students, however, we specialize in the remediation of dyslexia. Our children will be directly taught how to read, spell, comprehend, and write.  They will be given the tools and strategies they need to become better readers.

  • Fall
Why is it so hard for my child to read and spell?
Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

Of course reading and spelling are always difficult for dyslexics. But what makes English particularly hard to read and spell?

According to the Oxford Royale Academy, English is one of the hardest languages to learn for a variety of reasons. Many of our words come from Greek and Latin roots, just like other European languages. But we have more trouble. Why?

English does have a lot of rules to help us, such as “i before e except after c.”  We all learned that, right? If you are a natural reader and speller, this rule really helped you. However, if you are dyslexic, the exceptions to the rules really muddy the waters. In fact, here at my school for dyslexic children we don’t even refer to them as "rules" . . . they are only “generalizations.” Do you realize how many exceptions there are to the “i before e” rule? The rest of it goes, “i before e, except after c when spelling long e.” But what about “seize” or “either” or “weird” or “neither?” And did you ever think about the fact that you also use “e” before “i” when spelling long /a/ . . . as in “neighbor” or “weigh.” 

Consider also the difficulties with pronunciation. Imagine the confusion dyslexics have with “through,” “rough,” and “bough.” Accenting adds a whole new layer, such as the complexity of the word “desert.” “ `De sert ” means an arid plain, while “de `sert” means to leave without permission. Homophones such as “wound,” pronounced "wowned," versus “wound,” pronounced “wooned.” “There," "their," and "they’re” are really confusing. English also contains words of French, German, and Italian derivation, such as “antique,” “sausage,” and “al dente.”  

There is a wonderful poem that is illustrative of these English pitfalls in an article on entitled “The Absurdity of English Spelling and Why We’re Stuck With It:”

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough and through.

According to Cigdem Kneble’s article “Why is English So Hard to Read,” published in Child’s World News, our alphabet contains 26 letters, but they are used to create 44 sounds. There are 1,120 ways to create those 44 sounds. For example, here at our school we teach the eight ways to spell long /a/ and the six ways to spell the /k/ sound. Kneble also observed that there are often several ways to pronounce letters, such as "a" in apple, car, ball, or the "c” in cat and city. In English, one sound can be represented by up to four letters together:

    “a” in “apple” (one letter)
    “ph” in “phone” (two letters)
    “eau” in “plateau” (three letters)
    “eigh” in “eight” (four letters)

So how do we help our dyslexic children navigate the rough waters of the English language?  Dyslexics need to be directly taught to read and spell, using sequential, systematic, multisensory, research-based language instruction, such as the Orton-Gillingham method. Dyslexic children will have a much more difficult time learning to read using traditional methods such as “whole language,” which assumes that children will learn to read words based upon the context in which the words are encountered. It is essential that dyslexic children learn how to break words down into meaningful units of sound, and then blend them together to read words.  Most dyslexics have poor visual memories for words, and they struggle with the sound/symbol relationship. Thus, they will not see a word in context and remember it when it appears again. I often have parents tell me about their frustration when they work with their child on a word such as “the” only to have they child act as though they’ve never seen the word before when they next encounter it in the text.

Help your dyslexic children by getting them the remediation they need. Dyslexic children can learn to read and spell by being directly taught. Don’t leave them to the vagaries of the complicated language that is English!


  • dyslexia
  • English language
Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

As parents, we are full of plans and expectations for our children. Naturally, we hope they will grow up to be strong, happy, independent adults. Many of us have expectations that our children will be “successful,” with our own individual definition of this concept. And there are those of us who have expectations that may be unrealistic and difficult to live up to.

Imagine that you are a college-educated professional who found school relatively easy and thrived in an academic environment. You quite naturally believed that your children would follow in your scholarly footsteps. You probably read by age four or five, had beautiful handwriting, and loved to go to school every day.

Then along comes your child. This child finds school a frightening place, full of tasks far too difficult to complete. Your child finds every excuse to avoid school and homework, claiming all manner of feigned illnesses which seem to go away the moment you call the school to say your child is ill.   

Difficult to understand? Yes, unless you discover that your child is dyslexic. By educating yourself about the strengths and weaknesses of your child’s learning profile, you will begin to understand why your little one avoids school and homework. And since you want all good things for your child, you will seek out the help and intervention he or she needs. That help can take many forms, from a specialized school for dyslexics to individual tutoring. You may find that your child’s teacher is aware of resources to help, or you may need to do your own research by reaching out to your local branch of the International Dyslexia Association or the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.

Armed with information, you will be prepared to look at your child’s path through school with fresh eyes. Even with remediation, your child will always be dyslexic and likely will read slower and find spelling more difficult than his or her peers. But remember those early expectations? With help, your child can be every bit as successful as you had hoped. Will your child need to work harder for that success? Yes. The good news is that dyslexics develop an incredible amount of grit, which will help them become successful upon graduation from school. That grit and determination will make them the sort of employee/physician/lawyer/entrepreneur that will make you proud. 

So go ahead and keep those high expectations. People usually rise to the lowest level of expectations, so make sure you let your child know to reach for the sky. With your support, faith, and encouragement, he or she will do just that.

  • dyslexia
  • expectations
  • success
Josh Clark with students
Josh Clark, Head of School

This piece first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Story.


I was a man on a mission.

It was already 12:30 p.m., yet it felt like the day had just begun. My to-do’s multiplied with each minute, and the “ding” of my inbox haunted my every move. Despite these distractions, I charged down the steps with a singular focus: cauliflower soup.

It was my new obsession. Chef Kotrell and Ms. Brenda introduced it to me several weeks ago, and each day I followed my nose into the dining hall hopeful for its return. I filed into line just after a group of third graders. With nervous angst, I asked the young lady in front of me if she knew what we was on the menu. Aghast, she turned around, her face filled with shock and disbelief.

“You mean, you don’t decide what we’re eating?”

The revelation shook her very core. If the Head of School was not in charge of the menu, what other absolutes could crumble?

I pondered her reaction a few minutes later as I sipped on a bowl of tomato basil soup - a satisfying but safe choice. What does it mean to be Head of School? When my son was four years old, my wife interviewed him for a Father’s Day present. When asked what Daddy does at work, he said, “Daddy works at a school and helps people who fall off the sidewalk.” An admirable career, even if it did not match my actual responsibilities.

Like many of us, it can be difficult to explain what I do. “Running a school” is a fair start, but it is just a general overview of a much more complex landscape. Further, while being in charge of The Schenck School shares similarities with the leaders of Trinity School or Oak Grove Elementary, it is also very different in subtle yet important ways. Titles and labels are a helpful gateway into complex ideas and constructs, but they fall short of a full understanding.

The term dyslexia is similar. Most educated adults understand it has something to do with reading difficulties or perhaps the misconception of seeing letters backwards. For parents and children navigating its diagnosis, dyslexia can be an empowering term, providing validation and explanation.. The comfort and uniformity the term casts can also be misleading, though.

Knowing someone is dyslexic is just the beginning of a journey to understand his or her “differences within THE difference.”

No two dyslexic brains are the same. While all dyslexic students share an unexpected difficulty learning to read, write and spell, how these difficulties manifest themselves, how they respond to interventions, and how they impact academic performance vary greatly.

At The Schenck School, we often refer to the “secret sauce” that makes our students so successful. I hate this phrase. First, there is no secret. If you want to know why the School has been successful for the last 58 years, spend five minutes in a classroom observing the tireless efforts of  the teachers and students. Hard work, dedication, and evidence-based teaching methods are not mysteries.

The idea that we marinate our students in a sauce or follow a step-by-step recipe does not resonate either. In fact, I think the fact that we do the exact opposite is what makes us so successful. As research advances and our diagnostic instruments improve, we are able to better understand the variations in how our students solve problems and process information. As research becomes more extensive, we may soon be able individualize our approach even further.

In the end, as with all things in life worth understanding, dyslexia is complicated. As a school dedicated to grappling with and celebrating its intricacies, we must always aim to do better. When we embrace the “difference within THE difference” of dyslexia and all of its complexities, we get closer to a full understanding of how to best serve our students.


  • It's complicated
  • Josh Clark
Rosalie Davis and Gena Calloway
Gena Calloway Farinholt, Head of School, retired 2015

This piece first appeared in The Story, Spring 2018.

It all started on an August day in 1990. It was the morning of my first day as a new teacher at The Schenck School. There were ten others like me sitting in the library of the old School building ready for orientation with Marge Tillman. It was a bit intimidating. Looking back around the room in my memory, there is only one individual I remember and for good reason.

Of course, we began with self-introductions. I remember hearing Rosalie Davis speak. I wish I could quote her words verbatim. As memory serves, she spoke with huge enthusiasm about joining the faculty of The Schenck School after having taught elsewhere. On her own, Rosalie had researched the School when she saw first-hand how well students who had attended the School were doing after they left. Rosalie took it upon herself to visit the School. She was hooked.

Little did either of us know what was in store for us or the School! Adventure Number 1.

Rosalie taught middle school, and I taught the little ones, both as associate teachers for a year and then as leads. We were in the same building but worlds apart in our daily duties!

As the years went by, our friendship and collegiality grew. As other faculty came and went, there was always a strong core of "us."

Then, things began to change as senior administrators neared retirement and roles started to shift.

Marge Tillman was promoted to Director of the School, upon David Schenck's retirement.  The position of associate director was open, and Rosalie was tapped to fill it – a wise move! As such, she took on a major role not only in teacher supervision and admissions but also began “understudying” with Marge to take over training new faculty.

Not long after, the position of lower level principal was created. I applied and was selected. Rosalie and Gena, together again. Adventure Number 2.

Things were changing rapidly. The School was growing in enrollment and physical size. David Schenck was still there each and every day as director emeritus. When Marge Tillman announced her retirement, I was asked to take the helm as Head of School with Rosalie continuing as Associate Head. Adventure Number 3.

In the summer of 2001, Rosalie and I marveled at the School’s incredibly low faculty turn-over, which meant there were only a few new teachers each year she would spend a great deal of time training. So she said (another vivid memory for me) "Let’s train outside teachers and tutors!” I can recall where we were and those exact words. Rosalie was immediately all-in. The response was overwhelming, and Orton-Gillinghan teacher training rapidly expanded. Adventure Number 4.

Frankly, I am at a loss for a few words to adequately describe what Rosalie has done for The Schenck School since that fateful July day! It reaches beyond the physical expansion and number of students. In Rosalie’s capable hands, the teacher training program at The Schenck School has become nationally known. She has trained scores and scores of teachers, tutors, and parents.

Because of her quality execution of teacher training, The Schenck School became one of the original Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE) accredited schools and training sites. Rosalie speaks at conferences and professional developments programs nationwide, as well as teaches university classes and working with public and private school teachers.

Adventure Number 5. AOGPE asked Rosalie to serve on their Board of Trustees in 2003.  She served so well that she was named Board Chair in 2008. Rosalie took these additional duties in stride, and the Academy soared. The Schenck School soared.  All that Rosalie has accomplished is a vital part of why The Schenck School is where it is today. So, dear friend and colleague, I salute you! David would be proud.  Adventure Number 6?


After 28 years of dedicated service, Rosalie Davis will retire from The School School this summer, but she plans to continue her efforts supporting dyslexia education and remediation.  Some of her future work will include continuing to train teachers in the Orton-Gillingham Approach, mentoring teachers, and helping individuals advancing to the Fellow Level in the Academy of Orton-GIllingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE). Rosalie's depth of knowledge about dyslexia and dyslexia remediation is vast. She has personally trained hundreds of teachers from independent, public, and collegiate-level schools throughout the southeast in the Orton-Gillingham Approach. She is accomplished on a national level through her involvement with the AOGPE Board of Trustees, including many years as the Chair. 

  • Gena Calloway Farinholt
  • Rosalie Davis
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published June 19, 2015.

I recently attended the graduation ceremony for our dyslexic students, and it was especially moving. The students seemed even more excited than usual to be moving on to their new schools. Maybe it was the gorgeous weather or the fact that there were a record number of graduates.

I think, however, that it was due to our inspiring commencement speaker, Mr. Britton Burdette.  Mr. Burdette is not only an alumnus but also a successful businessperson and an articulate advocate for dyslexic children. He spoke to our children with the ­­­­­conviction that comes from personal experience. Britton told our children that they would face obstacles along the way, and that their paths would be difficult. Dyslexics, he said, would always need to work harder than everyone else to accomplish their goals. They would need to maintain a strong work ethic in order to be successful.

The good news, he said, was that dyslexics possess unique talents that take them far in life. They have creativity, imagination, problem solving skills, and an ability to think outside the box. These gifts enable dyslexics to go beyond the ordinary and become visionary leaders who push the envelope and devise creative solutions to whatever obstacles come their way. Sally Shaywitz of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity says it well: “Dyslexia is surrounded by these strengths of higher cognitive and linguistic functioning, reason, conceptual abilities and problem solving.” She goes on to say that: “ . . . what has become obvious . . . is not only that dyslexics can be, and often are, brilliant, but that many develop far superior abilities in some areas than their so-called ‘normal’ counterparts.”

You don’t have to look far to discover dyslexics who have offered unique solutions to the world’s problems. This number includes such successful professionals as investor Charles Schwab, Paul Orfalea, creator of Kinko’s, John Chambers of Cisco Systems, Apple founder, Steve Jobs and author John Irving. Chris Warren, in a 2008 article, discusses a 2007 study by Julie Logan, professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London. She reported that more than a third of the American entrepreneurs she surveyed said that they were dyslexic. Logan found that “dyslexics, because they face difficulty navigating their way through school, often develop the kind of skills they’ll eventually need to launch and grow their own businesses . . . the dyslexic who has had to overcome problems to survive at school has much experience in this area.”

Britton Burdette came to our school in first grade as a non-reader. His family and teachers celebrated when, at the beginning of his second year, he was able to read a complete sentence. A complete sentence . . . something that his former peers were able to do easily in kindergarten. But what a cause for celebration! Britton was reading. This wonderful young man went on to be very successful in undergraduate, and graduate, school. He is now an accomplished businessman who continues to find unique and creative solutions in his work.

Britton concluded his talk by telling our students that, when faced with the opportunity to hire for open positions within his company, he always chooses the dyslexic. He said that he spoke of his dyslexia in every college essay and job interview. Celebrate dyslexia . . . it truly is a gift.

Peggy Hendrix
Peggy Hendrix, Director of Admissions

“I’m sure my other children aren’t dyslexic.  None of them have the same symptoms my dyslexic child had.”

The problem with this statement is that it is unlikely to be true.  Dyslexia is a neurobiological condition, and is highly hereditary. Research has shown that there is familial clustering with dyslexia.  Children with a dyslexic parent have a 40-60% chance of being dyslexic. This risk is increased when there are other dyslexics in the family.  In fact, according to the Journal of Medical Genetics, there is an estimated 3-10 fold increase in the relative risk for a sibling.

So, long story short, if you or one of your children is dyslexic, it is highly likely that at least one of your other children is as well.  But it can be confusing to figure this out . . . no two dyslexics are exactly alike.  Most have difficulty spelling, but not all.  Most have trouble decoding, but not all. Some have an attention deficit disorder, some have receptive or expressive language disorders, some have difficulty with math, some have poor fine or gross motor issues, while others are star athletes with perfect handwriting.

So how do you determine whether you have other dyslexic children in your home?  If any of your other children present with red flags for dyslexia, it is important to have them tested.  Examples of red flags for preschool children include an inability to produce rhymes, divide words into syllables, discriminate between rhyming words, delete root/syllables/phonemes (for example, “Say ‘cowboy.’  Now say it again but don’t say ‘boy'”). Children at age six should be able to write words, write sentences, blend sounds together, decode nonsense words, segment words into syllables, and identify letters and their sounds.  Children in grades second through fifth should be able to spell fairly well, have good handwriting, enjoy reading, recall sight words quickly without much repetition, comprehend reading material on or above grade level, and read accurately.

Remembering that early intervention is best, observe your other children.  Watch for these signs and talk with your child's teachers to see if they have noted that he or she struggles with any of these reading skills. Early intervention is best, so don’t delay. As you can see, signs of dyslexia occur in very young children. The longer a child goes undiagnosed and unremediated, the weaker his or her self esteem becomes.  Children do not grow out of dyslexia, and they are very rarely only “late bloomers.” Have your child tested and give them the remediation they need in order to become successful learners.

  • Early intervention
  • Peggy Hendrix
  • Read Rise Fly
It's Summertime! Ideas to Support Your Dyslexic Student
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published June 1, 2015.


What can you do this summer to help your dyslexic child? First and foremost, continue the help your child is receiving, or get them help if they are not. Orton Gillingham (“OG”) tutoring is the best prescription for dyslexia remediation. It is the research-based method that provides multisensory remediation in a structured, sequential, diagnostic manner.

If your child already has an OG tutor, make sure that they continue their tutoring over the summer. Dyslexic children need systematic repetition in order to maintain the skills they learned during the school year. A month or two off can mean great loss of skills learned. For help finding an OG tutor in your area, contact The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.

Provide a literature-rich environment. Select high-interest books to read to your child. Dyslexic children often have gaps in their vocabulary development, and reading or hearing books read aloud helps them fill in those gaps. Talk with your child about what you are reading, and ask questions to check their comprehension. Discuss unfamiliar words with them and make sure they understand the meaning of these words. Encourage your child’s love of books by providing digital access to audio books. Learning Ally is a wonderful resource for audio books; these books allow children to read along as the book is read aloud.

Other suggestions by Schenck School teachers include keeping a journal, asking a grandparent to be a pen pal, encourage swimming . . . great for left/right coordination and stimulation of sensory receptors, have your child practice spelling words using shaving cream and a hard surface, and play classical music in your car to stimulate brain function.

Finally, have fun and enjoy your child. Give them opportunities to explore and develop their strengths. Plan valuable family time . . . those wonderful family memories are golden and help you through the rough patches when your child faces tough academic times.

Have a wonder-filled summer with your creative child!

Listen to your gut!
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

You know that little voice inside your head that begins to call to you once become a parent - the one that tells you your child may be running a fever, or dealing with a bully, or feeling left out?  Has that voice ever told you something is different about how your child learns?

As the admissions director at a school for dyslexic children, ninety percent of parents tell me they always suspected something was “going on.”  Many have even voiced this to their child’s school, only to be told their child is “just fine.” Or, “she’s young for the grade,” or “he’s a late bloomer.”  

But in spite of all these assurances to the contrary, you know something just isn’t clicking for your child academically.  Sure, their grades may be good, and their teachers are pleased with their progress, but your child has begun to resist going to school.  He may often have headaches or stomach aches that make going to school impossible.

Or it could be that you have begun to see signs of irritation and resistance to school tasks.  Homework may have become a time filled with dread for the whole family. Nudging to complete assignments is met with anger and tears.  You wonder if your child is just being difficult or lazy. Your child may come home from school in tears. The truth is that there is no such thing as a lazy child.  Children can learn to be avoidant if they are frustrated by their learning experience. In fact, there is an excellent book about children’s desire to please, The Myth of Laziness by Dr. Mel Levine.  

My advice to you is to listen to your gut.  You know your child better than anyone on the planet and if you suspect something is different, it probably is.  And the sooner you do something about it, the better. Most parents have a tendency to listen to the experts . . . those teachers at school to whom you entrust your child.  And in most cases, this is exactly what you need to do, unless you suspect a learning difference.  Teachers are wonderful, educated, compassionate people who teach because they love children.  But it is important for you to understand that most teachers are not experts about dyslexia. Typically dyslexic children present as very bright, verbal learners, and it is hard for teachers to recognize that they aren’t performing to their potential.

If that inner voice is telling you something is going on, reach out to your school system or an independent psychologist to have your child tested.  Ask for a complete psychoeducational evaluation. This testing will either confirm your suspicions or put your mind at rest. If your child is dyslexic, congratulations!  She has an amazing mind that is designed to do incredible things! But dyslexia makes learning to read and spell more difficult. Children with dyslexia need to be directly taught how to break down words  (decode) in order to be able to read. They need to be taught to spell directly, developing an understanding of the rules and generalizations underlying the complex language that is English. Help unlock your child’s potential by getting the help he needs to be successful.  With diagnoses in hand, you will be able to determine just what is interfering with your child’s learning.

For information about dyslexia, please visit the website of the Orton Gillingham Academy.  You may also contact your local branch of the International Dyslexia Association.  There you will find information about dyslexia, suggestions for remediation, and steps to take to work with your local school to obtain accomodations for your child.

Parents are amazing people.  You are finely attuned to your child’s needs and fiercely determined to get her the help she needs.  You can be an amazing advocate for your child . . . just learn what he is dealing with and then search out local resources to provide that help.

Most importantly of all, enjoy your dyslexic child!


The Age of Dyslexic Thinking
Josh Clark, Head of School

This post was first published July 10, 2017.

It was one big, fat, stinking lie.

She promised I was wrong. She swore she was telling the truth. The wooden schoolhouses circling her neck and cat sweater made her deception all the more convincing. As she peered through the lenses balancing on her nose, I knew. I saw her chalkboard scribbles of cosigns and quadratic functions for what they were: propaganda. Despite Mrs. Kurlee’s insistence otherwise, I knew I would never use pre-calculus in “real life.”

Twenty years later, I am not backing down. I have yet to find a use for my knowledge of rational exponents. Looking back at my primary and high school education, I am faced with a sea of useless knowledge.

  • The Romans would host great feasts and vomit in-between courses, so they could continue eating. Why thank you, eighth grade world history.
  • The poet Christopher Marlowe was stabbed in the head during a bar brawl. Lovely, twelfth grade English.
  • Hippo milk is pink. How special, second grade science.

I am not suggesting that my education was pointless or subpar. To the contrary, I am very grateful for my first twelve years of schooling. However, it is not the content I absorbed that has had a lasting impact. It is the process I took in with which to understand it.

Traditional schools often value abilities and skills not necessarily reflected in the real world. Memorization, speed, and retrieval tend not to be the strengths of dyslexic learners. Thankfully, their importance stops at the classroom door.

Despite schools’ reluctance to change, I believe the future will put a premium on dyslexic thinking. In his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brain Thinking Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink outlines six essential skills for the future: meaning, design, empathy, symphony, story and play.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, these characteristics are disproportionately high in people with dyslexia. One third of all American entrepreneurs are dyslexic. I am confident dyslexic thinkers like Steve Jobs and Charles Schwab would not attribute their success to knowing that Cheyenne is the capital of Wyoming (I had to Google it). Their genius derived from the novelties and connections they saw within the information.

As the 21st century unfolds, memorization, speed, and retrieval will be the work of machines. Thinking will be the new engine of our economy. It will be the age of dyslexic thinking.

I'm a great teacher, so why can't this smart kid read?
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published April 27, 2016.

You’ve tried everything in the book.  You’ve spent countless additional hours working one-on-one with a child before/after school.  You’ve drilled sight words until you’re blue in the face.  You’ve read passages and then had the child read them back to you, but they read it differently every time.  The child skips over words that you know they know.  They even substitute words that have the same meaning, yet they can’t read the word as it is written in the text.  What can you do to get through to this clearly bright child?

Your student is most likely dyslexic.  So what is dyslexia, really?  Reading from right to left, reversing numbers and letters, writing in mirror image?  Could be.  But it could mean lots of other things as well.  There are many resources out there to help you understand dyslexia, as well as to help those dyslexic children in your classroom.  A good place to start is Dyslexia Help at The University of Michigan.  There you will find information aimed at professionals such as yourself.  Another good place to look is The International Dyslexia Association.  The IDA has excellent resources for teachers wanting to address dyslexia in their classrooms.

As an educator, you probably want to do reading and research on your own as well.  Great books on the subject include:  Dyslexia, A Teacher’s Journey, by Ruth Fuller Lature,  Beginning to Read, by Marilyn Jager Adams;  A Mind at a Time, by Mel Levine; Overcoming Dyslexia, by Dr. Sally Shaywitz;  Words Fail Me:  How Language Develops and What Happens When It Doesn’t, by Priscilla Vail; Speech to Print, by Louisa Moats; and About Dyslexia:  Unlocking the Myth, by Priscilla Vail.  Through these books, you will develop an understanding of dyslexia as well as methods to help dyslexic children in your classroom.

It is also helpful to familiarize yourself with “red flags” that might indicate a potential reading disorder.  There are different indicators at every age.  If you are wondering whether your student is dyslexic, consider this list of “red flags for an emerging reading disorder.”

Preschoolers should be able to:

  • Produce rhyming words
  • Divide words into syllables
  • Divide sentences into words
  • Discriminate rhyming words
  • Delete roots, syllables, and phonemes
  • Substitute phonemes to form new words
  • Identify phonemes by their positions in words (beginning, middle and end)

Six-year-olds should be able to:

  • Write words
  • Write sentences
  • Blend sounds together
  • Decode nonsense words
  • Segment words into syllables
  • Identify sounds and letters

Children in second – fifth grades should be able to:

  • Spell well
  • Have appropriate handwriting
  • Enjoy reading and writing
  • Have appropriate or strong written expression
  • Have appropriate or strong reading strategies
  • Recall sight words quickly without much repetition
  • Comprehend reading material on or above grade level

If your student struggles with these skills, there is a good chance that he or she is struggling with dyslexia.  About 20 percent of children are dyslexic, one in 5 children in any given class.  You want so much to be able to reach every child in your care and tutelage.  You are a dedicated professional, deeply concerned about and committed to helping your students achieve success.  By learning about dyslexia and developing strategies to address this particular kind of learning difference, you will hone a skill set that will enable you to reach your struggling readers. If you would like to learn more about training in the Orton-Gillingham method, contact the Orton Gillingham Academy.

Orton-Gillingham is a scientific, research-based multi-sensory method designed for the remediation of dyslexia.  According to the Academy, “Orton-Gillingham is an instructional approach intended primarily for use with persons who have difficulty with reading, spelling, and writing of the sort associated with dyslexia.”  Dyslexics cannot learn to read through the whole-language method. They must be directly taught decoding skills that will allow them to sound out, blend, and break down words.

Without this direct instruction, letters and words make no sense to dyslexics because they lack an understanding of sound-symbol relationships. Their brains process letters differently.  They must learn to read letter by letter, sound by sound.  Most people seem to read whole words at a time, but they are actually looking at each letter and automatically blending those letters to create words.  Dyslexics lack this automaticity.  Reading is a slow, laborious process.  It is so difficult that often by the time a student has finished reading a passage, he or she has no concept of what they have just read because the act of reading itself has been so arduous.

In an article published by Carnegie Mellon, researchers found that specific reading remediation programs, such as the Orton-Gillingham approach, the Wilson Reading Program or the Lindamood-Bell program , actually permanently rewire dyslexic brains.  Prior to remediation, the brains of dyslexics are weaker in the parietotemporal lobe, the part of the brain that processes language.  The Carnegie Mellon study found that after a year of specific, targeted remediation, “the activation differences between good readers and dyslexics had nearly vanished, suggesting that the neural gains were strengthened over time . . . due just to the engagement in reading activities.”  During the study, dyslexic children worked in small groups and were trained in decoding and comprehension skills.  Following remediation, their brains showed no difference from their non-dyslexic counterparts.

Dyslexic children can learn to read.  They may never read as quickly as traditional learners and they will probably never spell well, but they can be very successful students given the time and tools they need to learn.  They just need to be taught differently.

Alternative Wiring
Josh Clark, Head of School

This post was first published June 2, 2017.

During my family’s transition to Atlanta, we have learned a few things:

  • Unused kitchen gadgets, broken souvenirs, and outdated clothing will remain just that, even after wrapping them in paper, packing them in a box, and hauling them across the country.
  • It is impossible to be on time in Atlanta. You can be early, you can be late, but you cannot be on time.
  • You know you’re “home” when you can get to Costco without your GPS.

Moving is a humbling experience.

It can also be a rejuvenating one, though. On a personal level, my family has come closer together as we learn to navigate a new city, new schools, and new friendships.

Professionally, The Schenck School has deepened my belief in the power of the dyslexic brain. From solving complex math equations, to segmenting words into syllables, to creating beautiful artwork, our classrooms and hallways are a reminder that great minds think differently.

In their book The Dyslexic Advantage, Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide argue for a new interpretation of dyslexia. They understand dyslexia not as an impairment, but an alternative wiring of the brain which brings extreme challenges but also opportunities. They understand dyslexia not as a condition, disease, or syndrome, but a wonderful example of humanity’s diversity and adaptability. In the book, their detailed explanations of brain science are paired with examples of tremendous achievement, from the man who invented the compact disc to novelist Anne Rice.

I recently gave a talk entitled “Understanding Dyslexia,” in which I highlighted research by the Drs. Eide in which they surveyed individuals who were “Definitely Dyslexic” and “Definitely Not Dyslexic.” For a series of questions, participants selected a response on a spectrum of “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.” When presented with the statement “Reading aloud is hard for me,” over 60% of dyslexic participants agreed, while 94% of non-dyslexics strongly disagreed. Similar results were found for “Learning multiplication facts was hard for me” and “I often have difficulty remembering names.”

This trend continued throughout the survey, with disproportionate responses on either end of the range. What did change, though, was the nature of the questions.

  • “I have always been good at building things ” – 72% of dyslexics agree, while 52% non-dyslexic thinkers disagree
  • “I am better at understanding the big picture than thinking about details” – 84% dyslexics agree, while 73% of non-dyslexic only somewhat agree or disagree

Dyslexia creates enormous difficulties when dyslexics are asked to learn to read, write, and spell. In our print-saturated world, these difficulties can impede academic growth and confidence. However, when given the appropriate tools to navigate their own neurological pathways, those same differences can be opportunities for dyslexic individuals.

We all become consumed by the day to day. Our perspectives and understandings become about the now and not the larger picture we are working towards. Sometimes it helps to get up and move.

The Myth of the "Gift of Time"
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published October 3, 2016.

“He’s only six!”

 “He’s a boy and would rather play outside than sit inside and read.”

 “She just can’t remember nursery rhymes.  I’m sure she’ll learn them eventually.”

 “He’s just a late bloomer.”

 “She’s reading.  She’s memorized lots of books!”

When parents finally come to see me in the admissions office, they’ve often heard these statements from other parents or even teachers. There is the belief that children are pressured to be engaged in reading readiness activities too early. Parents also have heard that children’s academic readiness develops at different rates (true) and that everyone will be reading at the same level by grade 3 (not true).  Lots of folks can cite examples of children they knew who suddenly blossomed into strong readers after learning to read at a rate much slower than their peers.

While these anecdotes may be true, the likelihood is far greater that poor readers will never catch up to their peers.  A longitudinal study published in The American Educator, by  J.K. Thorgesen,  found that “children who are poor readers at the end of first grade never acquire average-level reading skills by the end of elementary school.”  These children typically enter a “downward spiral” from which they may never recover. School becomes a frustrating experience, and these poor readers suffer greatly in self-confidence and their sense of self-worth.  They often become the victims of bullying, becoming increasingly socially isolated.  But sometimes teachers are reluctant to talk with parents about their child’s learning struggles.  It can be a daunting task to tell an eager young parent that there is something “wrong” or “different” about their child’s learning profile.

In my own experience, parents go through stages, not unlike the stages of grief, when coming to terms with their child’s learning differences.  My husband and I were almost angry with our tester because we thought the tests were wrong.  Surely she had misunderstood our child!  There couldn’t be a learning problem here.  With the dyslexia diagnosis came anger and denial.

The next stage we entered was one of fear and grief.  We wondered what would become of our sweet son.  His life, which had seemed so full of promise, now seemed like a dark mystery to us.  What would he ever become?  Would he ever learn to read?  How could he be successful if he couldn’t read?

Finally, through much support, we came to accept his diagnosis, and we looked for ways to find help.  We were very lucky that his teachers recognized his learning issue and suggested testing when he was only five. They didn’t recommend waiting to see what might develop. He was spared that downward spiral that so many children experience.

I always tell parents that if you think there’s an issue, there probably is.  Don’t wait to get testing.  The psycho-educational evaluation will always give you a great deal of information about your child’s learning profile. Even if you find that there is not an issue, you will know so much more than you did before.

But if you find that your child is dyslexic, please don’t wait to get help.  Another year of kindergarten or first grade won’t help him be successful. Late bloomers are exceedingly rare. Waiting will only delay your child receiving the intervention she so badly needs.

Be proactive in becoming educated about your child’s learning profile and save him from the downward spiral that children can enter when their remediation is delayed. Make sure your happy child remains a happy child!

How Can I Help My Child's Grandparents Understand Dyslexia? (or Friends, Neighbors, Acquaintances?)
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published November 1, 2016.

My father still questions me about my son’s dyslexia, even though he was diagnosed sixteen years ago and has now graduated college.  I feel as though I’ve explained my son’s learning difference ad nauseum, but Dad still struggles to understand exactly what dyslexia means. It probably has something to do with the fact that I didn’t even tell my dad about my son’s diagnosis until I went to work at a special school for dyslexic children, and my son had already been a student there for two years!  I must admit that I was not at all forthcoming about my son’s learning difference!

But why wasn’t I more open?  Could it have had something to do with the fact that I was concerned about the stigma that I thought accompanied such a diagnosis?  (That actually couldn’t be further from the truth . . . many dyslexic students possess higher order thinking skills that allow them to be more successful in this global, fast-changing world than “traditional learners.”)  Perhaps I felt my father would think that my son wasn’t smart or wouldn’t be successful.  Maybe I was afraid that my child would be seen as lesser than his cousins in my dad’s eyes.

Of course that couldn’t be further from the truth.  My dad has always been keenly interested in my son’s progress, perhaps even more than he was with his other grandchildren.  He always asks about my son and remains closely involved in his life.  Yet his confusion about dyslexia still remains.

So what is the best way to talk with loved ones about your child’s diagnosis?  First, be direct and honest with them from the very beginning, when you first suspect that there is an issue.  Let them come along the journey with you . . .in fact, you will probably find that their support is invaluable to you as you come to terms with the diagnosis yourself.

Educate yourself about dyslexia, so that you know how to help educate others.  Read Sally Shaywitz’s book, Overcoming Dyslexia.  Learn about the truths and myths of this learning difference. Visit websites such as Dyslexia Help at The University of Michigan to learn as much as you can about ongoing dyslexia research.

And most importantly, become comfortable with the topic yourself. Once you have accepted the fact that dyslexia can be remediated and that dyslexics have much to offer the world, you will be a much better spokesperson. (See my earlier blog post entitled, “Does This Remind You of a Child You Know?” for discussion about the gifts that often accompany dyslexia.)  You will become your child’s best advocate by first understanding dyslexia yourself.  And you will be able to reassure those loving grandparents that with help, your dyslexic child is going to be just fine.


Reading Is Rocket Science: Part 2
Josh Clark, Head of School

This post was first published May 26, 2016.

Please do not read this.


Seriously, please stop.


Now you are just being rude!



For most of you, reading the above text was unavoidable. Even as your mind processed its content and understood its intent, you could not help but read it. For a traditional learner, reading itself seems an involuntary process, an innate neurological reflex. However, now trying reading the following:


هل بامكانك قراءة هذا؟

Different experience, huh? Assuming you are not familiar with Arabic, these symbols did not trigger any automatic processes in your brain. You did not involuntarily begin translating symbols into sounds and then piecing them into words, syntax and meaning. Though many of use do not realize it, reading is a veryinvolved process.


Reading Rope Model


Above is an illustration of how our brains create reading comprehension – if you remember from last week, I refer to it as the “Reading Rope Model.” It shows how reading comprehension is a result of two main components – Language Comprehension and Word Recognition – and how each component is further comprised of a series of subtasks. This week, I want to explore these two categories in more detail.


Language Comprehension

Whenever we interact with language, through print or the spoken word, our brain must process the input. From distinguishing between different sounds to using background knowledge to build context, our brains are constantly churning away. As you can see from the illustration, there are a number of subtasks associated with language, and I highlighted a few of my favorites below. You know you are a language nerd when you have “favorite” language processing subtasks.=)


Language Structure – Who is performing the action? Who is receiving the action? What is the main idea versus supporting information?


Verbal Reasoning – Is this literal or figurative? Does she really look like a rose? Is a “cat burglar” a furry kleptomaniac?


Literacy Knowledge – What are your expectations when reading a poem vs a science fiction novel vs a Wikipedia entry?


Word Recognition

When reading, our brains must take 26 symbols that can be combined into over 250 representations of just 40 speech sounds. It is no small feat!


Phonological Awareness – This is a person’s awareness that language can be broken into a series of sounds. This can be done on the sentence, word, syllable, and phoneme level.

Decoding – In the simplest of terms, decoding is the ability to assign a sound to a letter or letter patterns so the word can be pronounced correctly.

Sight Recognition – Because the English language is not without a sense of humor, many common words do not follow the decoding rules. Instead, our brain must recognize these group of letters and immediately match it to a word.


As you can see, reading might be mankind’s most impressive invention.


As adults who love, support, and are amazed by dyslexic learners, I think it is important we have this context.


Reading is hard.


The intelligence, effort, and resilience a Schenck student brings to the reading process is inspiring.

Dyslexia . . . it isn't just for kids!
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first posted August 3, 2016.

I work with hundreds of parents in my role as admissions director for a school specializing in dyslexia remediation.  Many parents are understandably upset and concerned about their children’s futures.  They don’t know what to expect and are fearful about what impact dyslexia will have on their children’s futures.  Often parents have been very successful academically and they can’t understand why their children struggle so.

But there is another group of parents who are painfully aware of the challenges their children will face, because they faced the same difficulties in school.  These parents may not always realize it, but they are dyslexic themselves.   Oh, they may have never been diagnosed, but they carry the scars of years of underachievement, being labeled as “stupid” or “lazy,” failing to keep up academically, working harder than all their classmates with little to show for their efforts.  These parents are often especially worried because they know how very difficult school may be for their children. They had to suffer through school without remediation and their memories of school are incredibly painful.

I have often sat in my office talking with parents who have tears in their eyes because being in a school again is so traumatic. Many survived years of humiliation to rise above their challenges and become well-respected in their chosen careers. They were fortunate enough to find their way to fields that require visual-spatial or kinesthetic talents, such as engineering, architecture, music, entrepreneurship, medicine, art, acting and athletics.  Once they made their way through school, they were very successful at life.

What are some indicators that you yourself may be dyslexic?  If you have a dyslexic child, odds are pretty good that either you or your spouse is dyslexic as well.  Are you a poor speller or did you struggle with reading as a child?  Do you feel that you are a slow reader who rarely/never reads for pleasure?  Do you leave out words when reading or do you write in a disorganized way?  Do you ever read a passage and realize that you have no idea what you just read?  Do you have to read passages several times in order to understand what the author is saying?

If you answered yes to some of the questions above, you should consider the possibility that you are dyslexic.  In order to determine with certainty, you would need to obtain a complete psychoeducational evaluation.  If you learn that you indeed have dyslexia and you feel that your personal or professional life would be improved by remediation, there are many resources that offer help.  The International Dyslexia Association, or IDA, has branches throughout the country that can give you information about dyslexia and dyslexia remediation.  The Orton Gillingham Academy can help you find a tutor in your area that can help.  It is never too late to seek remediation.  Through remediation, your reading, spelling and writing skills will improve.  This can of course be of great benefit to you both professionally and personally.  You won’t have to worry about being able to read to your children, or draft an email or write a report.

Remember, there is help out there.  A dyslexia diagnosis is just the beginning.

How do I talk to my child about his or her dyslexia diagnosis?
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published May 9, 2016.

I was so excited.  My son had just been accepted at a prestigious school for dyslexics!  Finally, he was going to get the help he needed.  The new school was going to teach him how to read!

But wait a minute . . . the new school.  Hmm.  Hadn’t really thought that through.  He was going to have to leave the school he had attended since the age of one in their mother’s morning out program.  The school his sisters had attended since the age of 3.

That wasn’t even the biggest issue though.  I was going to have to tell him he was DYSLEXIC.  My poor child was going to have, gasp, a label that would follow him for the rest of his life.  It took me back to the day when he was diagnosed, but at that time we were just so relieved to have an answer as to why this bright boy was struggling to learn his letters.  Now we were faced with a reality that he would follow him all of his days.

I must confess that I handled the situation badly.  I took the coward’s way out and waited until he had completed a summer program at the new school.  The summer program was lots of fun and he had a wonderful time.  Who wouldn’t want to go to a school like that?

You want to know the worst part?  He was only five at the time!  Imagine how hard it would have been for me had he been 10 or 12 . . . the age when children truly understand what is going on.

How in the world would I have been able to explain what was “wrong” with him?

Looking back on it, I realize that I robbed him of the chance to own his diagnosis.  I didn’t take the opportunity to talk with him about the truly wonderful skills and talents that so often exist in dyslexics.  A big part of that was probably because I didn’t understand these things myself.  I only knew that he wasn’t like his peers because he couldn’t read, and that seemed like a bad thing.

Since that time I have learned so much more about dyslexia.  I have met and worked with hundreds of gifted dyslexics.  Here at that school where I now work, I have become part of a culture that celebrates the unique talents that dyslexics bring to the world.  We teach children (and parents!) each and every day that dyslexics have “cool” brains that can problem solve in out-of-the box ways to create solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.

So when I am asked in my role as admissions director for that prestigious school how to tell children about their dyslexia, I encourage parents to talk openly and honestly about the challenges their children will face and the gifts they possess.  I hope that parents will feel proud of their dyslexic children because they have wonderful gifts to share with the world.  Proud parents create proud children.  Most children are relieved to learn that “it’s just dyslexia.”  And they can again feel like the smart people that they really are.

Reading Is Rocket Science: Part 1
Josh Clark, Head of School

This post was first published May 11, 2016.

I am no longer surprised when a brilliant student struggles with reading, writing, or spelling. After spending years studying the reading process, I am surprised more people do not have a difficult time.

While we were put us on this earth to see, to talk, and to hear, we were not put here to read.

Reading is a human invention.

Thousands of years ago, reading was the iPhone of its day, inviting the same kinds of controversies and cynicism. Socrates, the Father of Western Thought, believed reading would be the end of modern civilization. During Socrates’s time, a person’s intellect was judged by their ability to recite long passages from memory. He considered any system that converted ideas to sounds and symbols as “dumbing it down.”

Socrates did not understand that the reading brain is a marvel of human engineering.

When we look at single word, many different parts of our brain to come together at once for us to understand it. There is no singular lobe or cortex that controls it. Instead, reading is a neurological symphony, with different sections, made up of many individual instruments, simultaneously finding a perfect pitch. If even one chord comes too late, though, the sound is compromised.

For many students with dyslexia, this breakdown often manifests itself at the point of comprehension. The child with an above average IQ comes home with a pile of failed Accelerated Reader tests, and the teacher explains that she has a “comprehension problem.”

However, much like the symphony relies on many individual instruments to create one sound, comprehension is built by series of independent neurological tasks. This is why so many dyslexic learners do so well when they listen to books – they are able to bypass these rudimentary tasks and get to the more complex work of understanding.

To further illustrate this idea, below are two of my favorite representations of how reading works. The “A” shaped image is the Reading Acquisition Framework and the the other I refer to as the Reading Rope Model. Notice how both illustrations divide the tasks associated with reading into two large categories: Language Comprehension and Decoding / Word Recognition. Think of these as the brass or string sections.  Within these groupings, each box or thread represents a neurological task. They are the trombone or violin of the reading brain.

Lexicon Reading Framework Reading Rope Model


We will explore these sections in more detail next week. For now though, I hope the next time you read the newspaper or sit down with your favorite book, you listen for the tuba playing in your head.

My Child Is Empathetic
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published January 14, 2016.


As admissions director at a school for dyslexic students, I open my interviews by asking prospective parents to describe their children.  I always expect to hear heartfelt stories about struggles, frustration, lack of self-esteem.  What I have begun to really listen to, however, are the descriptors parents use when they talk about their children’s personalities and make-up.  These words and phrases are truly telling about the kind of people their children are growing to be.

The number one characteristic that parents use to describe their children is empathetic.  They say things like, “He’s always the one to look out for other children who aren’t included,” or “She is a friend to everyone.”  So often I hear parents say that their dyslexic child is “an old soul” or “wise beyond his years.”

This certainly holds true in our classrooms.  Here at our school, we ask children to do the very things that are the hardest for them, all day long.  They struggle to read, spell, and write.  The days are long and the work arduous.  What I was most surprised by as a classroom teacher, however, was the abundance of care and support that our students show for each other.

Before coming to us, our students were often forced to read aloud in front of others.  Pretty terrifying task if you can’t read.  There you are in front of all your peers, running the almost certain risk of humiliation.  Our children have learned school can be a very difficult place, full of pitfalls each and every day.

When I taught my reading groups, I was stunned to see that the most dysfluent readers were the first ones to volunteer to read.  Every time.  Even more surprising was the fact that their fellow students sat patiently while the “poorest” readers struggled through each passage.  If you’ve never listened to a struggling reader read aloud, you won’t know how very easily the meaning of a passage is lost.  Most of our children love to hear stories, but their patience while listening to their peers is very impressive, and the empathy they show is heart-warming.

Is empathy inherent in the psychological make-up of dyslexics?  I couldn’t say . . . I doubt it.  It is more likely that this empathy is a learned response to the world that has handed these children a dose of humility.  Dyslexics learn from a very early age that they struggle mightily with something that most people find simple.  Could this be the root of their strong empathy for their fellow humans?  Sounds possible to me. Pretty great people, wouldn’t you say?  The world is lucky to have them.

My child is dyslexic! Hooray! Now how do I talk to our school???
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published March 1, 2016.

The testing is finished, and you have your dyslexia diagnosis in hand.  Now you are ready to go to your child’s school and talk about the accommodations they have to provide, right?

I wish I could say yes, but the correct answer is, not so fast!!!  Mainstream schools usually are not prepared to provide services for your dyslexic child.  They may be overwhelmed with requests for special services, they may not have the resources to provide extra support, or they may be completely uneducated about what dyslexia means and have no idea what support your child will need.

Once again, you must be your child’s advocate.  The first step is to educate yourself by talking with others who have been a part of this process in the past. (See The Yale Center for Dyslexia for advice on whom to partner with as you prepare for your meeting.)  Seek out parents who you know have been through this before.  Talk with your child’s teachers to learn what they think about your child’s learning needs, ask the psychologist who did your child’s testing for referrals to other parents or education professionals who can talk with you, and chat with your pediatrician to learn what resources he or she may have.

If your child is in a public school, familiarize yourself with the difference between a 504 Plan and an IEP.  The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) provides protection for students with disabilities by enforcing Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  A 504 Plan provides accommodations for children who are placed under a 504.  An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is a legal document that details your child’s learning needs and spells out the services the school will provide.  Kristen Stanberry, a writer and editor specializing in education, has excellent resources for parents seeking to navigate the waters of public school accommodations.

What sort of accommodations might you wish to secure for your dyslexic child?  Of course, all children are different.  In my earlier blog post, “What Psychoeducational Testing Can Reveal About Your Child’s Learning Profile,” I discussed the various types of issues that often accompany dyslexia.  If your child is dysgraphic (trouble with handwriting), you might ask the school to allow your child to type his/her assignments.  You might also ask for copies of the teachers’ notes or the services of a note taker.  Your child may have visual tracking issues, so make sure that he or she doesn’t have to copy from the board or bubble in a scantron form.  You might request permission for your child to use voice-to-text recognition software and a computer for writing assignments.  Request that there are no penalties for poor handwriting.

If your child has dyscalculia (trouble with math), you might ask permission for him/her to be excused from timed math tests or to be tested in another setting with no limitation on time.  In later grades, your child might benefit from the use of a calculator.  Many children learn best through the use of manipulatives, so ask if concepts can be retaught using a multisensory approach.

Your child may have processing issues, so an appropriate accommodation would be to have extended time on tests or abbreviated homework assignments.  Spelling issues are significant for dyslexics, so common accommodations are to reduce the list of spelling words and to refrain from deducting points for spelling in other subject areas.

Finally, reading accommodations include providing books on tape, allowing students to listen to texts when taking AR tests, and providing extra time for reading tasks.  Students should not be required to read aloud unless they have been permitted to pre-read the material.  An alternative might be to allow the student to read aloud to the teacher, rather than before the class. To assist in comprehension, you might ask that the child be allowed to talk over reading assignments in order to provide a comprehension check.

Make sure that you understand your child’s learning needs so that you have a good understanding of which accommodations will be most useful.  The list of potential accommodations is long!  For these suggestions and many others, visit the following sites:  Reading RocketsUniversity of Michigan Dyslexia HelpDyslexia Reading Connection and Bright Solutions for Dyslexia.

Once you feel that you have a good grasp of accommodations your child may need, it is time to schedule your first meeting with the school.  The Yale Center for Dyslexia has a wonderful outline for steps to follow in advance of this meeting.  You can ensure your best results by investing time before the meeting to be sure that you have all the information you will need to advocate for your child.


What Psychoeducational Testing Can Reveal About Your Child’s Learning Profile
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published November 5, 2015.

In my last post, I discussed the fact that there are many different issues that can interfere with your child’s learning.  I said that it is important to find out as much as you can about your child’s learning profile so that you can obtain the proper help.  A psychoeducational evaluation is critical to understanding exactly how your child learns.  Here, in a nutshell, are the pieces that make up a typical psychoeducational report:

  • Developmental History and Background Information: Your evaluator will conduct a lengthy interview with you to learn as much as possible about your child before working with him or her.  In addition to questions about developmental milestones, they will ask about family history of learning disabilities, ADHD, and more.
  • Observations During Testing: The evaluator will share their observations about your child’s abilities to complete assigned tasks, to process verbal and written information, and to pay attention.
  • Cognitive Functioning: The WISC IV or V is the most frequently used tool, but there are others that give you equally important information.  Examples of these include the DAS (Differential Ability Scales), the RIAS (Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales), and the Stanford Binet. Intelligence tests typically include a measure of a child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses, as well as a measure of a child’s cognitive potential.
  • Oral Language Skills: This portion of the test addresses your child’s phonological processing, including phonological awareness (the ability to analyze sounds, segment words and blend sounds), phonological memory (the ability to hold information in short term memory), and rapid naming (the ability to efficiently retrieve phonological information from long-term memory).
  • Comprehension: Tests given here are designed to assess a child’s ability to understand words, word relationships, sentences, and conversational speech (receptive language).
  • Verbal Expression: These tasks are designed to assess a child’s ability to communicate feelings, perceptions, and ideas (expressive language).
  • Visual Processing & Visual-Spatial-Motor Integration: Your tester uses these instruments to evaluate your child’s skills, such as visual perception, discrimination, and memory on school achievement.  Difficulty with these tasks may mean that your child will struggle with letter recognition and number recognition.
  • Academic Achievement Testing: The report should also contain information about your child’s level of academic achievement as measured by tests like the WIAT (Wechsler Individual Achievement Test), the KTEA (Kauffman Test of Educational Achievement), and/or the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement. Specific testing is given to address your child’s reading and reading readiness skills.  Also tested is your child’s ability to express himself or herself in writing and his or her mathematics skills.  This is an important part of the assessment, because it tells you whether your child is performing academically at the level one would predict, given his or her intellectual potential.  A discrepancy here is an indication that there are factors interfering with his or her ability to learn.
  • Behavioral and Emotional Functioning: Instruments in this portion of the test are used to assess your child’s social and emotional skills.
  • Summary: This is the portion of the test where your evaluator summarizes the findings, makes diagnoses, if any, and recommends future educational steps, as well as academic strategies and tips for educational interventions.

Once your child’s testing is completed and scored, the psychologist will sit down and review the results with you. This is your opportunity to learn just what issues are interfering with your child’s ability to learn.  Your child may be diagnosed with ADHD, a receptive and/or expressive language disorder, weak processing skills, dysgraphia (difficulty with fine motor skills and handwriting), dyscalculia (difficulty with math), poor working memory, or some combination of these.  Be certain to ask for details about what the diagnoses mean, and make sure that you receive information about ways to address each diagnosed learning disability. Ask about accommodations, such as extended time (if your child processes slowly or has dysgraphia which prevents them from completing work in a timely fashion), tests read aloud, seat placement at the front of the class, writing answers in the test booklet instead of bubbling in on a “scantron” form (your child may have visual tracking issues that make it hard to transition from a test booklet or chalk board to paper), having directions repeated (your child may difficulty with auditory processing), and reduced work load.

Remember, every piece of information about your child’s learning needs is important.  It can be daunting to hear about all of your child’s issues, but when you are armed with this information, you can begin to find the help your child needs to be successful.  If your psychologist recommends a complete speech and language evaluation or an occupational therapy evaluation, it is in your child’s best interests to follow that recommendation.  I know it feels like your child has been tested beyond belief, but the answers you receive will help ensure that his or her academic future will be as productive as possible.

Finally, an evaluation usually ends with an admonition to enjoy “the whole child.”  A child is so much more than a student . . . they are adored family members, friends, athletes, artists, problem-solvers, and caring, empathetic human beings.  The list goes on and on.  Just be sure to love them for who they are and continue to give them the all the caring and support they need.

(For more information on learning issues related to dyslexia, visit Understanding Dyslexia, by Emily Lapkin.)

Your Child Is Dyslexic. Now What?
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published November 21, 2016.

Your bright, verbal child (or your niece or nephew or neighbor) has been diagnosed with dyslexia. What do you do now, or what advice can you give to parents you know? Explore all the resources you can and learn as much as possible about dyslexia. You are your child’s best, and most passionate, advocate. When you understand the rewards and challenges ahead, you will be best prepared to ask for the help your child will need.

You might begin your dyslexia tutorial by reading some of the wonderful resources that have been written about the topic. Excellent reads include Overcoming Dyslexia, by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Straight Talk About Reading, by Susan Hall and Louisa Moats, and Basic Facts About Dyslexia, by Louisa Moats and Karen Dakin.

Where can you turn for help? The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators and The International Dyslexia Association offer wonderful resources for parents. You should also speak with the psychologist who conducted your child’s psychoeducational evaluation for suggestions of resources near you. Be sure that you understand the recommendations that your psychologist included in his/her evaluation. For example, does the psychologist recommend placement in a school that specializes in dyslexia remediation, or does he/she feel that your child may remain in his/her present environment with support?

If a specialized school is recommended, summer is a good time to begin researching your options. Call the schools in which you are interested and learn as much as you can about their admissions process. Find out how to sign up for a tour, keeping in mind that tours may fill quickly. Determine whether the school has an admissions deadline, or if the admissions process is rolling (i.e., spaces are filled as students apply, rather than by a pre-determined.) If the school maintains a rolling admissions process, make sure to complete your application as quickly as possible.

Remember that there is no “cure” for dyslexia. However, with proper remediation, your child can make progress and become a successful learner. Left unremediated, dyslexia can present a seemingly insurmountable barrier to your child’s academic success. Students with unremediated dyslexia often feel tremendous academic stress, experience intense frustration and suffer from low self-esteem. Advocate for your child, provide the resources they need, and your child will likely feel excited about learning again!

What Do You Mean It's Not Just Dyslexia?
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published October 6, 2015.

When my son was diagnosed with dyslexia, we were pretty devastated. But we overcame that hurdle with support from his teachers and tutors. However, we were not prepared to hear that dyslexia was not his only challenge. We couldn’t believe there were more barriers to his academic success. Wasn’t dyslexia enough???

So what other kinds of learning challenges often co-exist with dyslexia? We learned that there can be many related issues, including ADHD, verbal and visual processing issues, receptive and expressive language issues, and many more. There is a 33% overlap in reading and math difficulties. Dyslexia is not clear cut, nor does it typically occur alone without other issues. According to the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, “dyslexia is not a disorder with clear cut boundaries or with a single cause.”

What exactly are these co-morbid issues?  One disorder you may have heard a lot about is ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), a term with which most of us are familiar. We were very surprised when our son was diagnosed with ADHD.  He wasn’t hyperactive in any way . . . he was a dreamy child who loved imaginative play.  However, ADHD presents itself in different ways.  I learned that there are actually 3 types of ADHD:  the inattentive type only (my son!), the hyperactive/impulsive type, and the combined type.

In my job as admissions director at a school for dyslexic children, I often have parents tell me that they don’t agree with their child’s ADHD diagnosis, because their child can focus for long  hours on a Lego set or puzzle.  What parents sometimes don’t realize is that this need (and ability!) to hyper focus on a task of their choosing is actually a symptom of ADHD.  This becomes an issue in the classroom when this same child is asked to focus on a task in which he is not interested, such as a difficult academic assignment. When this happens, teachers often see avoidance behaviors, such as needing multiple bathroom breaks, trips to the school nurse for small ailments, and behavior that is distracting to classmates, as well as the child.

So what are some symptoms of ADHD?  If your child has the inattentive type of ADHD, he or she may daydream, make careless mistakes, forget things (including their shoes!), lose or otherwise misplace things, get distracted easily, or avoid tasks that require a lot of mental effort.  My son could never find his shoes, even though we set up an official shoe closet!  If your child has ADHD, hyperactive type, he or she may seem to be in constant motion, have trouble staying seated, or become physically active at inappropriate times.  Children with the combined type of ADHD are often impulsive and speak without thinking, have trouble taking turns, interrupt others, or call out the answer before the question has been completely asked.

If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms and it’s interfering with his or her success in school, you should confer with your pediatrician or psychologist.  They can diagnose ADHD and suggest options that can help your child cope. One excellent resource for parents is a non-profit organization called C.H.A.D.D., Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which offers a clearinghouse of  information and groups throughout the country that offer support and parenting tips.

What other issues may be interfering with your child’s learning? Your child’s psycho-educational report contains precious information about his or her learning profile.  Even if your psychologist sits down and discusses the results, you probably still have questions.  The amount of information is really a great deal to absorb, especially when you are trying to process the fact that you child does indeed have a learning disability.  I’ll be explaining more about psychological evaluations and other learning issues in my next post.  There is so much to know, and we are always discovering more about these challenging learning differences!

Where Did My Happy Child Go?
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was originally published September 9, 2015.

Until the age of 5, my son was a happy child. He delighted in the world and loved exploring it. His favorite activity was imaginative play . . . he concocted elaborate scenarios with himself at the center of the action. And what a vocabulary! He spoke like a little adult! Since a strong vocabulary is the greatest single measure of intelligence, we knew that he would soar academically once he got to school.

But at age 5, the stomach aches began. It became increasingly difficult to get him to school. When I tried to have him practice his letters at home, he became angry and resistant. My little boy, who had always delighted in stories, suddenly lost interest in any activity related to words.

This began to filter into the rest of his world. Always a happy, self-confident child, he became moody and teary. His delightfully sunny disposition had been replaced with one filled with fear and self-doubt. Where did my happy boy go?

Not long afterwards, his kindergarten teacher called me in. She was worried about the way he held his scissors (which I now know is related to motor planning.) She also said that he didn’t seem to be able to make the connection between letters and sounds.

My two older daughters had always excelled in school and I was certain that this was just a “boy thing.” With his exceptional vocabulary skills, I was sure he would come to love reading just as much as the rest of his family but at his own pace. His father holds a Ph.D. and I graduated summa cum laude. The die was cast, right?

Wrong. My son continued to struggle . . . in kindergarten! What in the world was wrong? He had the same kindergarten teacher that his two older sisters had, so that wasn’t the problem. Was he really so different from his peers?

As it turned out, the answer was yes and no. Most of the boys were soaring along, but one of his closest friends was struggling as well. One day I had the chance to talk with his friend’s mom. We had taken the boys to have lunch and play at a local fast food place, giving us a good chance to chat. I mentioned my concerns about my son, and she immediately began asking questions. Is he reluctant to go to school? Does he hate working with his letters? Is he resistant to pre-reading activities? Her questions were spot on!

I couldn’t believe how insightful she was . . . it was as if she had been a fly on the wall in my home as I tried to work with my son. How did she understand so much about what we were going through?

My friend began to talk with me about dyslexia. She told me that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, many dyslexics are very bright. It doesn’t necessarily involve reversing letters, although reversals are fairly common with dyslexics. Sometimes it is accompanied with weak visual perceptual skills, so it is hard for children to cut or color with the lines. Dyslexics struggle with sound/symbol relationships and are reluctant to learn their letters. (This was starting to sound very familiar!)

Her older son had attended a special school for dyslexics, The Schenck School. She talked about the wonderful progress he had made as a result of the remediation he received at the School. And now she was about to send my son’s friend to the School as well because, as I was about to learn, dyslexia has a strong hereditary component. With one dyslexic in the family, there was an excellent chance that there would be more. She recommended that we schedule a complete psychoeducational evaluation so that we could learn exactly what was going on with my son.

I have to admit that when the results were in and we had a dyslexia diagnosis, we were pretty devastated. We were afraid that our son would never finish school and that he would struggle his entire life. We worried that he would never be successful in a career.

We went straight to The Schenck School where we learned that, with remediation, dyslexics can be very successful in life. We also learned that another benefit of remediation was the return of self-confidence. My son was fortunate enough to have a wonderful tutor for the remainder of his kindergarten year and went on to attend The Schenck School for first through third grades. His confidence returned, he became an excellent self-advocate and is now highly successful in his career in sales.

In my role as admissions director for The Schenck School, I hear this same story day in and day out from parents. Many tearful hours are spent in my little office as I console parents who fear for their dyslexic children’s futures. I share with them my own story about my little boy who had his struggles but became a happy, successful adult. I repeat the phrase I hear over and over again from our outplacing parents: “I have my child back!”

I have heard parents say they don’t want to label their children so they are reluctant to have testing done. They cling to the hope that their child will outgrow dyslexia, and that it is probably developmental. Dyslexia is not developmental. Your child will be dyslexic for life. But with remediation, he or she can lead a rich, productive, successful life.

If you are wondering whether your child is dyslexic, consider this list of “red flags for an emerging reading disorder.”

Preschoolers should be able to:

  • Produce rhyming words
  • Divide words into syllables
  • Divide sentences into words
  • Discriminate rhyming words
  • Delete roots, syllables, and phonemes
  • Substitute phonemes to form new words
  • Identify phonemes by their positions in words (beginning, middle and end)

Six-year olds should be able to:

  • Write words
  • Write sentences
  • Blend sounds together
  • Decode nonsense words
  • Segment words into syllables
  • Identify sounds and letters

Children in second – fifth grades should be able to:

  • Spell well
  • Have appropriate handwriting
  • Enjoy reading and writing
  • Have appropriate or strong written expression
  • Have appropriate or strong reading strategies
  • Recall sight words quickly without much repetition
  • Comprehend reading material on or above grade level
  • Read accurately: Decode words on or above grade level

If your child struggles with these age-appropriate skills, your next step is to call your local psychologist and set up a psychoeducational evaluation. Ask your pediatrician or school psychologist for recommendations.

Finally, if the diagnosis is dyslexia, get busy and obtain good remediation for your child. See my earlier blog post, “Your Child is Dyslexic: Now What?” for suggestions on how to proceed. Don’t despair if there is no special school for dyslexic remediation in your area, there are many other resources to help.

Enjoy your dyslexic child. Explore the world through his or her eyes. Dyslexic children’s brains are remarkable and they experience the world in different ways . . . they can be counted on to express extraordinarily complicated thoughts and arrive at solutions in unique and creative ways, often possessing higher order thinking skills. Have fun with your amazing child!

Unexpected Gifts
Josh Clark, Head of School

This post was first published May 4, 2016.


Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old. At the age of five, he became ill and was bedridden for weeks. As a gift, Einstein’s father gave him a small, silver compass. He imagined the young boy charting the seven seas, his bed morphing into a pirate’s ship with Albert its captain. Instead, though, its mechanics fascinated Albert. Why, no matter which way he pointed the compass, did the arrow always point the same direction?

The gift sparked Einstein’s fascination with gravitational pull and not cannon balls or hooked-handed adversaries. For his father, it was quite unexpected.

School was a constant struggle for Richard Branson. At the age of 13, Richard’s parents withdrew him from the Scaitcliffe School in Surrey before he failed out. He transferred to Stowe School, a boarding school in Stowe, Buckinghamshire, England. Again facing academic peril, Branson dropped out at 16. On his last day, his headmaster, Robert Drayson, told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire, with an emphasis on the former.

Today, Virgin Group holds over 200 companies in 30 countries, and Branson is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time. To his schoolmates, his success was quite unexpected.

In my own life, I have come to cherish the unexpected. When I was in 6th grade, I failed Language Arts – we called it English at the time. My spelling was atrocious. When I began my career as a sixth grade Language Arts teacher, no one was more surprised than my 11-year-old self. Now, as the headmaster of a school for children with dyslexia, I’ve learned to love the unexpected.

The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as

a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Whenever I present on dyslexia, I always begin with this definition and zoom in on the word “unexpected.” To me, it is the most important term in the 78-word definition. Children with dyslexia are bright, creative, agile thinkers. They can build cities in their minds, synthesize divergent concepts, and solve complex problems. We are so impressed by their aptitude that we are surprised by their struggles with sounds and symbols. It is so unexpected.

As parents, we all build road maps for our children, and rarely do they include struggles in school. However, as Einstein, Branson, and countless other notable dyslexics show us, there is power in the unexpected.

School is back in session, and children are excited for the new year!
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published September 1, 2016.

That’s a true statement, right?  After all, those long summer days have begun to stretch into sameness. Beach vacations are over, and the pool just doesn’t seem quite as exciting as it did in June.  New school clothes and backpacks have been purchased, and the promise of good times with school friends looms large.

But not every child is eager for school to begin again.  If your child is dyslexic and not getting the help he or she needs, the school bell signals another year of fear, worry,  and frustration.  Fear that reading aloud will clue classmates in to the struggles your child faces.  Worry because your child’s peers are racing ahead while his progress seems slow or non-existent.  Frustration that no matter how hard your child tries, it just isn’t enough to keep up.

Now is the time to seek help.  If you suspect your child has a reading problem, you are probably right . . . in my experience, a parent’s intuition is uncannily accurate.  However, it can be so tempting to hope that this year will be different, that last year’s teacher was right that your child’s struggle really was developmental.

Please know, however, that the problem is almost never developmental.  If your child is a struggling reader, call a local psychologist to schedule a complete psycho-educational evaluation.  With a diagnosis in hand, you will be prepared to seek the help your child needs. With proper intervention, she can become a successful reader.

Just think what a wonderful feeling it will be when the school bell rings again, and you know your child can enter that school building remediated and ready to take on the world!

How do I talk to my dyslexic child about his/her diagnosis?
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published May 9, 2016

I was so excited.  My son had just been accepted at a prestigious school for dyslexics!  Finally, he was going to get the help he needed.  The new school was going to teach him how to read!

But wait a minute . . . the new school.  Hmm.  Hadn’t really thought that through.  He was going to have to leave the school he had attended since the age of one in their mother’s morning out program.  The school his sisters had attended since the age of 3.

That wasn’t even the biggest issue though.  I was going to have to tell him he was DYSLEXIC.  My poor child was going to have, gasp, a label that would follow him for the rest of his life.  It took me back to the day when he was diagnosed, but at that time we were just so relieved to have an answer as to why this bright boy was struggling to learn his letters.  Now we were faced with a reality that he would follow him all of his days.

I must confess that I handled the situation badly.  I took the coward’s way out and waited until he had completed a summer program at the new school.  The summer program was lots of fun and he had a wonderful time.  Who wouldn’t want to go to a school like that?

You want to know the worst part?  He was only five at the time!  Imagine how hard it would have been for me had he been 10 or 12 . . . the age when children truly understand what is going on.

How in the world would I have been able to explain what was “wrong” with him?

Looking back on it, I realize that I robbed him of the chance to own his diagnosis.  I didn’t take the opportunity to talk with him about the truly wonderful skills and talents that so often exist in dyslexics.  A big part of that was probably because I didn’t understand these things myself.  I only knew that he wasn’t like his peers because he couldn’t read, and that seemed like a bad thing.

Since that time I have learned so much more about dyslexia.  I have met and worked with hundreds of gifted dyslexics.  Here at that school where I now work, I have become part of a culture that celebrates the unique talents that dyslexics bring to the world.  We teach children (and parents!) each and every day that dyslexics have “cool” brains that can problem solve in out-of-the box ways to create solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.

So when I am asked in my role as admissions director for that prestigious school how to tell children about their dyslexia, I encourage parents to talk openly and honestly about the challenges their children will face and the gifts they possess.  I hope that parents will feel proud of their dyslexic children because they have wonderful gifts to share with the world.  Proud parents create proud children.  Most children are relieved to learn that “it’s just dyslexia.”  And they can again feel like the smart people that they really are.

Does this remind you of a child you know?
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

This post was first published July 7, 2015.

I was lucky enough to have a visit today from one of my former students. She is an extraordinary young woman ... accomplished in academics and athletics, a very successful college student, personable, articulate, intellectually curious, empathetic beyond words, and dyslexic. However, when I first met her, she was timid, unsure and unhappy. Her educational experiences from early on had convinced her that she was stupid, she would never go to college, she needed remedial math because she clearly didn’t get it (she turned out to be a gifted math student), and she had no potential.

The people who said these things to her had clearly never met her mother.

When my student was diagnosed with dyslexia, her mother immediately educated herself. She read every book on the subject, she talked to every one of her patients who was dyslexic, and she looked long and hard to find resources in her community that could help. She became what every dyslexic child needs . . . an advocate. This mom, a busy physician, devoted much of her time trying to make things better for her daughter. She talked with her daughter’s school about accommodations; she went to bat with teachers over all the red marks on her papers because of spelling errors; she asked for extra time and for oral testing. But as so often happens in many schools, she was denied the help her daughter needed. “Your daughter just isn’t trying hard enough, she isn’t smart enough, she is clearly working to her potential and isn’t capable of more, if we give her accommodations it isn’t fair to the other children.”

But my student’s mother was an unstoppable force. She refused to accept what these people had to say about her daughter; rather, she became even more determined to find help for her child. She found a wonderful tutor in her community who began the work, and then learned that there were schools devoted to the remediation of dyslexia. Tireless champion that she was, she made sure that her daughter found a place in our school. I should mention, however, that our school was over an hour away from their home. Undaunted, this mother found a way to make it work. She drove her daughter on some days, and on some nights the girl spent the night in town with her grandmother. Her daughter even came to school on a day that was so icy that most of the other children in school were absent!

Meet another unstoppable force . . . her daughter. The one who never wanted to miss a single day of school. In the beginning I was especially concerned about this student because she so clearly lacked confidence in herself academically. She was fearful to answer questions and was reluctant to ask for help. But she was the hardest working student I have ever known. No assignment was too much, even though she was usually working in the car on the hour-long ride home or studying at 6 a.m. on her way to school. I came to learn that this young woman personified persistence. She was doggedly determined to learn everything that she could. Through encouragement and praise, she came to realize that she actually had tremendous potential. She became an excellent math student, one of the strongest in the grade. She studied harder than anyone and made exceptional marks. Most importantly, she became secure in the fact that her dyslexia was a gift.

That’s what our dyslexic children need to understand. Their brains function differently. Their problem-solving skills, strong work ethic, intellectual curiosity, impressive verbal skills and out-of-the-box thinking make them extraordinary people whose worth will be recognized and valued in the workplace. Traditional academics may always be a bit difficult for them because they are required to memorize information. But when they encounter situations that allow them to learn experientially, find solutions to problems and think creatively, they will soar. They need advocates to encourage them and help them find these strengths within themselves. Not every child can attend a special school for dyslexics, but there are resources within many communities that can help.

So just how do you go about becoming your dyslexic child’s advocate? Begin by reading everything you can so that you can understand your child’s academic challenges. I recommend starting with Overcoming Dyslexia, by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. Dr. Shaywitz and her husband, Dr. Bennett Shaywitz, are co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. The Center’s website contains much helpful information, such as a good explanation for what dyslexia actually is as well as suggestions for how to talk with your child about his/her diagnosis. The parents’ section includes information about signs of dyslexia, suggestions for parents of dyslexic children and perhaps most importantly, excellent advice for those parents planning for their first meeting with their child’s school after diagnosis.

There are many other wonderful resources, including PBS Resources for Parents of a Dyslexic Child which includes such items as a reading list for parents, books written for children about dyslexia, and web sites such as All Kinds of Minds and Misunderstood MindsReading Rocket’s Top Ten Resources for Dyslexia is another good source of information. The International Dyslexia Association offers a wealth of information for parents and educators.

Now that you’ve become an expert, where do you turn for help? If you’ve done your research, you know that your child will require remediation in order to achieve his/her true potential. But where do you look to find help? You could begin with your state chapter of the Academy of Orton Gillingham Practioners and Educators. The dedicated folks there will be happy to help you find an Orton Gillingham tutor who can work with your child, no matter their strengths or weaknesses. The Orton Gillingham approach is a scientifically research-based method for the treatment of dyslexia. The Academy will also help you locate a specialized school for the remediation of dyslexia if you are interested in pursuing enrollment. Keep in mind that OG is only one method of remediation . . . there are other good ones as well. Just be sure to investigate your tutors to make sure that they are fully trained and have a proven track record of success.

Become actively involved in your local chapters of The Orton Gillingham Academy and the IDA, and become members of the national associations. You will be kept apprised of legislative efforts regarding dyslexia remediation at both the national and state levels, and you will have access to on-going research about dyslexia. At your local chapters, make a point to become acquainted with fellow parents because they can be a tremendous source of guidance and support. Ask for help and you will realize that you and your child are not alone; some sources report that dyslexia occurs in as many as one out of every five people!

Finally, talk to your child about the gifts that come along with dyslexia. Help him/her understand that dyslexic brains function in a wonderful way and that his/her problem-solving skills, strong work ethic, intellectual curiosity, impressive verbal skills and out-of-the-box thinking make him/her an extraordinary person whose worth will be recognized and valued in the workplace. Traditional academics will always be difficult for them, even with remediation. They will have to work harder than anyone else. But when they encounter situations that allow them to learn experientially, find solutions to problems and think creatively, they will soar. They need advocates along the way to encourage them and help them find these strengths within themselves.

And take heart . . . you have an exceptionally gifted child in your care. Don’t listen to people who tell you your child is lazy or unmotivated.   Keep looking for solutions that can help them become the extraordinary people they are destined to be.

Like my former student who came to see me today and reminded me just how extraordinary dyslexics can be when someone believes in them.

Dedicated to Dana and Mary Elizabeth

Listen to Your Inner Voice
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

Listen to your inner voice . . . 

You know that little voice that speaks to you and causes you to worry around the edges? The one you try to ignore because it probably means there is trouble in “paradise?” 
Consider these statements I’ve heard parents make:

I know in my heart that my daughter is struggling with reading, but all of her teachers say that she’s so smart they know she’ll catch up in no time . . .

My son is having a hard time reading, but he’s probably just a late bloomer . . .

I know my son is bright, but I hear him crying at night after he’s gone to bed because he feels dumb . . . 

I’m suspicious that my daughter’s many ailments are just an excuse to avoid school.  She says she’s really sick, but she often talks about how hard school is for her compared to her friends . . . 

Have you ever had thoughts like these? Wondered whether your child really would catch up? Had a feeling that school was really tougher for your child than you realized? 

You’re not alone. Many parents who have sent their children to our school for dyslexic children have tried to ignore thoughts like these. I know I did.  My son had such strong verbal skills that I thought the psychologist was wrong about his learning difference. I didn’t believe the expert! Talk about denial!
But you know that there is good reason to listen to that inner voice. I suspect that it has never failed you before. If you have that nagging sense that you need to do something about your fears for your child, now is the time to act. As Sally Shaywitz says, “Dyslexia robs our children of time.” Without proper intervention, dyslexic children will never catch up to their peers.  
Follow that instinct and have your child tested. The information you will receive is not scary. Rather, it will provide a roadmap for you to follow as you plan the next steps for your child’s education. You will feel much better once you put those action steps into place, and your child will flourish because of it.

What is Neurodiversity and What Does it Have to Do with Dyslexia?
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions

What if dyslexia was thought of as a strength or advantage and not as a disability?   

In fact, that dyslexia is a strength is exactly what some researchers are finding. According to “The Upside of Dyslexia,” a New York Times article written by Annie Murphy Paul, researchers have determined that many dyslexics possess skills that are “superior to those of typical readers.”  Today’s research is leading people to look at dyslexia in a different way, “not just as an impediment, but as an advantage, especially in certain artistic and scientific fields.”

The Times article reported on one set of experiments in which Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers Gaid Geiger and Jerome Lettvin found that people with dyslexia possess sharper peripheral vision than typical readers. These findings have been replicated by later studies and suggest that the brain processes information from either the central or the peripheral visual field. If you are very good at processing information from the center, you may be a good reader, but you are not as skilled at recognizing information at the periphery. In other words, dyslexics can take in a scene as a whole, something researchers call the “visual gist.”  

But what are the implications for the dyslexic in terms of career choices? Folks with dyslexia are found in every profession, from medicine to law to science. However, it has been noted that there are high concentrations of dyslexics in fields like art and design. According to the New York Times article, the Laboratory for Visual Learning (located in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) is looking at the advantages dyslexics possess in “visually intensive branches of science.” Matthew Schneps, director of the lab, says that “scientists in his line of work must make sense of enormous quantities of visual data and accurately detect patterns that signal the presence of entities such as black holes.” Schneps has done a second study in which dyslexics were able to make use of the information in photographic images while typical readers were not.

Dyslexia is typically referred to as a learning disability, but experiments such as these suggest that “in some situations . . . those with dyslexia are actually the superior learners.”  Of course the struggle of dyslexics to read, write, and spell is significant, but it is important to understand the special aptitudes they possess in order to build on their strengths.

My Dyslexic Summer
Josh Clark, Head of School


Part 1: The Spelling Test

My summer began with an email and a spelling test.

My son was in first grade. Through the course of the year, his passion for reading ignited, and we watched as he plowed through Magic Tree House to Dog Man to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. His comprehension was strong. He hated reading aloud, however, and when persuaded, he often substituted “the” for “a” “were” for “was” or skipped words completely. At other times he would struggle with a word far less complex than the one preceding it. Not wanting to pathologize my own child, I dismissed my concerns and promised myself to stop bringing my work home.

Then came the email:

“When you have a few moments, can we discuss his spelling?”

It was right under my nose, and it was classic - textbook even - reversed letters, jumbled sounds, over-generalized spelling patterns. Over the last ten years, I have seen spelling samples like this hundreds if not thousands of times, and yet when it was my son, it was like seeing if for the first time.

Part 2: The Surprise

As I muddled through my own guilt and embarrassment - I mean, I do this for a living! - my wife and I sprang into action. Ellen Hill at the School worked with him, we scheduled testing, and enrolled him in the Schenck School summer reading camp. I knew a summer filled with early mornings and school work would not be welcome news; I braced myself for a June filled with tears and stress.

Two days into camp, I found myself being rushed out the door because “we can’t be late, daddy!” He LOVED it! I have told countless parents about the School’s transformative powers and have seen their effect in many students’ faces. To experience it as a parent, however, was humbling.

At the end of summer camp, I sat down with his teacher to hear her impressions. She confirmed what I knew - we needed to continue with testing and tutoring and know that we may be at The Schenck School for third grade. The “thank you" I reached for was drowned by my tears. I was not crying because my son is likely dyslexic and may attend The Schenck School - I am actually thrilled about both. I cried because in just four weeks this teacher knew my son so well and had made him feel great about what had been so hard.

Part 3: The Brain

With my son in mind, I boarded a Boston-bound plane with Schenck School principal Foster Soules for a once in a lifetime professional opportunity. We spent the next week at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the lab of Dr. John Gabrieli, one of the world’s top dyslexia researchers.

We witnessed functional brain imaging, sat in lectures for hours, and learned even more about the deep complexities and individualization of dyslexia. In the last 15 years our understanding of the reading brain has advanced exponentially, leaving us with more questions than answers.

The information reminded me of seventh grade social studies. For centuries, early western explorers searched in vain for a northwest passage - a shortcut through North or Central America to the Asian spice trade. No such path existed, and yet explorers still found their way across the continent. Though their journeys were difficult and at times disheartening, they discovered a “new world” along the way.

The dyslexic brain experiences reading in much the same way. The short-cuts and automaticity traditional readers enjoy do not exist. Instead, these letters and sounds must discover a new path across mountains, plains, and rivers of neurons. It can be cumbersome and inefficient. However, unexpected journeys can lead to the most important discoveries. Just ask Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, or Andy Warhol.

Part 4: The Banana

I returned from MIT overwhelmed and exhilarated. I could not wait to share what I learned with the Schenck School community and consider its implications on our approaches. I was also ready for a short reprieve from dyslexia. The topic had consumed my intellectual and emotional energies, and I was ready for a break.

My wife was visiting a friend in Washington D.C., and I had planned “Camp Daddy.” My kids and I were going to wear ourselves out in our new home town. We set out in the mornings and did not return until early evening, making our way through splash parks, Lego Land, the World of Coke, the Tellus Science Museum, and more. On our last day we visited the High Museum of Art. There was a temporary Andy Warhol exhibit, and I could not wait to show my children my favorite artist.

The exhibit was amazing - bright, dramatic, and interactive. The kids loved seeing Campbell Soup on the walls and wanted to know why that angry man was so colorful (Chairman Mao). As we walked through the gallery, I could not help but wonder what kind of mind could be so creative. As we looked at original sketches and notes and flipped through the many biographies in the gift shop, I remembered. Warhol always did poorly in school, with his struggles most evident in his spelling. “Vedio” for "video," “pastic” for “plastic.” His mind had to make unexpected and difficult turns to find its way. Warhol was dyslexic, just like my son might be.

I learned so much from my summer with dyslexia. My understanding as a professional and practitioner grew, but more importantly, I began to experience it as a parent - an understanding I did not know I was lacking.





Back to School Tips
Kelly Moore, MA, MFT School Counselor


Congratulations, parents! You have survived the first days of school! We all know transitioning back to school comes with a host of mixed emotions, and getting back into a routine can be tough on the whole family. However, we also know that children do better when they know what to expect!  I’m going to harp on the power of preparation and establishing routines for a minute.

Children know how to follow routines gain much more from their school day. When consistent daily routines are developed at home, anxiety is reduced, and children are able to put more of their energy into what’s being taught in the classroom, which then allows teachers to maximize learning! Don’t worry if you haven’t developed a plan yet or if it has taken some time to work out the kinks in your routine.  It’s never too late to establish structure. If structure is needed now, it always will be needed. It’s not something that goes away. The good news is that structure can be introduced at any time! It’s just like having a good plan—and a good plan can be put in place at any time. Here are sample starting points to establish a Back to School Plan:

  • Structure yourself: Ask yourself, “Do I play a role in preventing mornings and evening routines from running smoothly?” Maybe you need to set the alarm for 15 minutes earlier. Maybe you need to designate 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. as a “non-technology” period -- meaning your kids have your full attention, and you are not to distracted by checking text messages and email so that you can keep the bedtime routine as smooth as possible without technology distraction. Are you allowing everyone some buffer time in case of unexpected events, or if a task that usually takes five minutes all of a sudden takes fifteen minutes one day? I will be honest with you. My poor planning is often the cause of an emotional trainwreck at my home. If I can get my ducks in a row, I’ve won half the battle.

  • Decide what the expectations are: What do you expect your kids to be able to do in the morning? What do you expect them to do in the afternoon or before bedtime? What tasks do you expect them to do independently, and what tasks require support from you? Be specific. Map it out for them. Look at trouble areas (also known as “expected meltdown moments”) and ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. The good news is  that parents can be transparent when the plan needs some tweaking!! You and your kids are all in this together -- figuring it out and being flexible!

  • Introduce structure in the best way to help your child: For younger kids, you might need a lot of visual prompts such as stickers, pictures, posters, or checklists. For older kids, you might have to have a family meeting where you sit down and talk with them about what you expect and what needs to happen.

  • Small changes: It might not be realistic to think that in seven days, morning and bedtime routines will be well-oiled machines. Instead, you could pick the time of day that proved to be the most challenging last year. Start there. Make it a problem-solving discussion. For example, you could say, “We had a hard time last year, and it didn’t work well for anyone. How are we going to make the mornings better this year?” Be explicit about your child’s role and the tasks you expect them to perform. Or, if getting ready for bed was the issue for your child in the previous school year, focus on what bedtime is going to look like from now on. Invite cooperation. Ask them questions like, “What’s hard about getting ready for bed? What can we do differently to make it better?”

  • Be positive: Parents, you are often your child’s “barometer” for feelings. In most given situation, they will likely look to you and gauge how you’re feeling before recognizing their own feelings. If you are stressed and worn down, they will likely feel stressed and worn down. Make a point to model positivity!

I am sending you my most sincere support as you embark on this new school year with your family! Remember to ask yourself, “What can I do to help our day a little smoother, so that my child is most available for learning?” 

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Hope Is Not a Strategy
Peggy Webb Hendrix, Director of Admissions


Our human resources director here at the School tells me this all the time, and it has taken me a long while to understand the wisdom in this statement. I am always hoping for things: I hope the year will go well, I hope we have a large number of openings so that we can help more children, I hope that cutting-edge brain research continues to inform our understanding of the dyslexic brain, I hope, I hope, I hope . . . .

But my HR director is absolutely right.  Hope is not a strategy! Hoping that the year will go well doesn’t help to make it so. Plans, actions, strategies . . . those are the concrete steps needed to actively ensure that my year will be successful. I can hope all I want, but if I don’t do the necessary leg work and lay the groundwork for success, the result will simply be serendipitous. If I am successful, it’s just the result of good luck!

The same can be said at the beginning of the year for parents of dyslexic children. “We had a wonderful teacher last year who really understood my child. I hope we are as lucky this year.”

Or “my child did a lot of reading over the summer. I hope her struggles are minimal this year.”

Hope truly is not a strategy. The good news is that there are concrete steps parents can take to plan and strategize so that the year is a positive and productive one for your child.

  • If you are just beginning to wonder why your child struggles to read, go ahead and schedule a psychoeducational evaluation for your child. If your child is dyslexic, identify resources, programs, and tutors to help remediate your child’s reading deficiencies.

  • If you know your child is dyslexic, make sure to line up tutoring for the coming school year.  We recommend two one-hour sessions per week, with an Orton-Gillingham trained professional.

  • Schedule a meeting with your child’s school now, at the beginning of the school year. Make sure that accommodations are in place for your child, i.e., extended time, pull-out reading instruction, no penalties for spelling errors, reduced spelling lists, etc.
  • If you plan to pursue an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child this year, begin to pull together resources that will help you. Be sure that you understand your child’s rights. Understand what accommodations you need to request (these are found in your child’s psychoeducational evaluation). Enlist the help of a public school advocate if you think you need more support in your quest for the services your child needs.

  • Consider applying to a specialized school if your child needs more support than your current school can provide. Talk to your psychologist and obtain recommendations, and contact your local or the national branch of the International Dyslexia Association or the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. They can give you contact information for specialized schools in your area.

Hope the sun shines, the temperatures are fair, and your team wins.  But don’t leave things to chance that you can control. Make plans, strategize, gather your resources, and help your child have a good school year!