serving the dyslexic community
in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont

Spring 2022 Newsletter -- Edited by N. Kring-Burns, E. Lesh, E. Miskinis

Hello friends of NHIDA, 

As a branch serving New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, we continue to work hard to provide you with high-quality webinars, training, and resources to support our mission: structured literacy for all. 

As we work and teach in these unprecedented times of the pandemic, the need for structured literacy for all students is even more urgent. Before the pandemic, over 65% of 4th and 8th-grade students were reading below grade level. Now, two years into the pandemic, literacy levels have plummeted, especially in our youngest readers. Based on decades of research, we know that the road to educational recovery is through structured literacy instruction for all students, especially the 65% who struggle. 

Over one billion dollars has been allocated to Maine ($411 Million), New Hampshire ($350 Million), and Vermont ($285 Million) for educational recovery through the American Recovery Act (ARC). Now, more than ever, we need to do what we can to ensure funding is allocated to evidence-based structured literacy training and curricula. 

Sadly, many schools still use reading curricula that fail to meet educational expectations. EdReports and CURATE provide reviews of reading programs and found the following do not meet expectations:

  • Fountas & Pinnell Classroom K-5 (Heinemann)
  • Holt McDougal Literature 6-12 (HMH)
  • Journeys K-6 (HMH)
  • Reach for Reading K-6 (National Geographic/Cengage)
  • Reading Streets Common Core K-6 (Pearson)
  • Units of Study in Reading, Writing, and Phonics K-5 (Heinemann)
  • Wonders K-2, the publication year 2017 (McGraw Hill)

As parents, educators, and taxpayers, we must know what curriculum is used in our schools or district and how these grant funds are allocated. You can make a difference; your voice matters. All students deserve effective reading materials and instruction to become proficient readers. 

The National Council on Teacher Quality, 2020 The Four Pillars of Reading Success: An Action Guide for States, pillar 3 focuses on evaluating and recommending programs and includes excellent links to completed program evaluations and evaluation tools. If you have not read this report add it to your must-read list now!

Be sure to save the date for our annual virtual conference, The Science of Reading and the Road to Educational Recovery: The Urgent Need for Structured Literacy for All Students, on October 27 and 28, which will feature many experts in our field. We are thrilled to announce that college professors and students in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont get to attend the conference for a special rate! More information will be coming soon!

Finally, Thank you to all our READ for Parents guest speakers, including the following: Dr. Tiffany Hogan on Oral Language, Dr. Louisa Moats on Spelling, and Dr. Melissa Farrall on Dysgraphia. You can find all our READ for Parents recordings, slide decks, fact sheets, and more on our website. Please join us for our upcoming READ for Parents sessions listed below.

Take care and be well,

Brenda Peters

Save the Date
October 27 & 28, 2022
NHIDA Annual Virtual Conference

The Science of Reading and the Road to Educational Recovery: The Urgent Need for Structured Literacy for All Students

Look for more information coming soon!
Join Us
READ for Parents

Every other month we host a free, 1.5 Hour Zoom webinar for parents and practitioners that focuses on a topic from the IDA Dyslexia Fact Sheets. If you don't know about the fact sheets, be sure to check them out; they're current, relevant, and full of great information. In addition to our board member panelists, each session includes a guest speaker or speakers with deep knowledge of the topic.
Upcoming READ for Parent Webinars

  • April 13, 2022, On the Waterbed: The Special Needs Child at Home and In the Family with Dr. Rick Lavoie
  • June 8, 2022, Universal Screening with Heidi Zollman and Jen Cyr
  • August 10, 2022, Structured Literacy TBD
  • October 12, 2022, Dyslexia 101 with NHIDA Board Members
  • December 14, 2022 - TBD

FREE Webinar
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
7:00-8:30 PM EST

On the Waterbed:
The Special Needs Child at Home and In the Family

with special guest
Dr. Rick Lavoie

Rick Lavoie has served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs since 1972. He holds three degrees in Special Education and has served as an adjunct professor or visiting lecturer at numerous universities including Syracuse, Harvard, Gallaudet, Manhattanville College, University of Alabama and Georgetown. His numerous national television appearances include CBS Morning Show, Good Morning America, ABC Evening News and Disney Channel Presents.

Rick serves as a consultant on Learning Disabilities to several agencies and organizations including Public Broadcasting Service, New York Times, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Girl Scouts of America, Child Magazine and WETA. He is a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the Learning Disabilities Association.

Rick has delivered his message to over 500,000 parents and professionals throughout North America. He has the distinction of having delivered Keynote Addresses for all three of the major special needs advocacy organizations in the United States (Learning Disabilities Association, Council for Exceptional Children, Children with Attention Deficit Disorder).

Rick has held administrative positions at residential programs for thirty years. These experiences at residential schools have provided Rick with a "living laboratory" in which he developed and refined his methods and philosophies related to the education of adolescents with special needs.

Rick is probably best known for his videos "How Difficult Can This Be?: The F.A.T. City Workshop" and "Last One Picked, First One Picked On: The Social Implications of Learning Disabilities". These award-winning films have brought Rick's sensitive and compelling message to countless thousands throughout the world. After viewing the videos, former First Lady Barbara Bush stated, "You really wowed us! I only wish that every parent and teacher in the United States today could also see your program." His new video on behavior management is entitled "When the Chips are Down ..." is now available through LD OnLine.
Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy Conferences Coming to the Region
March 31, 2022, in Nashua NH 
Learn more and register here

April 14, 2022, in Burlington, VT
hosted by the Vermont Family Network
Learn more and register here

This training is designed to meet the needs of parents, educators, health care providers, advocates, and attorneys. It will focus on:
  • Special Education Law, Rights & Responsibilities
  • Tests & Measurements to Measure Progress & Regression
  • SMART Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
  • Introduction to Tactics & Strategies for Effective Advocacy
Book Review
The Adult Side of Dyslexia by Kelli Sandman-Hurley
In The Adult Side of Dyslexia, Kelli Sandman-Hurley shares powerful insights from adults with dyslexia. Personal brief reflections provide insight into growing up with dyslexia and the ensuing academic, social, and emotional struggles. The feelings of pain, shame, and dejection surface in memories and continue to be triggered in the workplace. Dyslexia does not magically disappear once one learns to read. As adults living and working with children who struggle with dyslexia (or any difference), we must consider our actions' immediate and long-term impact. Reading this book will be eye-opening in so many ways.
Helpful Resources from The Reading League
  • Learn about using decodable and leveled readers appropriately. Watch the Wisconsin Reading League with Linda Farrell video here.
  • The Reading Buddies is an engaging TV series geared towards kids PreK - 3, emphasizing phonological awareness, letter names, and sound blending. An excellent resource for parents and classrooms! Watch here.
  • For the adults, The Reading League offers podcasts and journal articles to increase knowledge of the science of reading. Check them out here.
Featured Article: The Educator Shortfall

This year, schools along with the world, have experienced significant challenges. National and local news abounds about the Great Resignation. “While the reasons for the shift are multifaceted, they are almost always connected to COVID-19 — some workers quit due to the dangers of front-line work and others simply reevaluated what they want amid shifting work culture. We're seeing a massive shift in priorities, Ali Knapp, president at the study's commissioning company Wisetail, said in a statement. Potential employees are being more vocal about what they want out of a job whether that means having better pay or intangible benefits” (the street, 2022).

Educator Shortfall
Combined with the Great Resignation is the now-familiar concern about the teacher shortage. While the teacher shortage is not evenly felt across the country, it continues to reach larger proportions, impacting more students and schools. One challenge is that teacher preparation programs are enrolling and graduating fewer teachers. “Only six states have seen an increase in the number of teacher preparation programs” (Frontline Technologies Group, 2022). 

Yet, according to 18 Big Pros and Cons of Being a Teacher, teaching is a labor of love. As a teacher, it’s possible to have access to multiple job opportunities, teaching adults, children, and adolescents, specializing in a subject of interest. In addition, teaching is a rewarding career for many.

Buyer Beware or Do Your Research
For those interested in exploring education as a career or becoming a teacher, teacher preparation programs vary. When beginning the search, it is helpful to have a way to compare the programs of interest. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) reviews teacher preparation programs focusing on both graduate and undergraduate elementary, secondary and special education programs. Prospective higher education students can use the NCTQ tools to sort by state or program to determine the degree to which the preparation programs meet the NCTQ criteria. For example, according to NCTQ (2020), “Programs have increased their coverage of all aspects of the science of reading, a trend that has persisted through each edition of the Teacher Prep Review.” 

So, if you are interested in learning more about the teacher preparation program in your state, or the country, take a look at the NCTQ site to determine if the program will meet your needs.

Resource: Navigating Post-Secondary Foreign Language Requirements
The following accommodations are offered by the major universities in the region. For specific information please contact these institutions directly as this information was taken directly from their websites and may not reflect policy changes.
The University of Vermont
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is the only college that requires all undergraduates to take a foreign language in order to graduate. For students in CAS who received a foreign language waiver for admission to UVM, we often suggest that students consider taking American Sign Language (ASL) or Latin to fulfill the requirement. (UVM Website) 
The University of New Hampshire 
Students who are registered with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) may talk to the Director of SAS about petitioning to the Executive Committee of the College of Liberal Arts for alternate arrangements to satisfy the foreign language proficiency requirement. (UNH Website)
The University of Maine
In order to request a substitution or waiver, the student must contact the Associate Dean of the individual’s School or College. In the case of students with learning disabilities, their diagnosis and testing must clearly document the need for substitutions. In some instances, the Director of SAS will write a letter of recommendation supporting the student’s request. Each College makes individual case-by-case decisions regarding these requests. (University of Maine Website)
Stay Tuned! In the next newsletter, we will highlight colleges in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine regarding their world language policies.   
Vermont Recommends Structured Literacy to Address Literacy Gaps
We are thrilled to share this exciting news with our Vermont constituents. In February 2022, the Vermont Agency of Education (VT-AOE) published its newly crafted Reading Worksheet and Writing Worksheet, including Structured Literacy components, to help support the implementation of Act 173. In 2018, the Vermont Legislature adopted the Act to enhance “the effectiveness, availability, and equity of services provided to students who require additional support.” Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and resistance to immediate change, the law has yet to go into effect. In fact, at the time of this writing, the Vermont House Education Committee voted 11 to 0 on Feb. 24, 2022, in favor of delaying the implementation of the Adverse Effect Rule change Miscellaneous Bill.

Although a complete analysis of Act 173 lies beyond the scope here, some significant changes include (1) eliminating the discrepancy requirement for special-education eligibility and (2) access to specialized educational services for all students, not only those who qualify for an Individual Education Plan. In distributing the Reading and Writing Worksheets, the VT-AOE has signaled the expectation for the law to begin implementation in July 2022. 
Vermont school districts have been slow to catch up with the science of reading. Other states, such as New Hampshire, Maine, Mississippi, Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, and others, have passed laws and/or adopted prescriptive guidance to compel every district and school to screen for language and literacy disabilities and teach Structured Literacy.
Vermont stands as the only New England State without a dyslexia law. During the 2020 and 2021 Legislative sessions, proposals to require dyslexia screening and related interventions were floated in education committees but met opposition from every statewide education organization. The New Hampshire IDA was the only major organization supporting the dyslexia bill, and NHIDA Board Members wrote letters and testified to demand legislators to take action.

A year later, the Reading and Writing Worksheets, which the VT-AOE distributed to educators statewide, require Tier I, II, and III instruction and intervention to align with reading science. In the context of Act 173, students recommended for special education must first have access to “evidence-based practices” in a “comprehensive, districtwide reading curriculum that addresses state standards and the five areas of reading (e.g., through read-alouds; systematic phonics instruction; word study and structural analysis; fluency-building activities; explicit vocabulary instruction; literature think-alouds; comprehension strategy instruction).” Later in the document, these five areas are listed: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

The big tent of literacy approaches is understandable for a state in transition. That the five components of reading are not only included in the guidance, but prominent is the reason for celebration now and optimism in the future in a state slow to catch up and teach the science of reading. 
The Reading and Writing Worksheets obligate classroom teachers to integrate evidence-based interventions into their daily Tier I practice “to the entire class” (p. 1). No longer are interventions limited to others pushing in or pulling students out for services, which is commonly the case at present. General education teachers are also expected to differentiate instruction and provide targeted interventions. Further, the Worksheets state that student performance data inform interventions: “the teacher has systematically collected progress monitoring data, using valid and reliable measures, to determine the student’s response to the interventions provided” (p. 2).
An example of the distinct role of Structured Literacy in the Reading Worksheet can be seen in the following section on Tier II intervention:
If decoding skills have been identified as an area of weakness:
  • Student’s phonemic awareness has been evaluated, and if warranted, targeted interventions have been provided.
  • Student has been provided with systematic, explicit phonics instruction.
  • Student has been provided with regular opportunities to practice learned decoding skills in texts.
  • Teacher has systematically collected progress monitoring data, using valid and reliable measures to determine the student’s response to the interventions provided. (p. 2)

The Writing Worksheet expects every district to adopt a “comprehensive writing curriculum that addresses state standards and all-important areas of writing (e.g., through explicit teaching of basic writing skills, planning, and organizational strategies, and writing knowledge; use of a writing process, with strategies for editing and revision; practice opportunities; appropriate use of technology in writing; reading-writing connections) (p.1). 

At the Tier II intervention level, the Writing Worksheet states, among other steps:
“Student’s basic writing skills (e.g., handwriting/keyboarding, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, sentence structure) have been evaluated, and targeted interventions have been provided in specific areas of need” (p. 2)
The mention of spelling above deserves special attention and reason to rejoice. For many years, spelling instruction has been set aside to focus instead on comprehension, such as the methods found in Lucy Calkins’s program materials. In addition, both Reading and Writing Worksheets require “appropriately qualified and trained staff” to provide interventions with fidelity at Tier II and III levels. A helpful, future step would include hiring state-licensed reading specialists with extensive knowledge of and experience in Structured Literacy. Literacy coaches with this background would be an excellent resource for classroom teachers.
With the Vermont House Education Committee voting to delay the implementation of Act 173 until 2023, the NHIDA will closely watch and report on developments in the full State Legislature in the weeks and months to come

Coming Soon:
Reading Resources in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont

We are building lists of reading resources in our tri-state area, and you can help. Upcoming newsletters will each feature a different reading resource from our tri-state area. For example, the August 2022 newsletter will feature the Children's Dyslexia Centers, which provides, at no cost to families, 1:1 structured literacy instruction to children in grades 1-12, twice a week, for two to three years. The centers also offer free dyslexia practitioner training and certification at no cost to trainees. Centers are located in Bangor, ME, Portland, ME, Rochester, NH, and Nashua, NH. These nonprofit centers are sponsored by the Masons, patrons, and fundraising will be featured in our August newsletter.

Here's where we need you. Do you know of reputable evaluators, advocates, or attorneys in Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont? Please help us build our resource list by completing our surveys below. Our board will vet all suggestions.
Now Enrolling - FREE
Dyslexia Practitioner Training Level 1 Certification
Rochester, New Hampshire
The Children’s Dyslexia Centers – Seacoast Learning Center located in Rochester, NH, is accepting applications for their Multisensory Structured Language Education training and practicum. The next session begins on April 9, 2022, with graduation in May 2023. For more information on enrolling in this FREE 13 month Dyslexia Practitioner – Level 1 certification, contact Brenda Peters at bpeters@cdcinc.org or attend the next Zoom Open House on March 8 or March 24 at 7:00 To register for the Zoom Open House, click the date you want to attend. For more in-depth details on the training/practicum, click here.
NHIDA is a Proud Co-Sponsor of the following upcoming Wilson Language Trainings
  • Fundations® Level K Virtual Launch Workshop (Instructor-Led): June 7, 2022
  • Fundations® Level 3 Virtual Launch Workshop (Instructor-Led): June 7, 2022
  • Fundations® Level 2 Virtual Launch Workshop (Instructor-Led): June 8, 2022
  • Fundations® Level 1 Virtual Launch Workshop (Instructor-Led): June 9, 2022
  • Just Words ® Virtual Launch Workshop (Instructor-Led): June 13, 2022
  • WRS Introductory Course (Virtual, Instructor-Led): June 14-16, 2022
  Orton Oak status is conferred upon
 individuals who have been IDA members
for 25 years or longer. 

 NHIDA is grateful to its Orton Oaks and these other long-term members for their steadfast commitment to the organization.

NHIDA is an active volunteer board of 15 members from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. If you're interested in joining the board and making a difference, contact us at info.nh@dyslexiaida.org. In your email, specify which state you are from, and we will direct you to the correct member of the nominating committee.

Thank you to the following outgoing members for your service. The difference you have made in the lives of children, families, and educators is immeasurable. With much heartfelt gratitude, we thank you.
  • Aileen Cormier - Previous Past President, NH
  • Jayne Beaton - Member-At-Large, NH
  • Elizabeth Paul - Secretary, NH

Welcome new board members:
  • Jenny Poisson - Member-At-Large, NH
  • Robyn Griswold - Member-At-Large, NH
  • Sarah Clauss - Member-At-Large, NH
Structured Literacy Certification Scholarship
The NHIDA Board is pleased to announce the Elysian Technology Structured Literacy Scholarship, established by NHIDA's past president, Audrey Burke for full tuition and materials related to the enrollment in and completion of a structured literacy practitioner training that results in a certification. The certification program must include a classroom portion and a supervised practicum (65-hour minimum) based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and be completed in one calendar year.

If you are interested in learning more and receiving the application please click the button below and indicate your interest today!
Swimming in the Dark and Finding the Light

This heartfelt parent reflection on dyslexia and its many struggles is by NHIDA board member, language arts teacher, and author, Elaine Miskinis

September 22, 2015
Swimming in the Dark

I feel like a failure. No, scrap that. I am a failure. Not in everything, to be sure, but in one crucial way, I have failed.

I feel the need to preface this by saying that I am deeply thankful for hard-working educators who work, sometimes with both hands tied behind their backs while balancing on bouncing balls, to give kids everything they need. None of this is on them. I am them, and I know exactly what they face. This is on me.

When Hayden was in kindergarten, I knew. That first teacher meeting when I saw her worksheet and every single letter of every single word was backward, I knew. I gave it a name then. I said, “We have a family history of dyslexia; we should probably keep an eye on this”. The teacher was 100% in agreement and she kept a file of a whole lot of writing that supported what I already knew. This wasn’t a shock.
I was 10 before I knew how to write “any”. I saw it as “eny”, I read it as “eny” and even if you pointed it out, I’d look at it, read it and say it was right. This is a small example, but it just illustrates the fact that it has always been with me. I am reminded of my own challenges every time I turn to write on the board (which I almost never do) because it’s likely that I’ll spell “the” as “teh” and not catch it even if it’s pointed out to me.

So, when I saw Hayden’s writing that first year, I knew. We talked about it, we gave it a name and in my mind that meant something. I thought it meant that the troops would be called in, interventions would proceed and by first grade, she’d be right up there with her peers.

But, there were no interventions. Kindergarten is too young. Even when you suspect. Even when you know.

First grade. She still can’t read. Now some troops are called in. But, it’s a small school with limited resources. They do what they can. They give her a lot of extra time with books. She is read to every day, read with every day, she “reads” every day. I use that term loosely since she can’t read, but she tries. She’s game. She loves books, she wants to succeed, she wants to impress. As the child of an English teacher, she knows how much life and power books hold. She wants to be a reader, but more than that she wants to be a writer. She can’t do that either, but she tries. God, does she try.

We have meetings. We test her. Then we test her more. And a bit more. We run an exhaustive battery of tests on that child and the end result is, she’s smart. But, she can’t read. That’s like saying, “Your house is structurally sound, it’s just on fire”. She’s smart, she just can’t read. Now what? We test her more. Because there has to be an answer. There is an answer of course, I’ve known the answer since kindergarten. The kiddo is dyslexic. But, I figure they’re looking for more. Because in my mind they must be addressing the issue that we identified way back when. They must be looking for something else. The interventions must not be working.

Second grade. She’s now over a year behind. Her friends are starting to read real books with chapters and characters. She’s struggling through Mo Willems's “Elephant and Piggy” books. “I have a new toy.” “I like my new toy.” Her friends are reading, she’s decoding. And not particularly well. We run more tests. And more tests. She gets pulled out more and read to more. We read to her and with her more at home. She cries every single night doing homework because she can’t read the directions and she doesn’t understand what’s wrong with her. This is the first time I hear her call herself stupid. Long ago I put words to her condition. Now, she is putting her own words to it. Stupid. Dumb. Incapable.

Over the summer they suggest keeping her back. She can tell you all about black holes, she understands the condition of contemporary Native Americans better than most of her teachers and she can tell you all about the nuances of various varieties of penguins. She’ll tell you that animal documentaries are her favorite shows and she throws around words like “ponder” and “contemplate”, but she still can’t read. They ask if I think she should stay back. I say no. I can’t watch her watch her friends move on past her. I know what that will do to her. That will be the end. That will be the point where everything she thinks about herself becomes true.

Third grade. She can’t read. The latest battery of tests put her somewhere between kindergarten and first grade. She has lost ground over the past year. In spite of nightly bedtime reading, in spite of all of her efforts and ours, she can’t read. She can’t read the signs at the water park that tell her the height requirements, she can’t read the directions on her homework, she can’t read any of it. Her friends are moving on to Harry Potter and they’re writing in journals and she’s still there with Elephant and Piggy, her steadfast companions.

She knows. We talk about it. She wants help. I want help for her and right now it feels a bit like being adrift at sea reaching for rafts that are just a bit out of reach. I found a program that looks perfect. Perfect except for the year and a half waiting list. I found another program that would be great. Great except that it would mean driving for over an hour each way three nights a week and it would cost close to our monthly mortgage every few weeks. She’d get there at 6 pm, work until 7 pm, get home after 8 pm and then start on her homework. Three nights a week. Sure, it might help. It might also destroy her in the process. And it would consume every resource, finances, time, energy, that we have and then some. Part of me truly feels that if I were a better mother I would harness everything in my power – I’d drive two hours a night and spend every dime we have for my child. I’d find her the perfect private school and quit my job so I could drive her there and back every day. I’d sacrifice the world for my child.

But, here I am. My child is in third grade, unable to read, and I sit here feeling impotent and alone. I hate myself for what I can’t do for her and I hate the part of me that sat back for so long in spite of what I knew because I somehow believed that wanting it enough and loving her enough, and reading to her enough would work some divine magic. And now, I sit here, with no magic at my disposal, looking at a child who statistics tell me will never be a reader because I’ve already lost too much time, and I want that portal. I want to go back to her kindergarten year and not just name what she has, but ask, demand, the right kind of help for her back when we could still get it. I’m going to fight for it now, but in my gut, I feel like I’ve already lost. I may have failed my child in one of the most profound ways, and she doesn’t even know it yet.

Time will tell of course. Maybe there’s a miracle out there. Maybe her team will all stand up with me and we’ll harness that miracle. But, really it’s just as likely that I’ll keep on swimming in the dark, looking for that life raft that’s just out of reach.

February 4, 2022
Finding the Light
Dear Self, 
I am writing to you, my September 15, 2015 self, to let you know how things turned out after seven years. I can still feel that gripping, chest tightening feeling when I remember the meetings, the prognosis, and that sense of utter failure. I want to reach back in time to ease your mind and to let you know that the darkness will pass.  

In the fall of her fourth-grade year, Hayden was accepted into the Children's Dyslexia Centers - Seacoast Learning Center, a program for dyslexic students funded through the Scottish Rite Masons. The program involved a two-year commitment, twice a week, every week, year-round. Students could miss one class a calendar year before being put on probation and two or more absences would result in being dropped from the program. There was a two-year waiting list and other families were desperate for the opportunity to access resources that would cost well over $30,000 out of pocket without this program.  

For two years we raced from school to the Learning Center with no time to spare and then we raced back again so that Hayden wouldn’t miss band concerts, festivals, recitals and so much more. During this time people told me that Hayden was “overscheduled” and that it was unfair to take her from school and then drive close to an hour each way for her to spend her evenings working systematically through the process of learning to read. But, in spite of the exhaustion, in spite of the drive and the monotony of learning to read from the ground up, Hayden didn’t complain. Not much anyway. And when she did it was never about the Center itself or the work she was doing there. She knew even before I did that it was working.   
In those two years, Hayden learned to read.  

My girl who as a 4th grader couldn’t even read “Hop on Pop” could now read. She wasn’t a perfect reader, she might never have the fluency of her peers, but she could read. The center brought her back to the beginning using structured literacy and research-based interventions. I didn’t know anything about Orton-Gillingham until she went through that program. I didn’t understand the neurological aspects of dyslexia and I didn’t understand the need for a multi-sensory approach to teaching reading. I didn’t know that there was a concrete method that would work. But, I learned and I grew. And, more importantly, Hayden learned and she grew. She grew, not just as a reader but as an advocate. In 4th grade, Hayden did a “Passion Project” on dyslexia that covered everything from neuro-pathways to the nuances of structured literacy. She presented to her class and in the years that followed she would go on to share her knowledge with teachers and administrators as well as with our local school board in an effort to increase knowledge of what works when it comes to helping dyslexic learners.  

During that same time, the school hired a specialist to work with Hayden five days a week for an hour a day in school. They made sure that she didn’t miss any of her “Specials” and they were sensitive to not pulling her out during class parties and events. The specialist that they hired for Hayden began to offer services for other students in the school and now, close to a decade later, that position still exists and other dyslexic students are getting interventions in school. 

Then, in 7th grade, she sent her message out there into the world. That year Hayden’s English class wrote editorials on topics of their choice and a handful of students were chosen to submit their finished pieces to The New York Times Student Essay Contest. Hayden wrote her piece about dyslexia and the need to train teachers so that dyslexic students can get the help they need before it’s too late. She was honest in her piece about the fact that statistically, she will never catch up to her peers as a reader because by the time she received interventions her brain had developed in such a way as to make it more challenging for her to learn to read. Writing that piece exposed vulnerabilities, not only for her but for our district, and it took courage to put it all out there. 

Two months later during Covid lockdown, I was scrolling through social media when I saw a post from a branch of Decoding Dyslexia in a neighboring state, congratulating Hayden on her winning essay. I checked and sure enough, she won.  

Out of over a thousand entries, she won. Her essay was published in The New York Times. It was later added to a collection of teacher resources to be used as an exemplar to teach effective writing. 

Suddenly Hayden was getting messages from teachers, parents, and students from all over the country expressing their appreciation for her willingness to advocate for dyslexic learners. In the year and a half that passed since winning the New York Times Essay Contest Hayden has written letters to lawmakers supporting dyslexia screening laws, she has spoken to school boards about the need for teacher training in Orton Gillingham to reach other students like her, she has given interviews and she has spoken at a conference on structured literacy and interventions for dyslexic learners. Hayden was profiled in New Hampshire Magazine and other publications and she was invited to speak at a telethon to raise money for Scottish Rite dyslexia centers.

In spite of those incredible achievements, this is not to say that a switch was flipped and it all became easy for her. It didn’t. 

In some ways the challenges don’t stop, they just change. When Hayden was younger I was her voice but now that she’s in high school my role is starting to change to one of background support while she grows and navigates her own world, though I will stand up and advocate for her when she has exhausted all of her resources.

One of the challenges Hayden, and probably most, if not all, dyslexic learners face is that it can be difficult for teachers and administrators to see past the surface issues of dyslexia (issues with reading and working memory among other things) to the underlying intelligence and potential that is so much a part of these kids.    
Early in middle school, Hayden was placed in a developmental math class, presumably because of her challenges with reading and working memory. Hayden never said much about the class to me, but I knew she was frustrated with the pace of the course and with the assumption that she couldn’t keep up in a more challenging class. So, she spent the year proving to her teacher that she could handle a more rigorous course. The next year she advocated to be placed in Advanced Math, an honors level course, and her request was granted.   

But then when she was in 8th grade her advanced math class, which was covering the Algebra 1 curriculum, was not able to complete all of the material during the school year because of Covid. As a result, students had to finish the course over the summer. Hayden worked hard to complete the coursework on her own but by the end of the summer, she was still one unit away from completing the course. She asked for an extension so that she could finish that last unit while still being allowed to enroll in geometry with her peers. Her request was denied. She was told that she would have to repeat Algebra 1.   

At this point, I went from being a passive observer back to being an advocate. We set up a meeting and at that time Hayden was told, among other things, “Don’t be disappointed in yourself. Algebra is hard.” 

I seethed inside while Hayden processed this comment. I hoped Hayden wasn’t disappointed in herself. She had finished the Advanced Math Algebra 1 class with a solid GPA, she had spent the summer teaching herself the rest of the course with no assistance, and while she hadn’t been able to finish the last unit by the time summer came to a close, much of that came down to technical issues beyond her control. I wasn’t disappointed in Hayden, not at all. But I was disappointed that the people that she had thought would support her were instead telling her that she should make things “easier” on herself by repeating the course.  

After the meeting, I cried. Not because Hayden had failed, she hadn’t failed, but because we were back to fighting the same fight we had been fighting since she was seven. I felt that same sense of helplessness that I had felt seven years ago when I was told that my bright, motivated, capable girl should be held back because in spite of all of her gifts and hard work, she couldn’t read. I had fought for her then and I would fight for her now. The teachers making these decisions, both when she was seven and again now, saw holding her back as a way of protecting and supporting her. They didn’t see the fighter in her. They didn’t see her potential. They also had no idea the emotional destruction that holding her back would cause her.
Over the course of the past six months, there has been talking, sometimes directly and sometimes implied, that I was pushing Hayden and that the stress she was feeling was caused by pressure being put on her to achieve beyond her natural abilities. But, the reality is twofold. First, Hayden is able to achieve at high levels and be successful. She will always need accommodations and it will always take her longer and it will always be harder for her but she can do it.  

The second, more crucial, factor is that she wants to do it. She wants to push herself and strive for a high level of success. Because nothing comes easily for Hayden she is used to working hard for every goal. Ever since kindergarten, she has had a solid support system of friends there by her side. Hayden’s friend group is made up of students who all challenge themselves. They are the kids who strive for the highest grades in the most challenging classes and while for many of them academics come more easily than they come to Hayden they are all there together supporting each other and challenging each other to do their best. If Hayden had been forced to retake Algebra 1, a class she had already passed (minus one unit that needed to be completed) the message would have been clear. You can work hard, put in the effort, finish with a solid grade and it still won’t be enough. Over the past seven years, Hayden has gone from thinking of herself as being “stupid” to seeing herself as an intelligent, driven student. Neither of us wanted to see her backslide; especially not in high school where the stakes are high and self-doubt can take hold and not let go.   

And, to be clear, algebra is hard for Hayden. Practically everything is harder for her than it is for a typical learner. Her working memory is problematic so formulas don’t stay in her mind well and they’re not easy for her to retrieve. She has never mastered her multiplication tables and word problems are nothing short of “word salad” for her; a jumble of words and numbers that are nearly impossible for her to decode. It is easy to look at her work in a vacuum and assume that she doesn't know what she’s doing. But she does. It’s just not quite as simple for her to demonstrate her knowledge.    

In the end, Hayden was allowed to enroll in geometry with her peers while completing the curriculum for the course on her own. But, she was told that rather than completing that last missing unit she would now be given an exam encompassing the entire course and the result of that exam would determine whether or not she would be given credit for the class.  

I hired a tutor to work with Hayden and her former teacher gave her a book to use as a resource and later the school provided someone to work with her after school once a week to help her to prepare for the test. Hayden worked on her own, she met with the tutor, she worked after school and on weekends. By the end of the month her tutor, an Algebra teacher, felt she was ready to take the exam. When it came time to schedule the exam I asked that the exam be broken down into sections (per her IEP) and that she be allowed to take it in a familiar location. In the end, the exam was broken into three sections, but each section was a blender toss of material (slope, word problems, quadratics, a few more word problems, some polynomials, and back again). She was not given a familiar or quiet location to work.  

After the exam, a meeting was scheduled and for the first time ever Hayden said that she didn’t want to go. She already knew the outcome and so did I. She had failed. Hayden understood the material. I had been in the next room while she worked through the problems with her tutor and while she discussed the material with her friends. I knew that she knew it. I also knew that without any accommodations in place there was no way she could pass that exam.

 But, at this point, she was over a month into honors geometry with a solid average and her geometry teacher fought to keep her in that class. More meetings ensued. After several more months and no small amount of frustration, Hayden was granted credit for the first half of the year, and at that time she was told that in order to get credit for the course she would just need to complete that last unit. The one that she had asked for an extension to complete six months ago. After all of the meetings, all of the tests, the hours of tutoring on weekends, and staying after school during the week, we were back to where we left off in August. And Hayden, my strong, resilient, quiet fighter of a girl has picked up and carried on. She didn’t rage at the seeming injustice of it all, she didn’t see the time spent with tutors and working on her own as wasted. None of it was wasted. She has grown and learned and she knows that material better at this point than many of her peers. 

I am a firm believer that dyslexic learners have gifts that, if nurtured, can take them far. They have grit and drive and they know that obstacles are there to be overcome. In a few weeks Hayden will travel to Houston to compete at the Youth America Grand Prix, the most prestigious ballet competition in the world. Her training consists of hours upon hours of work, detailed, precise work that leaves her sore and exhausted. When Hayden was accepted to the pre-professional ballet program she was told that she would need to rebuild her skills from the ground up. She would need to start from the beginning in spite of having danced for nearly a decade. Hayden spent weeks, months even, learning how to point her foot, hold her arms and work systematically through the minutia of being a dancer. She took direction, paid attention, and worked through the program systematically taking it all in and being willing to do the hard work day in and day out. This is nearly identical to what she did in 4th grade when she started her Orton-Gillingham structured reading program. Starting from the bottom and building a foundation, working through the challenges and continuing to move ahead, even when it was exhausting. Even when, especially when, it all felt overwhelming.  

And isn’t that what life always is? A process of proving to ourselves (and sometimes those around us) that we are strong and capable and that we can face challenges and persevere? 

And now this quiet force of nature is taking a rigorous course load (including honors Geometry) and making the honor roll. And just last week she told me that a friend of hers who goes to a different school had been assigned her New York Times article as part of a class assignment. Did the skies suddenly part to let in the sun? Not exactly, but having the opportunity to learn to read opened doors for Hayden that might have otherwise stayed closed to her.

And that’s why I want to reach back in time to you, my “seven-year ago” self. You were lost, swimming in the dark, feeling utterly hopeless and profoundly alone. You felt like you had failed your child. 

But, here we are, here I am, seven years later. I know that my child is strong and that she is a fighter and that she will not drown. She will keep on pushing, even when, especially when, others doubt her. I want to reach out to you, my “seven years ago self” and hold you tight. I want to tell you that every meeting at school, every phone call, every email, every long drive to access resources, every night spent reading, researching and learning, every conference, every conversation with other lost parents, all of it, was worth it. I want to hold you close and tell you that the darkness is real and I see your fear and I see your pain and I see your helplessness.  

But, I also see where the road leads. And from here the view is great. 

2022 IDA National Conference

 November 10-13, 2022 | San Antonio, Texas

More info is coming soon!
  Are you a teacher, parent, individual with dyslexia, professional, school, or other organization?

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NHIDA's Board of Directors consists of up to 15 individuals who serve on a volunteer basis for 2 or 3-year terms. Members of the Board are guided and assisted in their work by former Directors who serve on the Advisory Board.

2022 Board Officers:
President Brenda Peters, Londonderry, NH
President-Elect Susan Hourihan, South Berwick, ME
Vice President Kristine Reilly, Nashua, NH
Treasurer Karyn Hubbard, Acton, ME
Secretary Jen Cry, Sanford ME

2022 Members at Large:
Heidi Zollman, Strafford, NH
Brittany Lovejoy, Enosburg, VT
Nancy Kring-Burns, Hollis, NH
Elaine Miskinis, Epping, NH
Andrea Pollock, Merrimack, NH
Dorinne Dorfman, Waterbury Center, VT
Emily Lesh, Richmond, VT
Jenny Poisson, Nashua, NH
Robyn Griswold, Nashua, NH
Sarah Clauss, Nashua, NH

Advisory Board:
Beth McClure, Canterbury, NH
Caryl Patten, Feeding Hills, MA
Michael Patten, Feeding Hills, MA
Melissa Farrall, St. Albans, VT
Claudia Golda-Dominguez, Hudson, NH
Sue Morbey, Amherst, NH
Shannon Dixon-Yandow, Essex Junction, VT
Dale Vincent, Concord, NH
Jayne Beaton, Amherst, NH
Aileen Cormier, Milford NH

P.O. Box 1934, Rochester, NH 03866
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