he lack of services and resources for people struggling with dyslexia in south central Indiana has led a local psychologist to open three area dyslexia clinics.
One of the clinics is in Seymour,
the hometown of psychologist Dr. Jill Christopher. The others are in Bloomington and Columbus.
Christopher, who has worked with Jackson County residents for about 13 years, began taking clients at Foundations Dyslexia and Learning Centers in October. It’s one of the first centers for the disorder in southern Indiana, offering dyslexia diagnosis, treatment and tutoring options for people of all ages.
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“The goal is to help identify these people who have it and then teach them different strategies to compensate for their reading and spelling skills,” said Christopher, the center’s director. “This in turn should help with academic achievement.”
Seymour resident Kelly Royer has seen firsthand how the disorder can be improved with the right help. Her husband, J.B. Royer, an administrator at Seymour Middle School, and her 9-year-old son, Evan Royer, are dyslexic.
“He learns like everyone else just in a different way,” Kelly Royer said of her son.
She said they discovered Evan’s condition between first and second grade.
Since there were no local dyslexia resources available at that time, the family worked with a school tutor and joined Columbus Indiana R.E.A.D.S, a nonprofit organization. The initials stand for recognizing, educating and advocating for dyslexic students.
Now a third-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School, Evan is thriving, Kelly Royer said.
“We have seen a huge growth in his ability to read,” she said. “We’ve seen his grades go up and his self-confidence go up.”
She said the clinic will offer local assistance and treatment for those who want to overcome dyslexia.
“I’m excited to see it (here),” Kelly Royer said. “What Jill’s doing is absolutely phenomenal.”
The center, staffed by Christopher and tutors trained in dealing with dyslexia, is in the Christopher and Associates office, 1725 E. Tipton St., in the River Valley Financial Bank building in Seymour.
There are plans in the works to move the center to another facility in Seymour.
Christopher also has teamed up with two other licensed clinical psychologists, Dawn Lindeman and Dawn Doup, to open the other dyslexia centers. These locations will allow patients who need assistance to avoid having to travel to Indianapolis or Louisville for services.
“We’ve really seen a need over the years and finally decided to do something about it,” Christopher said.
One in five kids affected
Research shows at
least one in every five children has dyslexia, Christopher said.
It’s a common myth that the disorder is where people see words backward. But dyslexia is not a vision problem, she said.
Instead, it’s neurological. The condition is categorized as a learning disability that can be diagnosed in a range from very mild to severe.
“They do often reverse letters, confusing B and D, or see words in different ways like ‘was’ instead of ‘saw,’ but that’s due to a confusion over left versus right or by difficulty reading and sounding out words,”
Dyslexia can be identified in children as young as about 5. Early warning signs include difficulty learning letters and sounding out letters, trouble spelling and writing, and figuring out right and left.
Christopher said children who are dyslexic often go undiagnosed until later in life, even as late as adulthood. That’s when they realize their own children struggle in the same areas they did.
“It is a condition that is very genetically based, so that’s why adults sometimes figure out that they too have it when their child has difficulty with it,” she said.
Another myth is that dyslexia goes hand-in-hand with intelligence level. But that is not the case, Christopher said.
People with dyslexia often think something is wrong with them intellectually, leading to frustration and sometimes even dropping out of school.
“I think it has caused people to not seek help,”
At the centers, an appointment will be set up, so information can be gathered and an evaluation and dyslexia screening can be completed. Depending on the severity, a treatment option will be discussed.
There’s usually a biweekly meeting with the center’s tutors during an intensive session to learn strategies to overcome the effects of dyslexia that hinder everyday activities such as reading and writing.
Clients will meet with tutors who are trained in the Barton Reading and Spelling System, a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia. Currently, there are two tutors on staff, and a few more will be hired, Christopher said.
The cost of treatment varies depending on the amount of testing and tutoring services needed. But insurance will not cover any of the fees, she added.
Typically the one-on-one program can take two to four years to be effective, but progress is seen along the way, Christopher said.
“It’s really tailored to that child’s level of need and goes at their own particular pace,” she said.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading.
Warning signs of dyslexia at different ages:
- Speech difficulties and difficulty pronouncing words
- Slow to add new vocabulary words
- Consistent confusion of left and right
- Difficulty with rhyming words
- Trouble with the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes or writing his or her name
- Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
- Awkward pencil grip and/or handwriting is difficult to read
- Confuses small words: at – to, said – and, does – goes
- Slow to learn new skills such as cursive handwriting
- Dreads going to school or completing homework
- Reads below grade level, difficulty with reading comprehension
- Reverses letter sequences: soiled for solid, left for felt
- Trouble with word problems in math
- Dreads going to school
- Avoids reading and/or writing in front of others
- Very inefficient with time management
High school and adulthood
- History with any of the childhood warning signs
- Avoids writing, difficulty putting thoughts on paper
- Difficulty answering open-ended questions in conversation and on tests
- Difficulty completing assignments
- Gets lost easily, even in familiar settings
- Drops out of high school, college or further education
Source: Dr. Jill Christopher
“The goal is the help identify these people who have it and then teach them different strategies to compensate for their reading and spelling skills. This in turn should help with academic achievement.”
Dr. Jill Christopher, on the philosophy of her dyslexia clinic