A lot of nice things have happened since we launched Neurolearning’s Dyslexia Screening Test App (Neurolearning.com) four months ago. The best, no doubt, are the many letters we’ve received from users telling us how the app has helped them to understand their own or their child’s needs, to find the right interventions, and to get appropriate services or additional testing from schools or employers.
In close second place, however, are the chances we’ve had to get better acquainted with many tutors and reading teachers both across the US and around the world, and with the crucial role they play in helping struggling readers become successful learners. It’s hard to convey what an amazing group of people they are. They are the true “first responder” of the dyslexia world; the unsung heroes who provide the time, dedication, patience, energy, and encouragement it takes to engage struggling readers in the demanding, and sometimes frustrating and tedious practice that is needed to master reading. If the “dyslexia response team” could be thought of as an emergency vehicle, these tutors and teachers are both the drivetrain that makes the whole thing go, and the tires where the rubber meets the road.
One of the most amazing things about the reading tutors and teachers we’ve met is their passion for what they do. They haven’t chosen to tutor and teach reading because it’s an easy way to make money—it’s not!—but because they know what a difference they can make in people’s lives. Some are or have been classroom teachers. Others are the parents of dyslexic kids who’ve learned how to tutor by helping their own child. Others are assessment professionals or educational therapists. But whatever their background, they share the kind of deep passion for helping that marks a true professional rather than someone just plying a trade.
Let me share a couple of conversations that I hope will provide a window on why I find these folks so inspiring. One tutor wrote me recently to ask some questions about adult testing. I knew she tested mostly children, so I asked why she was interested in adults. She said she’d been in a coffee shop talking to a friend about her tutoring work when she was approached by a young man. He excused himself for interrupting but said that he couldn’t help overhearing her say that she was a reading tutor. He was about 30, the father of 3, and was working as a night watchman. He wanted to be able to do something more to support his family, but he was being held back because he couldn’t read. He asked for her advice. She said she’d help him. At no charge. There was something she found so inspiring about his commitment to his children that she felt she just had to give him that chance.
Another of our frequent app users was testing an 18-year-old boy. When I saw his test results come through our system my heart sank. He was many years behind. I wrote to ask the tutor if she knew whether he’d ever had any dyslexia training, or if he had somehow made it to age 18 without such obvious problems ever being detected. She said that she’d known him for several years. He was chronically passed along in school without any specific intervention, and was still reading at an early elementary level. He came from a troubled home where he got little support or attention. She’d actually tried to arrange with his parents to let her take him in as a foster child, but they’d refused. At last, however, she had finally been able to convince them to let her tutor him. The test was step one in that process.
I could go on and on about the passion, selflessness, true professionalism of these people. About their hunger to learn and get more information so they can do an even better job with those they work with. But I’m sure none of this will come as any surprise to the countless people whose lives have been transformed by the work and care of a reading tutor or teacher. So instead of trying to put the inexpressible into words, I’ll just join with all those other beneficiaries in offering my own simple thanks to all of the reading tutors and teachers out there for everything you do