Understanding dyslexia by walking in their shoes

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – Around 1 in 10 kids has some form of dyslexia. For many children, there's trouble in reading, spelling or paying attention in midst of distractions. But can you imagine what it's like?

One family and a teacher were all trying to better understand what 9-year-old Lydia Rubenzer is dealing with.

The Children’s Dyslexia Center in Eau Claire hosted ‘Experience Dyslexia: A Learning Disabilities Simulation’ that focused on increasing awareness of the difficulties and frustrations kids with reading disabilities like dyslexia encounter each day.

And for 9-year-old Lydia Rubenzer, words don’t come too easy.

"W…X…Y, I'm doing capital and lower case,” said Lydia while taking part in the simulation with her mom, dad, two brothers and her teacher.

She said at times, it gets frustrating at school or at home when doing homework.

“And if there’s a really hard sheet (worksheet), I get scared sometimes,” said Lydia.

Now her family has a better idea of where she is coming from. Her brother, 14-year-old Jameson, said he noticed it would take Lydia “forever” to do homework and now, he can finally understand why.

“I have a little bit more sympathy for hard she has to work. I can’t believe how hard you have to do just to do one thing,” said Jameson.

The simulations were divided into six stations focusing on listening, reading and writing.

Among the simulations, the group got to write and trace letters and shapes with their non-dominant hand and read a story that was written in reverse and flipped.

Tammy Tillotson, the director of the Children’s Dyslexia Center said the simulation gives siblings a chance to know more about dyslexia.

“They have no real appreciation for the struggles that their little sister was going through and hopefully through the simulation they have a better idea and can empathize with her a little bit more,” said Tillotson. “It was an opportunity for people to experience first-hand what it would be like to have dyslexia.”

Jamie Labs is Lydia's reading specialist at Elk Mound Elementary. She said she came to the simulation to also better understand her student and how to teach other dyslexic students.

“With all the things going on in education these days, just trying to help them do their best. So this is one of the ways I’m learning how they learn,” said Labs.

Tillotson said teachers go into the field with the best of intentions, but don’t always have the best training in affective intervention.

“So if we can help empower teachers to know what the red flags are, what the characteristics are, what it would feel like to be that child or to be that student that makes them a better, well rounded teacher as well,” said Tillotson.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Experience Dyslexia: A Learn Disabilities Simulation, just head to http://wicdc.org/ or call 715-598-4986.

Right now, Tillotson said there’s a need for tutors at the center as there are 22 kids on the waiting list to get free tutoring at the Children's Dyslexia Center. If you're interested in helping, contact the above phone number.

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