By Holly Perkins
A Personal Path with Dyslexia
Affecting one in five people, dyslexia presents difficulties in reading and comprehension. Based upon Mississippi’s average class size, this means that there could be as many as five dyslexic students in each elementary-school classroom in the state.
Serving to help meet the needs of dyslexic students in Mississippi are the Mississippi Dyslexia Centers. Mississippi Dyslexia Centers currently has four locations throughout the state and will soon be expanding to Tupelo and Oxford. The centers employ highly trained dyslexia therapists and are a reflection of the vision of their Executive Director, Dr. Nancy New.
Dr. New recalls challenges while in school because she was not able to recognize some sounds, which created difficulty in comprehension. It wasn’t until her freshman year of college at the University of Southern Mississippi that a professor suggested she might have dyslexia.
After researching and learning more about it, Dr. New discovered she fit the description of someone with dyslexia. She also identified with dysnomia (difficulty retrieving words correctly) and dyscalculia (difficulty in mathematical comprehension). Despite these learning differences, she has never considered them to be a hindrance, but rather a motivation to help others like her.
“I just knew that I learned differently and it actually gave me a greater cause to help all children, because we all learn differently. Whether it’s dyslexia or attention-deficit or simple processing, no two individuals learn the same way so I never saw my dyslexia as a challenge.” she says of her experience.
Dr. New never reconsidered her goal of becoming an English teacher, seeing her dyslexia as something that made her more understanding and empathetic towards her students. Throughout her 17 years with the Rankin County Public School system, Dr. New worked with students of all ages, but noticed a particular issue facing her middle-school students.
She identified that many of her seventh-grade students couldn’t read so she began teaching remedial reading classes. She remembers, “This was the mid-‘70s so there still wasn’t a lot of testing or identification for dyslexia, but I saw that I could help the students just the same. Seeing that there was a difficulty with reading among so many of my students was an inspiration to learn about the many different ways students learn as a whole, not just with dyslexia but with many different learning styles. I attended every single seminar I could, I went to every class and formal and informal training to educate myself about all the different ways people learn. It was a driving force behind me getting my master’s degree and my doctorate degree, and continuing in my business ventures because I knew that I wanted to help learners as individuals.”
Meeting the educational needs of individual learners is a mission that led Dr. New to develop New Learning Resources, Inc., in 1991, which now includes the Mississippi Community Education Center, New Summit School, North New Summit School, New Learning Resources Online, and Mississippi Dyslexia Centers.
Center Coordinator Kate Sistrunk says, “Being dyslexic herself, Dr. New was able to identify a great need for the dyslexia therapy services she now provides through the Mississippi Dyslexia Centers.”
While Dr. New feels that the progress made in dyslexia awareness and research is “phenomenal,” she is dedicated to continuing dyslexia services throughout the state. “I am so pleased that research has proven that dyslexia is not only real, but can certainly be addressed and has offered different techniques to assist individuals in managing their dyslexia. It never goes away, but there is a way to manage dyslexia and there are different techniques for different characteristics of it. My goal with the Mississippi Dyslexia Centers is to get the very credible services strategically placed across the entire state in an effort to be more accessible to the families and children who need it.”
She also hopes that people with dyslexia will not feel like they are limited because of their learning difference, “Most dyslexic people are very creative. We tend to think outside the box. We tend to make things happen. I would encourage anyone who has dyslexia to never give up. I’d never want a person to feel like they can’t do something just because they learn differently, because we most certainly can.”
For more information on dyslexia and the services provided by Mississippi Dyslexia Centers visit their website, www.msdyslexiacenter.com
Holly Perkins is Program Assistant for the Mississippi Community Education Center.