When Twila Richards’ daughter Milla was in Grade 6, she was diagnosed with dyslexia.
"I knew that my daughter was several years behind in school," Richards says. "I took her to an educational psychologist who diagnosed her with dyslexia. Hearing that she had dyslexia allowed her to understand why reading and spelling were so difficult for her. People understand her struggles when she tells them, ‘I have dyslexia.’"
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."
Dyslexia Champions of Manitoba is a non-profit, incorporated organization which represents a diverse group of individuals who bring different backgrounds and perspectives to work together to provide support to families that live with the challenges of dyslexia. The organization provides education, resources, advocacy, and training opportunities for educators, resource professionals, and parents.
Sharon Gurney, one of the founding members of DCM and now its vice-president, says, "the organization is celebrating its sixth year of its mission to "work together to champion the gifts, and support the needs of Manitobans with dyslexia.
"Although much has been accomplished, a great deal of work lies ahead. We are advocating for early identification of dyslexia before kids fall behind and begin to fail. The children then need evidence-based literacy intervention in schools to facilitate reaching their full potential. Manitoba can follow the lead of other jurisdictions that have integrated this support within the public-school system."
Christine van de Vijsel, president of DCM, is passionate about the need to support classroom teachers who seek effective ways to reach their struggling readers.
"Our organization offers professional development opportunities for teachers so they can bring these skills into their classrooms. Teachers can bring their students from utter despair to the jubilation that school success can bring."
Trained tutors live in all areas of the city, including Fort Garry.
Through DCM, Twila Richards learned about the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading and took advantage of the training offered by DCM.
Developed in the 1930s, the OG multi-sensory method was especially developed for students with dyslexia. Students are taught in an explicit, cumulative, diagnostic way that activates specific areas of the brain to hear and learn sounds and the letter patterns that represent those sounds.
Individualized lessons are based on each student’s specific needs.
"Teaching my child with the OG approach allowed her to improve from reading end-of-Grade-1 texts to being able to fluently read mid-Grade-6 texts within the space of a year," Twila says. "With OG instruction, people with dyslexia learn how to read and spell, and develop a love for both."
Milla now not only enjoys reading but also writing. In 2017, she published a novel entitled Moon Wolf. Twila was so inspired by how OG helped her teach her daughter how to read that she started her own tutoring business, 4 the Love of Reading.
Helen Lepp Friesen is a community correspondent for Fort Garry. You can contact her at email@example.com. This column was written with files from Twila Richards