By Zirconia Alleyne
Fort Campbell wife and mother Angela Jenkins said the signs of dyslexia showed up early with her son Eli.
Angela, an educator herself, was volunteering in his kindergarten class when she began to notice he struggled to learn the curriculum a little more than the other students.
“It was overwhelming,” she said, “but I knew something’s not right and we need to work on it.”
At that age, Eli and his classmates were learning letters and piecing together small words, but it wasn’t sticking, neither in the classroom nor at home.
“The struggle when they’re at that age is frustration, it’s tears, it’s breaking down, and it’s something that kids naturally absorb, so if you’re working this hard and they’re not getting it, something’s not right,” the mother said.
Angela wasn’t able to pinpoint what exactly her son was dealing with until he described what he was seeing.
“One night toward the end of our first year of kindergarten, we were looking at pictures online and there was this picture that had letters scattered all over, like you just took a bunch of letters and mixed them up, and Eli was like, ‘That’s what I see.’”
Angela immediately started researching dyslexia and realized all the signs were there.
Along with jumbled letters and difficulty reading, dyslexia can surface through a variety of troubles such as pronouncing or learning new words, rhyming, mastering rules of spelling, handwriting and even organizing and managing time.
“Speech was a big thing,”
Angela said. “When we met with (the doctor) to have the test, we found out that both my husband Robert and I were in speech (classes). So, I guess that was a primary indicator.”
From there, Angela discovered the Dyslexia Association of the Pennyrile. The organization offers screening services to determine if attributes of dyslexia or other learning difficulties exist. Individuals ages 6 to adult with dyslexia can utilize the one-on-one tutoring services available in Hopkinsville and Fort Campbell.
Parents, students, teachers and volunteers work in pairs on a variety of exercises to learn tools to work through dyslexia.
“What we do is we train the parents to be a tutor, and the parent tutors (another) child while someone else tutors their child,” said executive director Vicky Jones. “That’s how we’re able to keep the cost down because we don’t have to hire a tutor.”
Tuition for the program is $90, which includes training materials and covers the 28-day semester, August to December and January to May.
In addition to its office in Hopkinsville, the dyslexia association has a satellite program at Fort Campbell that meets from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sundays at the Family Resource Center on post.
Jones said the satellite program has been going on for three years, and since it started, Angela has served as the supervisor.
“Angela realizes the struggles military families go through,” the director noted. “Usually it’s just one spouse, and the other spouse is deployed or not there, and it’s very difficult for them to meet for an hour two times a week on a specific day and time (like the Hopkinsville program).”
Fort Campbell’s dyslexia program is set up in Buddy Teams, which figure out a day and time that best meets their needs.
“I work in a school, so a lot of the teachers started coming to the program and loved it for teaching kids the alphabet and reading,” Angela said. “A lot of the military spouses got involved in it too because they were home-schooling and their kids were struggling. It’s a good support group and program.”
Eli, now an 11-year-old fifth-grader, said the program gave him tools to use when in class or doing homework.
Angela said he is now reading on a seventh-grade level and he’s usually one of the top Accelerated Readers at his school.
“Angela does a real good job making reading a priority,” said Robert, who has been deployed several times since coming to Fort Campbell in 2003. Robert said the tools are easy for him to learn, so he can reinforce them when he’s home.
“The continuation at home is what had the greatest impact on Eli,” the dad said.
Eli’s favorite book right now is called “Loser” — “It’s way better than the title sounds,” Eli noted. “It’s about this kid that you see him go through life. He’s not that smart, but you see him grow up and he still doesn’t really understand everything but he pushes through it.”
To other kids experiencing dyslexia, Eli said the “floss” rule, the “happy” rule and the “doubling” rule help him with spelling tests at school.
For parents, Angela said she would advise them to utilize the resources and support that’s available at Fort Campbell.
“If they feel like their child is struggling, this is a very inexpensive way to get your child tested and to try the program out — it’s very inexpensive,” Angela said. “It’s local, and you have other families that were going through similar things and can share what things work.
“This program was really a godsend for us,” she concluded. “It’s made school more than bearable.”
To learn more about the Dyslexia Association of the Pennyrile and its satellite program at Fort Campbell, visit www.hopkinsvilledyslexia.com. To set up a screening, call 270-885-5804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.