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Educator takes on dyslexia screening, tutoring

August 20, 2014

Eva St. Marie (l) and her mother Rebecca display Eva’s award-winning science project as well as tiles which are part of the Barton Reading and Spelling system St. Marie uses to screen and tutor dyslexic clients. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

One local child spurred her mother on to become a dyslexia specialist and open a business in Bishop that screens and treats dyslexics.
“A lot of people think dyslexia is a visual issue but it’s not,” dyslexia specialist Rebecca St. Marie said, but “switching letters as they process language is only one aspect of the learning disability.”
Dyslexia is genetic, passed from parent to child, and it affects the learning process in 20 percent of the population, St. Marie said. “Undetected dyslexic children can become disruptive or disengaged at school – different children have different reactions.” No one in the area offered treatment until she recently opened a business in Bishop, 133 E. Line, next to Rite Way, St. Marie added. “Generations of people are not getting the education they deserve.”
According to the National Institute of Health, 80 percent of all learning disabilities are due to mild to profound dyslexia, St. Marie said. “Although it is the most researched learning disability, it is the one people know least about” – it continues to be a mystery to educators who are not up-to-date on the latest research. “Parents may notice their child struggling but don’t know why and don’t get the right help.” By the way, 40 percent of dyslexics also have attention deficit and hyperactive disorder, she added.
Two years ago, when Eva was in third grade, St. Marie noticed that her daughter had become unaccountably frustrated and self-deprecating, said St. Marie. No matter how hard Eva tried, she was unable to regain the academic success she had enjoyed in prior grades. St. Marie said she suspected dyslexia because Eva’s father Joel is dyslexic.
St. Marie voiced her concerns to Eva’s Round Valley School teacher to no avail and in August 2012, “Eva was tested by a certified dyslexia screener in San Diego so I started tutoring her myself … Early intervention is key … It took two years to get a 504” which provides learning accommodations for Eva.
In 2013, St. Marie became a dyslexia specialist who now treats dyslexics using “a scientifically-proven intervention – the Barton Reading and Spelling System.” She invested several thousands of dollars on the Orton-Gillingham Simultaneously Multi-Sensory Structured Language program, which “addresses phonemic awareness through the hands on, listening, visual and speaking components of language” that teaches dyslexics to recognize phonemes, or word parts.
People usually read using the logical, detail-oriented left side of the brain, St. Marie explained, while dyslexics read using the “more big-picture, creative” right side. For example, “the word beach might be read as bench because dyslexics read the shape of the word because they haven’t learned to read phonemes.”
St. Marie offers a series of services based on the Orton-Gillingham program:
First, the “Could It Be Dyslexia?” list of warning signs and “Dyslexia Symptoms and Solutions” video help clients decide if they or their children are dyslexics.
Then, a screening process determines the severity of the dyslexia.
Next, St. Marie presents a report of her findings and Orton-Gillingham program solutions.
Finally, clients receive one-hour tutoring sessions twice weekly over a period of several years.
Success comes when dyslexics “are able to read and spell and therefore write easily,” St. Marie said, who plans to also offer tutoring in mathematics and handwriting in the future.
As a former teacher, St. Marie said, “I feel terrible that I didn’t know anything about dyslexia … that dyslexic kids’ brains are working five times harder and they are still not learning like their peers,” get frustrated, are convinced they’re “stupid or lazy” and give up. “When my daughter started putting herself down in second grade, it was heartbreaking.”
Dyslexia is often first noticed in second or third grade. Up until then, “children may be using a good visual memory to read. But eventually there are too many words to memorize,” St. Marie said.
“People have difficulty functioning in society when they can’t read. It affects everything … the ability to read affects a person’s ability to write, spell and speak.”
St. Marie said she wants to spread the word about dyslexia. Believing in a top-down solution, when State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson toured Inyo and Mono schools in June, St. Marie gave him a dyslexia information packet and “Overcoming Dyslexia,” a book by Sally Shaywitz. Torlakson now wants to meet with St. Marie or representatives of Decoding Dyslexia California, a group that is working toward a state mandate that requires testing all school children for dyslexia. Nearly 20 other states require this testing, she added. 
On the bright side, the dyslexic brain is 10 percent bigger than the non-dyslexic brain so that can be an advantage, St. Marie said. “Forty percent of entrepreneurs are dyslexic and according to ‘The Dyslexic Advantage,’ a book by Brock and Fernette Eide, some of the most creative, famous people in history have had dyslexia,” she added.
Referring to Eva’s Round Valley School and Inyo County award-winning science project, people with dyslexia include Orlando Bloom, Kiera Nightly, Steven Spielberg, Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy, Beethoven, Van Gogh, the Wright brothers and Ernest Hemingway.
“Being dyslexic doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you can overcome the disadvantages,” St. Maria said.
For more information about dyslexia screening and tutoring, contact St. Marie at (760) 920-8769 or info@ readspellwell.com.

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