For many years, I owned a tutoring business which helped people with learning disabilities. After I retired, my church challenged members to use $100 to do good in the world. I decided to use the money to help someone in my field.
To get started, I called People’s Resource Center in downtown Wheaton. I thought I’d see if they had an adult with dyslexia who needed evaluating. Testing for learning disabilities is very expensive.
You would have thought a flock of angels had appeared! To my surprise, they were ecstatic to see me. They had someone who current tutors couldn’t help.
School didn’t go very well for L. He is both visually and hearing impaired. His hearing issue also affects his speech. He attended schools which did not provide effective special services.
You’ve probably heard of dyslexia as a condition in which a person sees things backwards. Indeed, people with dyslexia are likely to reverse letters and numbers, but the central characteristic is trouble connecting the letters of the alphabet with the correct sound.
Because of this, a phonetic approach to reading and spelling is often best for someone with dyslexia. However, L cannot hear certain letters clearly. This means it is difficult for him to say and recognize written words with those letters. The main teaching philosophy for special education is using strengths and avoiding weaknesses, so a phonetic approach would not serve him. Consequently, we had to revamp our plans.
Fortunately, for L, and for other people with learning disabilities, there is a lot of new technology available which helps immensely.
First on the list, he needed a computer. The PRC provides free refurbished computers. You should have seen his face when he received that computer! Next, we found a program that would speak every word as he typed, so that he would know what he typed was what he meant to say. This program guesses what word the writer is likely to say next and the volume can be turned up to help him hear. He also uses a free program which types as he speaks, and another that reads to him while he looks at the words.
I really enjoy working with L. He is very excited about learning, and wants to be tutored as often as possible. We work together in a library study room for two hours, twice a week.
He treats me like a queen! He stands in my favorite parking place at the library and advises me about my parking; he carries my book bag upstairs; he helps me with my coat; he brings me a glass of water; and he insists that I take the best chair. But my favorite part is the huge smile and cheerful greeting I get when I arrive to work with him.
During these months, L and I have become more than student and tutor. We have become good friends.