Updated, 6:18 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk on Tuesday celebrated the first public school dyslexia clinic in Connecticut, according to Norwalk Public Schools Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Services Yvette Goorevitch.
Starring in the grand opening of the Norwalk Center for Literacy was Gov. Dannel Malloy, who, after assisting in a ribbon cutting, told two children inside that he had overcome challenges similar to theirs’, and that if they hang in there they’ll be fine.
The free clinic, on what was the Briggs High School site at 350 Main Ave., features an audiology testing lab and has been building capacity for a year, Goorevitch said. Funding for the clinic came from the Special Education transitional fund established two years ago, with $4.2 million from the City-side of the budget and $2.1 million from the Board of Education side.
The fund is intended to create in-house SpEd services to reduce outplacements. Goorevitch said the dyslexia facility was Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski’s vision, and one of the major incentives for her to come work in Norwalk.
“Dr. Adamowski’s dream becomes a reality today. Quite simply, the goal of the Norwalk Center for Literacy is to eliminate illiteracy in our community,” she said.
Goals for the program were laid out more than a year ago in a PowerPoint presentation:
- Take interventions that have been reserved for the wealthiest populations and make sure Norwalk teachers are adequately prepared to deliver those same interventions with the same outcomes to all students
- Provide Norwalk educators specialized training to identify Dyslexia and develop a comprehensive intervention program
- Become a “training center” to provide ongoing teacher training in the area of identification and treatment in the area of Dyslexia
The traditional phonetic approach to reading instruction doesn’t work on children diagnosed with dyslexia, Adamowski said Tuesday. He explained that 60 percent of Connecticut’s children are classified learning disabled and most of them are given that classification because of reading problems.
Former Board of Education member Sue Haynie helped inspire the clinic by relaying the struggle she and her son faced in getting him the services he needed, Adamowski said. He also relayed appreciation to Mayor Harry Rilling and Common Council member Greg Burnett (D-At Large) for helping to authorize the SpEd fund. At the time Burnett served as Board of Estimate and Taxation Chairman.
Children of color are disproportionately not identified as dyslexic and then disproportionately incarcerated because “they have not have had the series of interventions that are identified here,” Malloy said.
Fairfield University Reading and Language Development Director Jule McCombes-Tolis said the goal was to create a program that can be replicated, and, “I think we have done that.”
“Once again, we are leading the way,” Rilling said, after a ribbon cutting.
“The center will be staffed with certified dyslexia practitioners, who will provide students with systematic, intensive instruction and intervention services, before, during, and after school,” a press release from the Governor’s office said. “It will also be used to train educators in how to identify dyslexia and develop a comprehensive intervention program.”