Teachers attend dyslexia conference

The Fairfield Community School District Board of Directors heard from a parent Monday who spoke about a conference on dyslexia that several Fairfield teachers attended last month.

Jessica Sirdoreus is the mother of two dyslexic students enrolled in the district. She said dyslexia is a brain disorder that impairs a person?s ability to process language, such as matching letters to sounds, and the ability to remember arbitary information such as math facts or the names of states and capitols. At the same time, she said people with dyslexia often have remarkable strengths in fluid reasoning and problem solving, the ability to mentally manipulate objects, and oral expression.

?When children with dyslexia receive intensive and frequent effective intervention paired with appropriate classroom accommodations, they are more likely to make the most of these strengths and be successful in school and life,? she said.


Decoding Dyslexia

During the past four years, Sirdoreus has soaked up information on dyslexia like a sponge, attending seminars and classes to find out how best to teach dyslexic children. Along the way, she learned that many of the state?s colleges and universities with education programs were failing to properly teach future educators about dyslexia. That?s when she became active in a grassroots movement called Decoding Dyslexia, a group concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexic students. She is now on its board of directors.


Conference in Ankeny

The group has hosted a dyslexia conference for the past two years, and local businesses have donated so that Fairfield teachers could attend. This year, six Fairfield teachers were able to attend the conference in Ankeny, and they were: Shawn Klehm, sixth grade special education; Judith Streiker, sixth grade reading; Jennifer Clements, seventh grade special education; Christine Copeland, second grade special education; Carleigh Roberts, third grade special education; and Rebecca Thompson, third grade general education teacher.

Sirdoreus heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from the teachers who attended. They told her things like, ?This was a conference where my passion to advocate for my students was set on fire,? and ?It is the best conference I have ever attended in my 21 years of teaching.?

Sirdoreus knows there was concern in the district about the cost of using substitute teachers, since it was a two-day conference that started on Friday, and for transportation. She thanked the board for approving those expenses.

?Our community supports this conference in large part because dyslexia touches someone they are close to,? she said. ?It is estimated that [depending on the criteria used], up to 20 percent of the population struggles with some form of dyslexia.?

Decoding Dyslexia is lobbying to pass a law mandating teacher training on dyslexia, its warning signs and intervention strategies. ?Dyslexia is not something that is cured or that a child can grow out of, but a teacher who understands dyslexia can change their life,? Sirdoreus said.