By: AMY ARMSTRONG
It is pretty challenging to keep up in elementary school when one is learning to read but the letters are backwards or transposed or appear to be out of the sequence the teacher and one’s classmates are seeing, learning and enunciating.
Enter special needs tutor Julee Faso-Formoso, whose own child was diagnosed with dyslexia. She specializes in working with special needs students who have the disorder that causes otherwise bright and intelligent elementary students to struggle when attempting to read and at times also write.
“I love tutoring kids with dyslexia because while they have difficulty reading and hearing and recognizing sounds to symbol relationships, these kids are very bright, creative and when given a chance, they are willing to share with you what they know,” Faso-Formoso said.
She spends a couple days a week after school at Chugiak Elementary School working with six students whom she sees making academic strides that the additional educational support provided through tutoring can achieve.
Her tutoring charges enjoy the additional attention.
“I like having Mrs. Julee work with me,” Bruno Pyziak, a third grader. “She understands me. She knows how to help me.”
Faso-Formoso knows it isn’t an elementary student’s first choice to do more schoolwork after a long day of regular education.
That’s why she finds ways to break up the monotony with games and rewards for correct answers and encouragement when the right answers are difficult for a student to identify.
“Many of my students recognize how far they’ve come and they get excited about moving from one level to another within the curriculum I use in tutoring,” Faso-Formoso said.
According to the Dyslexia Research Institute based in Tallahassee, Fla., 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia, yet only five out of every 100 dyslexics are recognized and receive assistance.
Despite the high level of awareness at CES, dyslexia remains a learning disability shrouded in misconception, she said.
“It isn’t about seeing letters backwards, although that is one of its symptoms,” she said. “It’s a neurological disorder.”
The good news, she said, is that “a dyslexic person can be taught to read using direct instruction that is multi-sensory, explicit, structured and sequential in it programming.”
This, of course, takes the amount of work it sounds like is required just listening to that explanation. It cannot all be accomplished by a regular education teacher handling a classroom full of 20 to 25 students all with their own learning issues.
Faso-Formoso said she sees attitudes regarding dyslexia improving.