Harding is the first university in Arkansas to offer a dyslexia therapist endorsement for licensed teachers this year. The course was approved in April and began in the summer with 45 enrolled students who will be the first to hold the new endorsement after graduation in December.
Dr. Susan Grogan, director of adult and extended education, and Dr. Wendy Ellis, director of reading, headed the development of the course last fall in response to a state act from 2013. The act says each school district must have individuals to serve as dyslexia interventionists no later than the 2015-16 academic year, according to Arkansas Department of Education.
“When that (act) came out, we got busy and started writing a program that could also coordinate into our master’s in reading and our master’s in special education,” Ellis said. “I think it will have a great effect on students because…This will enable them to have the knowledge to help those children (with dyslexia) succeed because they deserve the best education they can have.”
According to The Dyslexia Foundation, dyslexia is a learning disability that impairs reading ability with difficulty of letter sounds, spelling and reading aloud. Their website says 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia.
“It’s such a screaming need in the state that all the universities who have graduate level education courses are trying to get their programs off and running,” Grogan said. “We are just lucky we are the first ones because we had a lot of people this summer.”
The 15-hour online course includes five three-hour classes conducted by Grogan and adjunct professor Dallas Henderson from Rogers, Arkansas.
Dr. David Bangs, chair of graduate studies, said the course is a success and coordinates well with the current graduate programs offered.
“It meshed really well with our master’s of reading, so all (the students) had to do was pick up some extra courses,” Bangs said. “It meets the needs of kids first.”
Grogan said the course uses videos and field experience to help teachers learn how to better assess and teach children with dyslexia.
“The need is not going to go away,” Grogan said. “It’s an endless supply-and-demand kind of thing for at least the next few years, so we anticipate growth.”
Ellis said she has learned the value in helping students read from her grandmother who is illiterate.
“It’s sort of my mission to make sure all kids get education they deserve,” Ellis said. “(My grandmother) did not get it, and she’s told me multiple times, ‘If you can do anything in this world, help people learn how to read.'”