Learn How You Can Help Your Child
Guest Author: Kristia Akins
Hello! My name is Kristia! I’m a former public-school teacher, home-school mom, and now work as a dyslexia therapist.
I started a non-profit corporation to help and teach students who struggle with reading, have dyslexia, and/or have dyslexia specific characteristics. After resigning from teaching to home-school my son, I discovered that home-school families do not have very many options for reading interventions. While teaching in the public-school system, the students who struggled with reading were provided reading interventions and progress monitoring depending on their proficiency levels. The reading intervention I used while teaching in the school system, and still use today, is a multisensory approach derived from Orton-Gillingham and Slingerland, known as SMILA©.
During my years using this approach, I have witnessed many students’ lives change, not just by them learning how to read, but also by their increasing confidence levels. The SMILA© approach is unique because it is unlike other programs. It is not scripted, but instead consists of carefully planned and individualized lessons aimed to meet the students at their level and work towards their individual goals. These lessons incorporate all 5 components of reading (phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, & comprehension) and includes handwriting in print and cursive as well.
(Learning to write – handing writing practice)
Many of us may not remember how we learned to read, but it really is not as easy as you may think. English is a difficult language for many to learn. It has 26 symbols(letters) that represent 44 different sounds, which are put together in 77 different combinations, using 7 different syllabication rules that form the words we use every day. Many students who struggle with reading benefit from direct-systematic instruction. We begin with the smallest units (automaticity of the 26 letters – how to write them, the letter name, and the correct sound production) and then advance to the more complex units (word formation and reading comprehension).
In Tennessee, over half of the students in 4th grade are below proficiency level in reading. It is extremely expensive for parents to get help, especially when their child needs to be seen at least twice a week, if not more, for them to really progress. I like to compare it to exercising and the ability to see results. If you only exercise once a week, the time it would take to see the results would be observed much slower than if you were exercising 3 days per week. So, when a child is already behind in reading, they will need to be taught more frequently to catch up. The problem though, comes in with time, travel, and money. In thinking of ways that will help kids and families, I built a fully functional classroom in my home and have started holding small group sessions in order to make it more affordable. I also hold fundraising events and have other opportunities for parents to help with costs. I try to make my costs comparable to similar tutoring options currently available to parents, like Barton for example.
This month, I will be taking applications and scheduling appointments for assessments and evaluations for students to be placed in these groups according to their levels.
(That’s me working with one of my students)
The assessment process I use is structured to evaluate each student based on their previous assessments, to help identify the student’s current knowledge, and to provide the student with an individualized goal towards automaticity in learning how the English alphabet works. I have chosen to hold small group sessions to help with costs, and also have begun using web conferencing software so students can attend classes, not only in person, but online too, which helps save time, travel, and money. Once the student begins to understand syllabication and follow the structure of the lesson approach, they are able to move to either hybrid lessons and/or online only lessons.
We will be holding workshops in the future to help parents learn tools and strategies to use at home. Parents are also offered the option to attend the lessons with their child, so they can be better prepared to work with them at home.
(My in home classroom)
I attended a training conference in St. Louis to become a Certified Irlen© Screener, so I can provide information and will be scheduling screenings for Irlen© Syndrome. If you have never heard of this, please visit their website at www.irlen.com. There were some amazing keys facts pointed out that I was unaware of during this conference and I am so excited to now be able to include this with my student assessments.
Parents can visit my website (still a work in progress) at www.5slonline.org and also visit www.smilamemphis.org to find out more information about SMILA© and the teacher training. I look forward to hearing from and working with you in the future.
Kristia Akins is a Certified Dyslexia Therapist through the International Dyslexia Association and a Certified Academic Language Therapist through the Academic Language Therapy Association. In addition, she is trained in the OG/Slingerland derived approach known as SMILA©, with 1000+ hours in training and instruction. She also holds a TN Highly Qualified Teaching License, with the endorsements of Reading Specialist and TESOL license. She has experience assessing and teaching hundreds of students in both the public and private sector using the SMILA© technique in both small group and individual sessions.