LIVING WITH DYSLEXIA
LEDGER – More than a dozen local educators gathered at the Mitchell County Schools Central Office this past Tuesday to experience some of the challenges students with dyslexia face in the classroom.
The event was sponsored by Camp Spring Creek of Bakersville. The organization has hosted a summer camp catering to children with dyslexia for the past 16 years.
Camp Spring Creek also serves as an outreach provider that brings awareness of dyslexia and trains local teachers by giving them strategies to use in the classroom.
Joanne O’Sullivan, who handles communications for Camp Spring Creek, said this past Tuesday marked the first time the organization has hosted a dyslexia simulation.
“We have been part of the simulation in other venues,” O’Sullivan said. “Often, the participants experience the humility of having a learning disability.”
People rotated through four 12-minute long modules that presented them with different listening, writing and reading challenges.
Kristie Autrey, Director of Curriculum for Mitchell County Schools, led a module that tasked participants with completely covering their writing hand with a sheet of paper and drawing a specific pattern while watching their writing hand in a small mirror.
Participants laughed and expressed frustration as their lines zig-zagged across the page.
“This is an empathy training,” Autrey said. “It allows you to feel what your students might feel in the classroom.”
Autrey recently completed a dyslexia simulation in another location and said she sees the importance of the hands-on experiences.
“At the beginning, you feel silly,” Autrey said. “By the end, parents and teachers were crying. You feel silly at times but at some point, it hits you.”
O’Sullivan said the ultimate goal of the simulation goes beyond showing the tangible struggles of being a student with dyslexia. She also hopes it raises everyone’s awareness of those around them.
“It allows participants to feel the frustration caused by having a learning disability and it raises our own levels of awareness on a daily basis,” she said. “We have seen participants break down, get emotional and clearly understand the children they are serving.”