Guest Blog: Decoding Dyslexia NC

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We’re excited to be hosting our first guest blogger, Jennifer McBee from Decoding Dyslexia NC! Decoding Dyslexia is a network of parent-led grassroots movements across the country concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within the public education system. Here in North Carolina, Decoding Dyslexia is making great progress. Here’s what Jennifer shared with us:

Decoding Dyslexia Hoping to Gain Ground in 2016

Decoding Dyslexia NC (DDNC) is driven by NC families concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within our public schools. The Decoding Dyslexia movement aims to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children and inform policy­makers on best practices to identify, remediate and support students with dyslexia in NC public schools. The national movement started in 2011 with several parents from New Jersey. Today there are Decoding Dyslexia groups in all 50 states and four Canadian Provinces.

Decoding Dyslexia NC is still young and looking for concerned parents who want to make a change in education for their children as well as others. Lending your voice to by reaching out to your representatives is a huge help. A great example of parents making a difference is the bipartisan Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act (READ Act) H.R. 3033, which the president signed into law on February 18, 2016. Keep a watch out on our website for calls to action for dyslexia parents advocate for their children. DDNC advocates for the state of North Carolina to:

  • Mandate a universal definition and understanding of “dyslexia” in the state education code
  •  Mandate teacher training on dyslexia, its warning signs and appropriate intervention.

DDNC sees that NC parents have struggled getting services because schools typically don’t use the word dyslexia, nor fully understand that it’s a difference in how the brain is wired. DDNC is working to change that and help parents advocate for their children. Another example of how the national group has made a difference was the #SayDyslexia movement, which resulted in a dyslexia guidance letter from the US Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services last October. The letter basically says that schools can use the word “Dyslexia” when it applies to a child with a reading disability. Properly defining the issue when a child is struggling is crucial to getting proper instruction.

DDNC currently has four co­-leaders who contribute a variety of strengths to our team. We want to connect with other concerned parents, teachers, and administrators throughout North Carolina who want to create an effective change with less effort through education about dyslexia. We are also concerned with how to help students with dyslexia families in NC that are in rural areas who may not have access to as many resources for their children.

If you want more information or would like to get involved, please contact and connect with us:

Meet the Counselors: Conor Lennon

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This year, we’re thrilled to have counselor Conor Lennon (above, right) returning for another season at Camp Spring Creek. Conor hails from beautiful Timahoe, Ireland, so in addition to being a fun, friendly and encouraging counselor, he’s also got a great accent! We caught up with Conor to hear a little about his experiences last year and what’s in store for this summer.

What made you decide to return to Camp Spring Creek?

I decided in the second week of camp last year that I wanted to come back. It’s a combination of things; the kids are all great, the location is beautiful, all the staff are lovely people, and it’s just the right blend of challenging, rewarding and fun. I don’t really know how to describe it better than that.

What was the highlight of last summer for you?

The Color Run was probably my favorite activity. We camped out, had so much fun, and everyone enjoyed it. There were no problems or arguments— literally everyone had a great time.

What advice would you give to incoming campers? 

It’s okay to be nervous. I was nervous! But everyone is really friendly and helpful, and you’re so busy and having so much fun that the time flies by.

What should campers in your cabin know about you?

I know everything. I see and hear everything that goes on in my cabin. My spies are everywhere!

Finish this sentence. At Camp Spring Creek, Conor is our go-to counselor for…

…winning competitions! I’m extremely competitive, and my teams won nearly all the group activities last year.

Which do you like best outdoor adventures or organized team games/sports? 

I don’t really have a preference. I’m competitive, so I get really into team games, but as long as I’m outside and being active, I’m happy.

Finish this sentence. Conor is a big fan of…. 

Football! I started following the Panthers last year, just in time for their march to the Superbowl. Since then, I’ve really started enjoying the sport. I’ve watched a lot of games and I’m even reading up on it to try to understand it better!

 

 

 

Meet the Counselor: Grace Stevens

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When campers first arrive at Camp Spring Creek, they might be a little shy if they don’t come along with a friend or family member. These campers need to meet Grace Stevens: she has a way of making everyone she meets feel at ease. Grace hails from Hartford, a village in the English county of Cheshire known mostly for agriculture. Last year, she graduated from the University of Central Lancaster with a degree in nursing, but she has spent some time since then seeing the world. Since last November, she’s been in Courchevel in the French Alps, but she’ll join us at Camp Spring in June. We asked Grace to tell us at little bit more about herself.

What are you most looking forward to at camp this summer?

I’m most looking forward to the hot weather, after a winter of snow! And also meeting new people and being outside exercising and learning new skills as well as having fun with all the campers

What do you want campers in your cabin to know about you?

I’m very chatty and love talking so, we will be having lots of fun discussions. I love having sing alongs, even though I’m not the best singer! I have a very approachable and caring side, which probably comes from the nursing, so you can talk to me about anything.

What do you think your camp specialty will be?

I love arts and crafts so would love to be involved in that, however, I also love any sports and would be happy with either. I also like talking , so I’m happy to have a go at anything!

Which do you like better: outdoor adventures or organized team sports?

I’m an organized team sports person at heart and have always played hockey rounders and netball, but recently I’ve gotten into hiking, so outdoor adventures sounds like fun to me!

What do you want to accomplish this summer?

This summer I want to learn new skills and sports, make new friends, complete my lifeguard training, and have an amazing summer in America with some happy campers. Anything else would be an amazing bonus!

Please join us in welcoming Grace to the Camp Spring Creek team!

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Meet The Counselor: Ollie Todd

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Who’s that intrepid adventurer, fording that mountain stream with ease? Why, it’s Ollie Todd, one of our first-year counselors at Camp Spring Creek. Ollie has the distinction of being the counselor who has the longest journey to make to get to Bakersville. It will take over a day to arrive from Invercargill, on the very bottom of New Zealand’s South Island. Invercargill has the distinction of being the southernmost and westernmost town in the country and one of the southernmost cities in the world. If you keep going south from there, you end up in Antarctica!

Although he’s making such an epic journey, we have a feeling he’s going to be right at home at Camp Spring Creek. We caught up with Ollie to find out a little bit more about him.

What do you do during the school year, Ollie?

I’m a substitute teacher, working with elementary school students, aged 5 to 12. This will be my first year working at a summer camp in the US.

What are you most looking forward to about camp this summer?

Meeting new friends and having lots of fun.

What are your favorite camp games?

I don’t really have a favorite, but I like anything that involves cooperation and team sports. Games played at night in the dark are always fun, too!

What can campers do to get on your good side?

Tell me a good joke. I appreciate a sense of humor.

Camp Spring Creek is known for its great food especially desserts. What’s your favorite?

A raspberry white chocolate brownie-my sister makes a great one!

By the end of the summer, what do you hope to have achieved at Camp Spring Creek?

I hope I’ll have met a lot of great new people, have had lots of fun and convinced people to come to New Zealand, the most beautiful country in the world!

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Please join us in welcoming Ollie! There are a still a few spaces left for this summer at Camp Spring Creek, one of only three dyslexia summer camps in the US. Contact us for more information!

 

Meet the Counselor: Iwona Kurczab

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The countdown is on! We’re just a few months away from the start of camp and we’re excited about the summer of ’16.

One of the things that make Camp Spring Creek so special is our counselors. They come from all over the world, offering our campers a chance to learn about other cultures as well as having fun and building their reading and writing skills. We caught up with one of our new counselors Iwona Kurczab to ask her a little about herself.

 

Where are you from, Iwona?

I’m from Limanowa, a small city in Poland, but I’m working in Kraków now.

Have you worked at Camp Spring Creek before?

This is my first year at Camp Spring Creek, but I have experience working as a counselor at a youth sport camp in Poland.

What are you most looking forward to about camp this summer?

I’m looking forward to meeting new people and learning and doing things that I’ve never done before and having fun with all people at camp. I want to enjoy every moment!

What are your favorite camp games?

I love chase games with two teams, when one of them is trying to find the first one with some instructions on the way. The game takes place outside, mostly in the forest.

What can campers do to get on your good side?

All they have to do is smile!

Camp Spring Creek is known for its great food especially desserts. What’s your favorite?

Brownie cake!

By the end of the summer, what do you hope to have achieved at Camp Spring Creek?

By the end of this summer, I hope I will be totally happy with the things that will happen to me and I will speak perfect English!

 

Please join us in welcoming Iwona. There are still a few spaces left at camp this summer! Contact us for more information

Teacher Brings O-G Training To Her Students at McDowell Tech

Bridget Burnette had no idea what she was getting into when her supervisor at McDowell 2015062795174248-1Technical Community College told her he had signed her up for Orton Gillingham Associate Level training with Susie van der Vorst. As she began looking through the training materials that had been forwarded her way, the English Language Learner teacher, who had recently been asked to take on GED classes as well, felt clearer.

“When I took a look at the notebook we’d be working from, I was overwhelmed,” Bridget says. “Once we got started, though, I realized every teacher and every student should have this understanding of language.”

A new light flipped on for Bridget as she learned syllable division, spelling patterns and the breakdown of letter sounds. “Growing up,” she says, I could spell because I was good at memorization, not because I understood how words were spelled.

Part of what she has learned, too, is how to recognize learning differences, which she believes will allow her to meet individual student needs better. “Some of my students left school when they were young and started working. I have some students who read at only a fourth grade level. I believe having an understanding of things such as why words are spelled the way they are will be particularly helpful to my students as they learn new words and continue their education.”

An unexpected gift was the development of new empathy for her dyslexic brother as she watched her dyslexic training partner struggle through some of the lessons. “I watched him struggle growing up. At school, he was put in a slower learning group. So many people mistreated him because they thought he was dumb.”

Bridget knows nothing could be further from the truth. “He’s very intelligent, artistic and loves to see how things work.  I told him what I’m doing and he was interested in learning more, which is exciting to me.”

Since finishing the class, Bridget feels better equipped to teach. “I’m currently teaching phonics to my ESL students who are new to the English language. I want them to learn the correct way and help them understand the why’s behind our language. I also plan to use Orton-Gillingham with my other classes, whether dyslexia is the issue or not. I believe this multisensory approach is a great way to learn.”

She also believes it’s a good tool for her own future studies. “I want to take the GRE to go to grad school and I’m certain this training will help me have a better understanding when it comes to the vocabulary words I’ll encounter. I’m excited about the possibilities.”

 

Teacher Uses O-G to Reach New Heights with Students

profile picScott Fisher’s enthusiasm is contagious. “The thing I love most about teaching is that moment of discovery, when children make connections and their little brains explode,” says Scott, who teaches kindergarten at Asheville’s Isaac Dixon Elementary. “You can see it in their faces.  It’s priceless.”

Scott also believes the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) training he recently went through is priceless. “O-G training has had a huge impact on my understanding of both the English language and developmentally appropriate teaching practices for reading and writing.”

On one hand, Scott uses it in the classroom in his small group work. “I’ve also been incorporating O-G principles and activities into my whole-class Fundations curriculum, which covers phonics and language development. I’ve got a much stronger grasp on the spelling patterns of our language, which makes me better prepared to answer students’ questions. O-G supplements make my lessons much more enjoyable for students.”

He’s seen the O-G approach impact non-dyslexic students as well. “So far, the O-G additions I’ve made have really hit home with my high flyers who were sometimes bored with whole-class phonics instruction. I simply slip slightly more advanced rules and patterns to those students who are ready, while reinforcing basic phonetic instruction for the entire class.”

All students seem to appreciate Scott’s daily warmup. “In our Fundations curriculum, we warm up daily with drill sounds, repeating the letter name and keyword and sound of many letters (it sounds like “K, kite, /k/!”),” he says. “Because O-G is a multisensory approach, our trainer and O-G Fellow Susie van der Vorst recommended I added a tactile element to the drill.  Now my children are all repeating the drills while simultaneously using two fingers to trace the letter on the carpet.  They are engaging their visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile senses, strengthening the pathway to the brain.”

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Incorporating the O-G approach in the primary grades is critical according to Scott. “Everything about a student’s career hinges on those first few years.”

Scott is thankful to OpenDoors of Asheville for inviting him to participate in O-G training. “For people like me, with a huge curiosity and thirst for understanding, it’s been a very rewarding experience. In my mind, every teacher should be given the option to learn the O-G approach.”

 

 

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