Experts to Address Learning Disorders during Dyslexia Therapy Conference
The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for educators, as the traditional learning environment has shifted back and forth from regular classrooms to remote settings. For students who have a learning disorder that makes speech sounds difficult to identify and words and letters hard to interpret, the disruption to one-on-one sessions with therapists and instructors has been even more problematic.
A two-day conference on the Mississippi College campus in Clinton seeks to address pandemic-related obstacles and other issues dyslexia therapists and educators face.
Academic language therapists, educators, administrators, college students and parents interested in learning about best practices for working with children and adults who have language-learning difficulties and other learning disabilities can obtain valuable information at the Dyslexia Therapy Conference scheduled for Thursday-Friday, Sept. 30-Oct. 1, in Anderson Hall on the second floor of the B. C. Rogers Student Center.
An impressive array of experts in dyslexia will cover a variety of topics during the event, sponsored by the Christian University’s Dyslexia Education and Evaluation Center and the Mississippi chapter of the Academic Language Therapy Association.
According to Shirley Tipton, academic coordinator, dyslexia therapy at MC, the virtual environment provides specific challenges for dyslexia therapists attempting to do standard therapy with a patient.
“It’s difficult to determine whether the child has understood the lesson and can move on to the next step,” Tipton said. “You can’t see the expression on the child’s face or hear them as well as you can face-to-face.
“This program will be a good opportunity to talk about things that worked well during the pandemic, things that didn’t work well, and try to come up with some solutions.”
She said the opportunity to host a conference of this magnitude is in keeping with the Christian University’s commitment to academic and faith-based excellence.
“MC was the first college in the state – and one of the few in the whole United States - to provide a dyslexia therapy program and to have a program in dyslexia therapy that offered a master’s degree,” Tipton said. “There are so many students who have dyslexia. As the first college in the state to recognize the need for dyslexia therapy, we feel it’s part of our mission.
“We’re just carrying on the tradition.”
The theme for the first day of the conference, “Staying on the Road to Reading,” will be reflected by Dr. Antonio Fierro, chief impact officer for educator preparation and curriculum with the Barksdale Reading Institute, who will present Thursday’s keynote address, “What Science Offers Classroom Teachers.”
“Dr. Fierro will bring us what cutting-edge research tells us about dyslexia,” Tipton said. “He’ll discuss the research that has been developed in the last few years, what it means for educators, and what parents can expect when these research findings are put into practice.
“He will be focusing on what science offers classroom teachers, but it will also be good for parents to know.”
Conducted by MC’s Dyslexia Education and Evaluation Center staff, the first day’s presentations will include “Activities to Strengthen Weaknesses in Working Memory and Processing Speed” by Teresa Mosley, owner of TRM Educational Counseling, LLC and lead psychometrist at the center; “What Parents and Educators Need to Know,” by Hope Staples, a qualified instructor in training at MC; “Our Journeys,” a parent panel discussion moderated by Staples and Tim Busch, a therapist at the Choctaw Tribal Schools in Philadelphia, Mississippi; and “Assessment Strategies for the Everyday Classroom (Grades 1-12),” by Kacey Marshall Matthews, a dyslexia coordinator for Madison County Schools.
“Sometimes, many students who have dyslexia are not taught in public schools – they are taught in private schools, home-schooled or get dyslexia therapy in a private clinic,” Tipton said. “Matthews’ presentation will help people see what’s possible for dyslexia therapy in the public school realm in a general education setting.”
In a fitting opener for the second day’s theme, “The Ups and Downs of Dyslexia Therapy,” presented by the Mississippi chapter of ALTA, Lisa Busby Thomas, a certified rehabilitation counselor and certified life care planner and an adjunct in the MC Department of Psychology for more than 20 years, will give the keynote address, “Survival Tips for Self-Care Amidst a Pandemic.”
Tipton said Thomas’ message is something every conference attendee should hear.
“Everybody has been through a challenge this past year that they have never faced before,” Tipton said. “In order to help others and do the things we are designed to do – educate and care for others – we need to learn to take care of ourselves, or we are not able to be very helpful.
“When we learn to do self-care, then we are able to help those we care for as well.”
Thomas will be followed on the dais by Laurie Weathersby and Jayda Brantley of the Mississippi Department of Education, who will present “MDE Dyslexia Updates;” Jenny King, dyslexia therapy administrator for Kaleidoscope Heights, a new, private, K-12 school in Jackson, who will discuss her school’s curriculum; and Susan Cosby, a nationally certified dyslexia therapist with the Dyslexia Therapy Clinic, and Tarah Reed, a dyslexia therapist for Pearl Public Schools, who will present “Virtual Options – Private Therapy and School Settings.” Ashley Runnels, director of learning services at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Ridgeland, will conclude the conference by moderating an open discussion with conference attendees about challenges related to dyslexia therapy.
“This will be a time for people who have listened to presentations for two days to take part in the program,” Tipton said. “We want the attendees to gain as much information and new knowledge as they can, find out how they can adapt it to their own personal situations, and foster a willingness to work together. After all, it’s for the benefit of children and adults with dyslexia that we offer programs like these.
“That’s our mission for every conference that we undertake.”
Continuing education credit will be available for attending the conference, which costs $75 for either of the two days or $130 for the full schedule, and includes lunch in the MC cafeteria. Facial coverings will be required. The deadline to register for the conference is Monday, Sept. 20. To view a complete conference schedule, click here. For more information or to register, call Tipton at 601-925-7667 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.