POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) – When her son was diagnosed with dyslexia, Associate Professor Heather Ramsdell uncovered a huge unmet need for services in Idaho, and now she is helping train other educators to help students get the help they need.
Between 5% and 20% of people worldwide have dyslexia, a lifelong disorder that involves difficulty learning to read. Dyslexia is not an indication of intelligence, but rather indicates difficulty decoding words to match letters to sounds, and difficulty recognizing some sounds in words.
“My son was diagnosed with dyslexia in December 2020, at which point I quickly became very aware of the astounding lack of services for children with dyslexia in Idaho,” said Heather Ramsdell, associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders. “As a speech-language pathologist, literacy is certainly within my scope of practice, so I took it upon myself to seek training opportunities so that I can work with children who have dyslexia.”
Dr. Ramsdell, who has been seeking training and certification as a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and eventually a Qualified Instructor (QI) of CALT, says the Idaho State Board of Education (SBOE) has approved $100,000 in funding to support the development of a Dyslexia Handbook for Educators and Parents, focused on students in K-12. The handbook is expected to be released sometime during the 2022-2023 academic year.
On a related front, Ramsdell is part of the 2022 Dyslexia Professional Development Course Review Committee through the Idaho State Board of Education, tasked with evaluating professional development opportunities for teachers in K-12 that are aligned with the new dyslexia legislation.
However, Ramsdell says there is a critical need for individuals to help educators to become trained in multisensory structured literacy (MSL), and Idaho simply does nor have the literacy intervention programs established to help students with dyslexia.
“Educators who work with children who have dyslexia will need additional training in the very near future,” Ramsdell said. “In the absence of such programs, the state will struggle to support educators and children.”
To combat this absence, Ramsdell offered free multisensory structured literacy intervention at the Pocatello Community Charter School during their summer school program from June 13-July 28, where she was able to work with five students who met inclusion criteria for a pilot group.
“We, as a community, need to better serve these struggling readers,” Ramsdell said. “I want the community to know that there are places/people to go to for children with dyslexia.”
Idaho State University’s Speech-Language Pathology clinic can be reached at (208) 282-3495 or by visiting isu.edu/clinics.