There's a special place in our hearts for kids of all ages who struggle with learning disabilities, reading difficulties and dyslexia. CCF celebrates those who are making a difference in these kids' lives. One such person is Anna Fitzhugh.
Fitzhugh graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In the past, she has worked with students with special needs on cognition and learning strategies. Currently, Fitzhugh is a Reading Intervention Specialist at The Dyslexia Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. CCF asked Anna about her life journey:
What first interested you about kids with learning disabilities?
Well most importantly, I love kids. After graduation, I didn’t know exactly which direction I was headed with a B.A. in Psychology, but I knew it was going to involve children. The developmental years are by far the most important in shaping a person’s future. To have a learning disability, particularly one that goes untreated, can and most likely will limit a child’s opportunity to grow intellectually and reach their full potential. Learning disabilities not only curtail a child’s success in school, they have a huge impact on the child’s self-esteem and self-regard. Dyslexic children are incredibly bright minds who just don’t learn the same way as other children. To be in a position to help a child realize that his or her disability is not a barrier but merely an obstacle that can be overcome is an incredible feeling, and nothing could be more rewarding. [Top of Page]
Why did you choose to major in the degree you picked?
As an adolescent I struggled with many emotional issues – particularly depression – and once I found a professional that I felt I could to talk to it was like breaking the dam. Everything I had bottled up was let out. At that point, I realized the importance of finding someone in the field with expertise who will not only listen but whom you can trust. I have always had a deep passion for people and I suppose that I chose Psychology as my major in hopes that someday I can help someone like my therapist helped me. Luckily, I have found a career that not only lets me pursue my passion for children but also puts me in the position to be able to help better their lives. I plan to pursue a master’s degree in Cognitive Psychology beginning in the fall of 2008. [Top of Page]
How did you find out about The Dyslexia Center and what made you want to work with them?
I had been working in Denver with a few students who were struggling in school. I knew I wanted to go through the Take Flight training program in the summer, and when The Dyslexia Center opened for business and offered me a position I was overjoyed to be a part of it!. [Top of Page]
What experiences have had you had so far in your work?
My experiences have been good ones. We have an incredible group of trainees who are preparing to sit for the Academic Language Therapy Association exam this spring. Although the program has been grueling at times, we find so much support in each other, in TDC’s director, Dr. Lynne Fitzhugh, and our Qualified Instructor, Teresa Hinote (both Certified Academic Language Therapists). I have also sincerely enjoyed the bond that has grown between me and my students. The children who are going through our program right now are incredibly sweet, bright young minds who have so much potential to do great things. Our interactions are priceless, and to be honest, they teach us a lot, too! [Top of Page]
What encourages you the most?
By far the most encouragement I get is from my students. Any positive feedback from them – whether verbal or nonverbal – is absolutely priceless. A few weeks ago at the end of a session my student said “I think we had a good week this week, don’t you? I feel like reading is getting easier.” Needless to say, as soon as he left I ran into Jill’s office in tears of joy! [Top of Page]
What discourages you in the work you do, if anything?
Occasionally a difficult lesson will discourage me. It is hard to end a lesson feeling that we didn’t get through it perfectly. However, it is only a matter of (usually not much) time before the material “clicks” with the student and we are able to move on. [Top of Page]
What keeps you motivated?
Seeing the progress, however great or small, in the kids. It is remarkable to take a step back and look at the amount of material that has been learned. I have even stopped in the middle of a [particularly hard] lesson before to point out to a student how much he had learned in the few months we had been working together. We were both blown away! It also motivates me to see how hard our students are working. Most of the children we work with eat up this program. To see how much it means to them to learn how to read and to watch them light up when they finally understand something that hasn’t made sense for so long is an indescribable feeling. [Top of Page]
What age bracket are you working with?
Our target age group is elementary aged children. Research has shown that remediation is most effective when started early. While my students are in elementary and middle school, we do have a few high school and college-aged students working with some of the other therapists. [Top of Page]
What needs have you found in the Pikes Peak region?
There are an estimated ten-thousand children with dyslexia in the public schools of El Paso County. According to national statistics, dyslexia affects approximately fifteen percent of the general population. Until The Dyslexia Center opened, however, there were no centers in the region aligned with IMSLEC’s standards (International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council) for professional development, and only five Certified Academic Language Therapists in the state—two of whom now work for The Dyslexia Center. Teachers want the tools to teach their dyslexic students, but there were no trainings available. Parents are constantly coming to us because they need diagnoses and remediation for their children who are struggling to read. [Top of Page]
How are you meeting those needs?
We offer assessment and remediation for families here at the Center. We know, however, that we can reach even more children through the teachers that we are training. We offer various professional development classes, ranging from informational to highly intensive, to professionals who want to better meet the needs of their students. For parents, we offer anything from talks to consultation to advocacy. Further information can be found on the website of The Dyslexia Center: http://thedyslexiacenter.com. [Top of Page]
- Breaking Down Barriers - "Tufts literacy expert Maryanne Wolf has pioneered ground-breaking research that has led to advances in dyslexia testing and treatment."
- Does Your Child Have Dyslexia? - Some very famous folks are dyslexics and this has not stopped them from becoming extremely successful. As a parent, one of the best things you can do for your child is educate yourself as much as you can on the subject. This is a good article, followed up by great links, on the subject of dyslexia.
Anna Fitzhugh, B.A., AALT, graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In the past, she has worked with students with special needs on cognition and learning strategies. Anna worked as a Reading Intervention Specialist at the Dyslexia Center and is currently pursuing her Master's in Clincal Psychology.