Friday, October 22, 2010

Colorado mother wins grant to train teachers about dyslexia

From 9 News in Colo.:

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - Jennifer Blair-Cockrum wanted to make a difference at her school, Fairmount Elementary. After watching her own son struggle to read, she wanted to make sure teachers at all levels can detect signs of dyslexia.

"Although we had great teachers and great support, we really needed to increase awareness," Blair-Cockrum said.

She is the mother of a fifth grade boy named Dillon who was diagnosed with dyslexia after second grade.

"I kind of didn't really know some of the words," Dillon said. "I kind of got frustrated."

Blair-Cockrum says she feared that other students might slip through the system undetected because teachers didn't know what exactly to look for.

"We thought: this doesn't make sense to send one teacher in this year," Blair-Cockrum said. "Why not expand that knowledge and get all teachers trained?"

Knowing that the Jefferson County School District didn't have the money for extra training, Blair-Cockrum took it upon herself to find the money for her school. She applied and won grants totaling around $22,000 to bring in instructors from the Dyslexia Center for the sake of her son and others.

"It's hard to see your child know that other people are doing things automatically," Blair-Cockrum said.

Principal Brady Stroup says the lessons were invaluable for his teachers. He believes they are now more acutely aware of what to look for in students with tendencies towards dyslexia.

"What it's like to be a student with dyslexia and then what to do with students with dyslexia, so it was a really powerful thing for the staff," Stroup said.

Now, special education teachers like Val Rolph can start interventions early to help students deal with dyslexia as early as possible.

"The earlier you start the interventions, the better the child has to actually catch up and be grade level," Rolph said. "The problem starts at the code level, looking at the word, what is that word?"

Dillon says he feels more confident now in reading and in himself.

"I feel like I know it a lot better," Dillon said. "I like it a lot."

Blair-Cockrum is now working on a DVD to provide training for free to teachers at other schools around Colorado.

"Here's a free DVD, they could start the discussion, start the dialogue in their school," Blair-Cockrum said.

What started out as concerns for her son may now have an impact at schools across the state.

"I wanted to reach beyond and help not just my classroom teacher or my son, but beyond that," Blair-Cockrum said. "If you could write a text message, you could write a grant."