ARLINGTON -- When Kim Neufeld was 6, her first-grade teacher took her mother aside and suggested that Kim be screened for dyslexia.The teacher's observations were correct, and by the next year, the child was in special classes for dyslexic students at Arlington's Corey Elementary School."The Arlington schools were wonderful with my daughter," Emily Neufeld said. "She got all the support she needed."Kim Neufeld is now an education major at the University of Texas at Arlington with a 3.75 grade-point average.But her mother is worried that upcoming changes in the Arlington school district's program might not give other dyslexic students the same opportunities.The district's three dyslexia centers for elementary students will be closed by the time school begins in August. They are being replaced with extra instructional support at the students' schools, said Debbie Williams, the district's executive director of elementary education.Parents previously had the choice of their children receiving dyslexia instruction at school every day, or they could have students bused to a dyslexia center to receive one hour of adaptive instruction each day."In the past few years we've had less students at the centers," Williams said. "Parents have been choosing for their students to remain on their home campuses instead." As part of the new approach, the district's two certified academic language therapists will go to schools to work one on one with the children and their teacher facilitators, Williams said.A third language therapist retired this year: another reason for the switch from the site-based instruction. Nearby districts have always offered dyslexia services at students' schools, Williams said, and it should work fine in Arlington."On the campuses we have a number of teachers who have been trained in dyslexia support," Williams said. "The students are always placed with a teacher who has had dyslexia training."The time requirement of an hour a day will still be observed, Williams said.The end result will be "much more support for all our students throughout the day," Williams said.Though Emily Neufeld's daughter is no longer in the program, Neufeld is concerned that the district's dyslexia services will suffer without the centers."If the budget is OK, why are they changing it?" Neufeld said.The programs at the centers had a communal quality that won't be replaced, she said, along with the undivided attention of certified staff."When the students were in a class with all dyslexic students, they had people to identify with," Neufeld said. "They received a lot of inspirational support, too. They had so much success with it."Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657Twitter: @startelegram
Dyslexia in Arlington schools
Dyslexia is defined on the Arlington school district's website as a disorder characterized by a difficulty in learning to read, write or spell, despite conventional instruction, intelligence and socio-cultural opportunity.
In the 2011-12 school year, 424 students in the Arlington district had been identified as being dyslexic.