Gearing up for Summer 2015

Summer 2015 launches in just 6 short weeks. We’re busy getting ready–finalizing hiring, planning training, dreaming of weekend dances…

Meantime, we just finished up a Classroom Educator Course in April and have an Associate Level OG Training scheduled for May.

Oh, and our Press Manager who manages our blog, Katey, is getting married next week!

All of which is to say: We’ll be pausing the blog until early June. It’s for a good cause–we’re getting ready for YOU!

Thanks for your support from near and far. We value your readership and our online community. Stick with us!

 

Interview: Artist Melisa Cadell

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Sketches of Perception, Melisa Cadell, 2014

Today’s interview features inspiring individual Melisa Cadel. Melisa has an MFA from East Tennessee State University, with an emphasis on Sculpture and Studio Art, as well as a BFA in Drawing and Painting from University of North Texas. She serves as an adjunct professor at Appalachian State University and leads workshops at craft centers across the United States. She did not realize she was dyslexic until her son Ben was diagnosed in 4th grade. Similar to artist Courtney Dodd’s insights about art, perception, and making, Melisa shared a story with us that is moving, compassionate, and vulnerable. Please join us in celebrating her accomplishments and aspirations for the future!

Camp Spring Creek: When did you first suspect that you had dyslexia and how did that realization affect you?

Melisa Cadell: I always tested poorly when it came to standardized tests. I could not spell and reading comprehension was non-existent. I always compensated by listening to what people said about things. I hung out with the intelligent people and soaked up their discussions. I made good marks but was always doing more work than the others to make up for my difficulties. When I applied to colleges there was no problem until they received my horrible SATs and ACTs. I had to be interviewed at the college institution that offered me a basketball scholarship because the scores were so low; I think they just wanted to see if I had an IQ at all. I always thought it was some type of test anxiety or something. I could do just about anything if I had enough time and studied harder than the others. I never dreamed that I was dyslexic.In college, I took classes that were more hands on, after I clomped through remedial English twice, and developed really great study skills. I enjoyed my Literature classes because the instructor I had (for both sections) walked us through each passage. I took copious notes and made great scores on the long essay tests. If someone explained the texts to me I could read multiple meanings into passages. It was like a playground. I graduated with honors in my BFA and a K-12 teaching certification in Art Ed. It took me 6 years. Art was the first thing I did not struggle with. It was a field where there wasn’t a right or wrong as long as you found a non-cliché way to do it. It was about problem solving so the more problems you had the more possibilities existed.

I did not put a label on my inability to be a functional reader until after I completed my MFA with a 4.0. Again I struggled more than my peers but I accomplished what I wanted to. Ben, my oldest child, was diagnosed in the middle of his 4th grade year. Now, I know we are both dyslexic. Why didn’t someone figure this out before Ben’s fourth grade year? Was it because of me? He had all the same struggles. He gets words confused. He has to read things very slowly, more than once. He has difficulty copying things down from the board. Spelling is problematic. He forgets words in the middle of a sentence. He is confused about social interaction. He is terribly forgetful and his organization is very poor. He thinks backwards, like me.

The knowledge of my own disability is wrapped up with the diagnosis of my son and his difficulties. It is not easy for me; it will not be easy for him. I am pleased Ben received his diagnosis and is getting help from an Orton Gillingham tutor. I worry though; at least I was not pegged with low scores and a stigma until I was older. I was not kept from the things I loved because of the struggles. I was always placed in class with my peers and allowed to study any subject I wanted. I just want Ben to hold onto his desire to learn about this amazing world. I am pleased with the ability to see things this way, but it puts me on the outside. Sometimes, that is a lonely place to be. It is because of this solitude that I found myself through art. It communicates all the things I have never been able to voice in any other way. It is only my art that makes me feel like I might have a small understanding of what it means to be a part of this amazing world.

CSC: You’re an artist, working primarily in sculptural ceramics. Many studies have shown that people with dyslexia have strong spatial thinking skills and can also “think outside the box.” In what ways do you see that dyslexic advantage manifest in your work as an artist?

MC: I think that because it takes me so long to process things, I spend more time thinking. I work at it. I try to see a human side of events. I pay attention to struggles. In a way, I think my artwork is about my effort to comprehend how others see things. As an artist, I use my perception to turn something it on its ear. I do not see struggles in black and white, rather; I see in grey, in a light that is not easily understood.I think much of society is spoiled by the perceived apparent. It seems that people want a right way and a wrong way…but this leaves out the complexity. Complexity is rich and colorful, it is messy, it is beautiful and it is haunting. My work honors something in us all; it is about who we are as humans, that which is good and that which is not. I have not figured it out and do not expect to…and because I learn differently, I have learned to embrace the struggle, as well as, the fact that it does not make sense.

CSC: How has realizing your own dyslexia shaped your relationship with your son, who also has dyslexia?

MC: We are still working through it. It is difficult. I feel very upset about how he has to struggle through things while others do not. In the end, I know it will be a benefit. If he can learn to embrace it for what it can show him, difficult as it may be, he will become a success in whatever it is he wants to do. It is sometimes heartbreaking and I just have to have faith in him that he will find his way. Because of dyslexia, I think he will become a more compassionate person.

I push my son to do his personal best because I know how bright and compassionate he is. I am sympathetic and it makes me a passionate advocate, but that can complicate matters if I don’t step back and problem solve first. Teachers that do not understand the hours it takes to do what others do in a matter of minutes frustrate me, but they do not know what we (dyslexics) know and experience. I have begun to piece together ideas for parents and for teachers. My goal is to make a roadmap that benefits the student. I have built a real relationship with Ben’s teachers this year and believe we are all making progress to make the path easier for those to come.

CSC: Did you have any teachers or relatives throughout your upbringing who you felt most keenly understood your strengths and challenges? Tell us about that individual, and how they made an impression on you.

MC: My parents were always there to let me know that if I wanted it I had the power to achieve it…I know they had to work hard, and it was an encouragement to me. I believe that my mother is dyslexic; it seems she has been crippled by her inability to read and write well. She is a brilliant thinker. Yet her self-confidence was terribly damaged in her youth and she has spent her entire adult life building, it tearing it down, and building it again. I think she often lives through the accomplishments of the ones she has supported. She has felt inferior to those who finished college and made careers for themselves. She is so creatively intelligent and I just wish I could sit within her mind and look at the wonder of it all. I have a feeling that Ben’s diagnosis is helping her see there was a reason she had it so difficult. Knowing why something is the way it is, sometimes, is the first part of healing and the first step to believing.

Interview: Esteemed Designer, Madalyne Marie

MadalyneToday’s interview features inspiring individual Madalyne Marie. The bio on her website offers a delightful introduction: “Madalyne didn’t discover her artistic talent until her freshman year of college, however, she always found ways to cultivate her creativity. She grew up dancing, drumming, canyoneering and river rafting. She always had an interest in learning new things, traveling to new places, and helping others to find strength in their challenges. Her proudest accomplishments include having a piece on exhibit at the Smithsonian…Madalyne lives by the firm belief that good design and creative expression should be applied to everything she does, including cooking, rearranging her furniture, or singing car karaoke at the top of her lungs. She and her husband, Dustin, have been married for five years, live in New York City and have exactly zero children.”

Camp Spring Creek: So much of the design and logo work you have created for companies like Avon, Mark, Coach, and Four & Twenty Sailors involves unique interpretations and layout of letters and symbols. As professional with the dyslexic advantage, we find this especially intriguing. In what ways do you think being dyslexic informs your creative decisions with letters and symbols, specifically?

Madalyne Marie: I see words and letters as shapes. This helps me see how the letter-forms interact with each other, as well as the space and the environment that they’re in. That environment might be a website or magazine cover for instance. Being dyslexic also helps me see connections between things and solve visual problems quickly because I can bring my intuitive sense for consistency, evolution, and difference into the brainstorming process. When I work with others, this helps me make the visual connections needed to get the job done, as well as to work efficiently.

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CSC: As a graphic designer, your mediums are color and light—two intangible substances. In what ways does being dyslexic inform your ability to manipulate color and light in markedly stunning ways?

MM: Being dyslexic helps me visualize things more clearly and naturally, so I can visualize before I execute ideas. I can see the outcome beforehand and I can see the potential problems as well, so—all around—the work is quicker. For instance, I might decide that I can’t make a background one color and a design feature another color because, in my mind, I can see beforehand that it’s not going to be visually compelling in the way that I want it to be. This is a really positive and empowering tool and I’m still experiencing how useful and important it is, both artistically and professionally.

Growing up, no one shared a message with me about dyslexia that was positive. No one said to me, “I’m dyslexic, I did ok. You’re going to be ok, too.” I’m so passionate about this message now, because there are kids in schools that still think there’s something wrong with them. We need to let them know they’re not attached to a label or an expectation and they’re not attached to shame. They have really positive and empowering tools within themselves, just like I had to discover, as well.

It’s so much easier to label a child “bad” instead of “good.” That kind of thinking isn’t working well for today’s kids. We have to get in on the ground level and reach out to the younger generation. They’re the ones who will change the conversation going forward. If we can get them through school, the more they understand that they’re capable and that they’re needed, the better the world will be.

CSC: What can you tell us about the interactive Dyslexic Advantage traveling installation?

MM: It’s a large, interactive installation that combines three components—the experience of someone growing up being dyslexic, juxtaposed with what dyslexia really is, along with an interactive activity that helps someone experience what it could be like for people who are dyslexic. The installation is fairly large and you can pick up letters and interact with it and move things around to complete your experience.

The title of the installation is Dyslexic Advantage, named after the book and research by Brock and Fernette Eide, because it’s such an incredible resource and inspiration to me. They focus on the struggles, but also the achievements of people with dyslexia. That message was important for me to hear.

I made the installation for the capstone of my BFA project at Brigham Young and it was really life changing. The project let everyone know I was dyslexic. I hadn’t really told people before because I didn’t want people to hold me to different standards. I entered the installation into a few exhibition contests, including the Smithsonian, and a few months later I was accepted into their show called “In/finite Earth,” that toured around the world in 2013.

CSC: In brief, what is your dyslexia discovery story? How and when were you identified and in what ways did that influence your life as you moved forward?

MM: I didn’t actually learn what it means to be dyslexic until my senior year of college. I was identified as dyslexic in 2nd grade and was put in special education my entire childhood. My teachers never sat me or my parents down and told us what it all meant. So for many years, I just thought “dyslexic” was a nicer way to say someone was really stupid or unintelligent.

That’s a really hard way to grow up—believing that you’re never going to be as smart as anyone else. I could always tell that the expectations weren’t as high for me and I didn’t like that. When I got to college, I was able to take my first art class. Growing up, I had extra reading and writing classes, so I was never allowed to take art. But in college, at the end of my first semester, my teacher asked me what I was going to major in and I told him Communications. He told me I was crazy if I didn’t major in Art. To make a long story short, I went with art and, in particular, graphic design, and won an award pretty early on. My capstone project was about dyslexia and traveled around the world through the Smithsonian. Finally, I really, truly, started to understand what dyslexia was—and all the positive things it entails.

Interview: Alison Awes, Montessori/OG Connection

AwesToday’s interview is with inspiring individual Alison Awes. She directs the AMI Elementary training course at the Montessori Center of Minnesota and at Assoziation Montessori Schweiz in Lucerne, Switzerland. She is also the Co-Director of Elementary Training at the Maria Montessori Institute in London. Alison holds AMI diplomas for Primary and Elementary levels, a B.A. in Art History from Smith College, an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University, and a M.Ed. in Montessori Education from Loyola University in Maryland. She has taught in both six-to-nine and nine-to-twelve classrooms. Alison is an AMI examiner and has served on the boards of private and charter Montessori schools, as well as other organizations including the AMI Elementary Alumni Association. Ms. Awes attended Montessori school until the age of twelve. 

Camp Spring Creek: How did you find your way into this particular niche area of overlap between OG and Montessori?

Alison Awes: I’m dyslexic and I went to Montessori school as a child in the 70’s and 80’s, when there wasn’t much awareness about dyslexia or processing disorders. It wasn’t until I was in college and my younger brother was in middle school and he was diagnosed with dyslexia, that I made the connection. A lot of things came together for me at that time and I went and got tested as well. So much opened up for us as a family at that point and the pieces fell into place.

I moved on to art history and eventually art education, but I felt my specialization was too narrow. I went home and had lunch with my old Montessori schoolteacher in Minneapolis, and he suggested Montessori training. Once I got into the classroom, my own experience with my own learning was finally able to support the psychology and development of the children I was teaching.

I didn’t take OG training until much later. As you know, Montessori started in many ways with special needs children. So much of what she discovered was born from this idea of different learning styles. Eventually, when I took OG training, I saw that the principles there were the principles I was already using in Montessori—for example, multi-sensory work. I saw very clearly that the vast majority of the principles in both of these systems were working together.

CSC: How have you integrated OG principles into your Montessori classrooms?

AA: Because I work mostly with adults who are training to be Montessori teachers now, I’ll share how I’ve worked with them. When I teach trainees, I teach that we need to remember that every child is a learner and we’re there to nurture that. We can’t make them learn, but we can create the psychological and physical environment for their optimum development. That’s true for children with dyslexia as much as it is true for any other learner–a child with a physical impairment, a child with no hindrances at all, etc.

My hope now is that my trainees take those principles and use that to support all of what they do. If 3-year-old children aren’t attracted to rhymes, that’s something a teacher needs to take note of. Just because a child isn’t reading yet, doesn’t mean a teacher can’t have his/her eyes open to see who is at risk. It’s the awareness piece that I’m able to bring to my trainees.

CSC: You wrote a phenomenal article about dyslexia and the Montessori classroom that details Congress’ National Reading Panel results, which in large part included recommendations that are very Montessori or OG related. Yet the results were sometimes criticized, and other times what they suggest has been hard to actually implement in the public school system. Why is that?

AA: This speaks to the bigger question about education in the United States right now. Over and over, we see this newfangled something that’s supposed to be the save-all in education. For example, “Oh let’s all be multi-sensory!” or “Let’s arrange our classrooms in tables instead of desks!” and this one trick will fix everything. It’s very difficult to get people to shift their thinking about how children learn.

There are also financial and political factors—textbook companies, taxes. For Montessorians and OG folks who are so passionate about what we do, there’s also a lot of “buyer beware” in the marketplace. Anyone can throw a Montessori sign on their door, but it may not have anything to do with the true, certified Montessori principles. OG has to face that somewhat as well. But if the neighborhood school with the Montessori/OG sign on its door does a poor job, that can lead to misconceptions.

Our educational system is rooted in the factory model. It was designed to help children who only went to school if they couldn’t find work on the farm. They were told that “children are seen, not heard.” None of that had to do with the child as his/her own person. Trying to break those molds is really tricky. What it boils down to is respect for the child and we’re not very good at that as a society. We’re good at putting a child in a playpen or in front of technology so the parents aren’t bothered. These things are really ingrained, even in the most well-intentioned parents. As a society, we have to look at that, too.

CSC: For our readers who may not be familiar with Maria Montessori’s training methodology, your article offers a quick glance: “Teachers study observation theory and practice specific observation techniques so that once leading their own classroom, they are prepared to consider different learners’ approaches in context and devise strategies based on their knowledge of the different ways in which learning can work. Teachers learn about the nature of the child, including her sensitive periods, psychological characteristics, and human tendencies. In this manner, Montessori teachers already have preparation for noticing, and then meeting, the specific needs of any individual learner in their charge.” Are there ways in which this method, proven to meet the needs of children of all learning styles–and dyslexic children in particular–can be integrated into the traditional university teacher training programs? How, specifically, and who is at the forefront of this integration right now?

AA: Integration is a tough one. Our early university classes (Intro to Education, Intro to Psychology) don’t often mention Maria Montessori. I think just having a mention in those kinds of survey courses would be a great place to start.

There are some universities where you can get an AMI certification and a master’s at the same time—Loyola University Maryland, Saint Catherine University in Saint Paul, and I believe in San Diego and Hartford as well—but it’s still two separate things. You have a Montessori certificate and you have a Master’s in Education. There are also other places where folks are trying to get AMI training count towards a teaching degree for the public education system.

One of the things our students at Saint Catherine’s do is actual research. This addresses an area as Montessorians that is really lacking—and that is published, credible research. We need more documentation for society to start to make advances. That’s what people respond to and if we want to see change, we’ve got to start there.

I do think that whenever the day comes that a person can get their Montessori training and their state license to teach in a way that doesn’t require two master’s degrees, that’s when we’re really going to open doors.

OpenDoors of Asheville & OG Training Snapshots

One of our most coveted partnerships is with OpenDoors of Asheville in Buncombe County, NC. This organization connects local children living in multi-generational poverty with an active, individualized network of support, enrichment, and education opportunities. Last spring, we launched a Classroom Educator training with them. For the past two summers, OpenDoors teamed up with Camp Spring Creek to provide scholarships for camp. We also got to feature their Executive Director, Jen R., in this article about summer slide and highlight her amazing contributions to OpenDoors in this interview. To celebrate this ongoing partnership and to recognize the teachers and administrators who participated in our most recent Classroom Educator Course, here are a few snapshots of them, hard at work with Susie.

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Recipe for Reading by Nina Traub

UnknownNow in it’s third edition, Nina Traub’s Recipe for Reading is touted as a go-to, must-have guidebook for those interested in using sequential, multisensory teaching methods with early readers. It has been praised by adminstartors, homeschool parents, public and private school teachers, and more. And if the philosphy really strikes you, additional “workbooks” and guidebooks can be ordered to accompany the lessons suggested in the book itself. Happy reading!

Susie Presents at TN IDA

This month, Susie will travel to Brentwood (near Nashville) to present at the Tennessee International Dyslexia Association Regional Conference. The conference is still open for registration, and takes place April 17-18 at Curry Ingram Academy. Susie will have a booth set up for Camp Spring Creek and will lead several break out sessions between keynote presentations at the conference. The topics for this year’s keynote presentations sound spot on:

  • “Elephant in the Room: What We Overlook Regarding Dyslexia” presented by Nancy Mather, PhD.
  • “Lessons from an Evolving Reading Brain for Dyslexia, Intervention, & Global Literacy” presented by Maryanne Wolf, Ed.D.
  • “A New Look at Learning Disabilities” presented by G. Emerson Dickman, III, Esq.

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