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The Liberty School puts dyslexia in perspective with simulations

Staff recreates disability affect to allow adults to see what it is like to have learning disorders
A simulation will attempt to show adults what it is like to read with dyslexia. (Durango Herald file)

The Liberty School is trying to give people an inside look at what it is like to learn with dyslexia through simulations.

The private school, which focuses on gifted and dyslexic students, will host its “Experience Dyslexia” simulation at 5:45 p.m. April 20 as a way to raise awareness for people with the learning disability. The simulation is for adults only. The simulation involves rotating to different set up stations where the school will simulate disabilities such as dyscalculia, dyslexia, and dysgraphia.

Often, people with dyslexia also suffer from other disabilities such as dyscalculia or dysgraphia which is why they are incorporated in the simulation.

Students with dyscalculia have trouble with math at many levels. They often struggle with key concepts like bigger versus smaller and can have a hard time doing basic math problems as well as more abstract math.

Head of School Christian Holmen described the disability as students switching numbers around in an equation similar to how people with dyslexia switch words when reading.

Dysgraphia is a disability that makes it hard for some students to write. Students will often struggle with spelling, handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper.

Holmen said he completed an oral reading dyslexia simulation while at a conference. The simulation makes the participant read a paragraph aloud that is written backward and upside down in a classroom setting similar to how the Liberty School conducts its simulation.

“I understand this is a simulation. I know, intellectually, they're trying to elicit a response from me. But despite me knowing all that, my heart rate is jacked up,” Holmen said.

Often, it is not just the inability to read that is a problem for students who have dyslexia; rather, it is the anxiety that comes with it.

Holmen said he felt emotionally drained after the experience.

“Just imagine having to go to school and experience that every day as well,” Holmen said. “Not every class, but most of your classes, and just how disheartening and discouraging that would feel.”

The Liberty School services students second through eighth grades attempting alternative methods of education for students who struggle from dyslexia. The school tries to dispel any stereotypes that are associated with people with dyslexia because people with learning disabilities can have some of the most gifted minds. Holmen noted that many entrepreneurs have struggled with dyslexia.

“It's called twice exceptional, in our case gifted and dyslexic,” said marketing communications coordinator Cheryl Gretz.

The term “twice exceptional” refers to students who are gifted but have some sort of learning disorder.

She said many dyslexic students are gifted because they have had to learn ways to compensate for their inability to read well.

“The fact that they can't read is not an indication of a lack of intelligence,” Gretz said.

According to a Liberty School handout called “The Daily News,” 50% of NASA rocket scientists and 40% of self-made millionaires have dyslexia.

The Liberty School offers individual tutoring sessions for students who struggle from dyslexia. Teachers use the Orton-Gillingham method that explicitly teaches connections between letters and sounds.

This process is referred to as “decoding,” in which students use symbols or letters to represent sounds.

“It's really methodical and they go as fast as they can but as slow as they must,” Gretz said.

This is the first time since 2019 The Liberty School has offered the simulation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gretz said the school expects to have another simulation in the fall and continue to have more frequent simulation events.

Gretz says there are limited spaces available for the simulation event and that those interested should RSVP via email at support@thelibertyschool.org.

tbrown@durangoherald.com



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