BY MELANIE BUCK
Mena Public School Dyslexia Coordinator, Vicky Maye shares, “It’s okay to say dyslexia!” With the recent passage of Act 1294, Arkansas has joined 18 other states that have passed some form of dyslexia legislation to require dyslexia screening in schools. “Arkansas is extremely fortunate for Senator Joyce Elliott’s passion for sponsoring ACT 1294,” said Maye, which requires schools to screen students in kindergarten through second grade and provide intervention for those students who are found to have dyslexia indicators. The law also supports screenings for students in grades 3-12 who are having unexpected reading difficulties in relation to their overall intelligence.
“Mena Schools has taken major steps to insure that we are supporting the new dyslexia law that was officially passed down last July, 2015. I readily accepted the challenge when Mena School Superintendent, Mr. Benny Weston, asked me to become the new Mena School Dyslexia Coordinator. Mr. Weston felt that my 26 years of being a school counselor with much experience with testing and working with parents and students would aide me successfully to lead the screening and serving of students with dyslexia markers. I’m thrilled about my decision to make the change. I have grown passionate about dyslexia and have joined the charge to spread the word that dyslexia can be a good. There are many famous actors, athletes, artists, and presidents that are famous and have disclosed that they battled dyslexia. These students are out of the box thinkers who are very talented and have much to offer and give our schools and community,” said Maye.
Maye shares that the Mena Dyslexia Team is made up of eight paraprofessionals that are trained with the Barton Reading and Spelling System. Students that are identified with dyslexia indicators receive 30 minutes of Barton Tutoring, one-on-one, four days a week, for a total of 120 minutes. It is an Orton-Gillingham approved model that has had exploding reviews across the United States. It uses multi-sensory teaching approaches that retrain the student’s brain to overcome the dyslexia obstacles. Maye is excited about Mena’s first year using the Barton System. She explained, “I have personally tutored a sixth grader and a sophomore and taught them to read in six weeks. The resource teachers are amazed at the confidence the students gain and the breakthrough that we are seeing in our students. All the reading programs that we have used for twenty years were not working. I am thrilled that Arkansas is on to something and Mena Schools is on this train to making sure that our students with dyslexia indicators are seen as very talented students with difficulty with spelling or reading.”
While statistics say that one in five students have dyslexia, Maye shares that they are finding that students have varying levels of difficulty and there are no cookie cutter symptoms. “We have to get the message out that these students are not disabled, they are gifted,” Maye said. If the student is struggling with dyslexia indicators and no other issues then the student can receive dyslexia intervention in regular education and it’s important to make sure that while teachers are made aware of the students indicators and some modifications are needed in the classroom, the students will have much to offer in other areas. Special education services are usually not needed.
Response To Intervention (RTI) teams are in place at every campus. The students who are not making expected progress are observed closely and interventions are implemented to help the student have success. Mena Schools have jumped on this movement by developing daily schedules that support the students getting intervention while not missing classroom instruction. After careful observation and intervention a special education referral may be needed.
Maye said, “Mena Schools Education Examiner, Tammy Rodgers, has been an answer to prayer my first year on this mission. While she does the testing for special education services for our students, I do the testing for indicators for dyslexia. Although, if her testing reveals dyslexia indicators our programs cross and the student Individual Education Committee decides what will be the best intervention for the student. We both have a passion for kids that struggle and for teachers that are trying to serve them. We love our jobs and are loving what we do. We are thrilled to be a part of TEAM Mena!”