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Apodaca: Prentice has handle on learning disorders

May 24, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

Testing season is upon us as the school year draws to a close and local students engage in the annual rituals of standardized assessments and final exams.

Most kids find these tests a bit stressful. But for those with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, they can be agony.

It's a testament to how far we've come that dyslexia today is a well-known condition that carries far less stigma than in the past. Estimates vary, but it's believed that somewhere between 10% and 20% of the population in the United States has the disorder.

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Research has shown that dyslexia is a genetic trait that causes weakness in the part of the brain that decodes the sounds of written language. Kids are born with it, and there is no cure. Though they might be highly intelligent, dyslexic people will always struggle with reading, every word posing a difficult puzzle to solve.

But encouraging progress in treating dyslexia has given hope to those with the condition that with the right kind of teaching techniques and support system, great progress can be made toward overcoming reading deficits.

The challenge is getting kids the help they need, and the younger the better.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the private Prentice School in Santa Ana, which for 27 years has offered specialized instruction for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

The work is a labor of love for Karen Lerner, junior high and high school principal at the school, which encompasses pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

Although dyslexia and other learning disabilities are better understood and acknowledged throughout academia today, many parents bring their children to Prentice after growing frustrated with mainstream education. Public schools typically address learning issues with individualized education programs, or IEPs, which can have limited success because students still have to navigate through the structure of a traditional classroom.

Too often these kids are still faced with perceptions that they aren't trying hard enough, or that they only need a little extra time to complete tests and assignments. The underlying issues remain largely unaddressed.

"I'm not impugning public schools, but we're dyslexic all day long," she said. "Kids come here when other schools aren't working for them."

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