To address the 1 in 5 students who need literacy intervention, combined with a lack of dyslexia education for teachers, the nonprofit Colorado Literacy and Learning Center has teamed with school district 20 to provide dyslexia training for teachers.
Rolling enrollment in a two-year certification program over the next few years is planned.
Jodi Champagne and Kimberly FitzPatrick, both Certified Academic Language Therapists with CLCC, provided data via email to the Woodmen Edition regarding the training.
Champagne said the teacher-training program is a combination of curriculum and practice.
“The Literacy Intervention Specialist Certification Program developed by Dr. Lynne Fitzhugh, founder of CLLC is an intensive training program for individuals seeking to learn the most effective, research-based strategies of remediation in reading and written-language skills. The training is a combination of psychology, structural linguistics, literacy, and pedagogy…”
The collaboration between Academy School District 20 and the CLLC began this fall with the district supporting nine teachers this academic year.
Before teachers enrolled in the program may sit for the therapy-level exam, they are required to complete 220 coursework hours over two academic years, plus 100 supervised practicum hours the first year, then an additional 700 supervised hours.
Tabitha Bohac, a veteran classroom teacher of 18 years and a 5th-grade teacher at Academy Endeavour, started as one of the teacher trainees in August.
Bohac became interested in becoming a dyslexia interventionist as an educator but also as a parent. “(I saw it) as a great opportunity to learn about my own son and a good opportunity to continue to grow as a professional,” she said.
Bohac and her husband started noticing something with their son’s reading during his first-grade year, when the family was living in Texas. When they moved to Colorado Springs, a teacher at Academy Endeavour recognized what the problem was and the boy began getting specialized literacy learning instruction during the middle of his second-grade year.
Bohac said the school system doesn’t diagnose students with dyslexia. Instead, in order to receive specialized instruction her son is designated as having “characteristics of dyslexia.”
This arrangement, “along with good teaching,” can work in elementary and middle school, Bohac said. But when students get to high school they often need an official diagnosis of dyslexia to qualify for certain assistance — for example, extended time for college board exams.
However, the costs of getting that diagnosis can be high. Initial screening can cost around $500, plus hundreds to thousands more for follow-up reading therapy. Hourly treatment can start at $75 an hour, for a minimum of three to four hours a week.
Bohac says some insurance covers testing at Children’s Hospital Colorado, but not any resulting in necessary therapy.
A desire to widen access to treatment for all students motivates Bohac, and others, she says, to be involved with the district’s new training.
Champagne works for both D-20 and the CLCC. Her bio on the CLCC site includes, “Academic Support for Academy District 20, while providing private remediation to students in elementary school to high school.” It also mentions her “passion for teaching literacy and language” and her completion of the Literacy Intervention Specialist Certificate Program at Colorado College in 2013 and certification through the Academic Language Therapy Association as a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT).
FitzPatrick’s bio mentions her past connection with other educators in D-20 as a literacy specialist, although she now works at Children’s Hospital Colorado as a Learning Specialist. It states she “also seeks to make a positive change to teacher training and knowledge in reading instruction.”
Bohac says going back to school for the certification has been rigorous. “There’s classes, exams, it’s equivalent to more like a master’s,” she said.
Bohac is completing the work while teaching full-time. She meets with students before and after school in addition to her own Saturday classes. Her Academy Endeavour campus has also approved some of her contact hours take place with students during a 45-minute already-established reading intervention class.
The CLCC website summarizes areas in which students with dyslexia struggle,
“…accurate and/or fluent word recognition, poor spelling, reading comprehension, foreign language, and organizational skills.”
Bohac highlighted the prevalence of those who deal with variations of the interpretive disorder and the positive effects of solid intervention, “It’s a high need (but) something with early intervention that can be completely remediated in most cases.”