*For Immediate Release*
Balancing the Gifts & Learning Differences of a Life with Dyslexia
Living with dyslexia with simple learning modification and celebrating the “gifts” of the dyslexic mind, from a strong ability to see the “big picture” and being avidly creative, paves the path for success.
By Jenny Cox Holman
Reading to a classroom filled with third grade peers, a young man named Steven dreaded the merciless teasing and taunts as he struggled to simply read in class. In the 1950s, Steven was known by his peers as an ordinary boy who was the brunt of jokes as he struggled academically and known by his teachers as a boy that should have tried just a little harder to do well in school.
Not knowing until adulthood that he had dyslexia, a young Steven sought a source of comfort and great escape from the reality of bullying at school by making homemade movies. “When I got bullied, I dealt with it by making movies. I have no resentment because of what I went through as a kid; I never felt like a victim. Making movies was my great escape and helped me get away from all of that. In light of feeling like an outsider, movies made me feel inside my own skill set,” Steven said.
Despite living with dyslexia, Steven’s professional accomplishments are uniquely remarkable and vastly well-known. Legendary American director, producer and screenwriter, Steven Spielberg has captivated movie-goers throughout generations. His career spans more than four decades with spectacular cinematic masterpieces such as the suspenseful and riveting science-fiction thriller Jaws, to the magical E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, and harrowing Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, and the unforgettable thrillers of Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
From the hills of Hollywood to the magnolia laden state of Mississippi, dyslexia affects celebrities in California to residents of the South. Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, Dr. Nancy Whitten New, a daughter of a farmer, has vivid memories when she and her sisters enjoyed sunny afternoons among the cotton fields. Beyond the cotton fields of her childhood in Avalon, Mississippi, to classrooms and communities throughout the state of Mississippi, Nancy has carried with her the love for planting and cultivating; but the harvest has been one to provide academic and social opportunities for the diverse learning needs of students and create stability and success for all Mississippi families. Dr. New was diagnosed with dyslexia while attending The University of Southern Mississippi and received her PhD, Master’s and Bachelor’s of English Education and Educational Leadership & Administration from The University of Southern Mississippi. Upon graduation, Dr. New’s newfound calling was to help children with learning differences and diverse learning needs.
With dyslexia affecting one in five individuals, Dr. Nancy New, Executive Director of Families First for Mississippi, recognized a need in the state of Mississippi for therapy services. “I understand the challenges associated with living with dyslexia. I have dedicated my career in the field of education and community service to helping families find solutions to their needs. Having lived with dyslexia fueled my passion to help others through Mississippi Dyslexia Centers to increase accessibility of services throughout our state,” Dr. New stated.
In 2009, Dr. New founded the Mississippi Dyslexia Centers, which have served the needs of over 2,000 students since its inception and 300 students annually at five centers located in Madison, Jackson, Hattiesburg, Oxford, and Greenwood. The Mississippi Dyslexia Centers offer therapy to individuals of all ages to meet their educational needs by providing quality dyslexia therapy.
Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. The problems displayed by individuals with dyslexia involve difficulties in acquiring and using written language. Kate Sistrunk, Dyslexia Therapist and Mississippi Dyslexia Center Coordinator said, “We finally have a better understanding of dyslexia then we did in the past, but still now some teachers will say that the students are not trying or that they are just lazy. There is scientific proof presented in a Functional MRI that shows a difference when a dyslexic student reads and a non-dyslexic student reads. Early intervention is key to success. Research now shows by the end of first grade a child will know if they will be successful or not. My favorite quote is to teach a child to read before they think that they can’t. Once you receive the diagnosis, a child needs dyslexia therapy. This will be an investment for their future.”
In partnership with New Summit School, Mississippi Dyslexia Centers offers therapy during the school day, after school and also through virtual technology. Mississippi Dyslexia Centers are dedicated to providing high-quality services that meet the needs of all learners with a dyslexia therapy program that is a structured, sequential, multi-sensory approach to the English language. The core of the training evolved from Orton-Gillingham, a scientific, universally successful, specific teaching approach that combines all three learning modalities: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.
Living with dyslexia with simple learning modification and celebrating the “gifts” of the dyslexic mind, from a strong ability to see the “big picture” and being avidly creative, paves the path for success. Kate Sistrunk, Dyslexia Therapist and Mississippi Dyslexia Centers Coordinator, reflects back on her personal journey with dyslexia and how her experience ignited a continued passion for reaching those with learning differences and said, “Being dyslexic has been the greatest gift that I could ever ask for. It has taught me to truly understand what other dyslexics go through on a daily basis, and how you can truly be anything you want, if you set your mind to it. At Mississippi Dyslexia Centers, we have resources and highly trained staff to help dyslexic students reach their full potential and educate parents to be the best advocate for their child. My vision is to have those with dyslexia embrace their differences and celebrate their strengths and feel encouraged to know they can be whatever they strive to become.”
Countless Hollywood celebrities to successful business leaders across the country and state of Mississippi have excelled while living with dyslexia. Dr. Nancy New’s career in the field of education and as a compassionate advocate for Mississippi’s students with learning differences and diverse learning needs spans nearly 40 years in educational and business settings.
Through her own journey with dyslexia, she hopes to use opportunities to serve others with compassion and support. “I would say to the parents of children with dyslexia to try to seek out as much information and support as possible. At Mississippi Dyslexia Centers we strive to bring dyslexia awareness across the state of Mississippi and provide an avenue of encouragement and therapy services to meet the needs of Mississippians with dyslexia. While you travel the road in this journey of life with dyslexia, be mindful that individuals with dyslexia are very smart, extremely creative and have a vision to see outside the box. Let those attributes and characteristics work for you and know that at Mississippi Dyslexia Centers we will serve you on your goal to life-long success,” said Dr. Nancy New, Executive Director of Families First for Mississippi and Founder of Mississippi Dyslexia Centers.
For more information on Mississippi Dyslexia Centers, visit - www.msdyslexiacenter.com Mississippi Dyslexia Centers will present the 5th Annual Dyslexia Symposium on February 1, 2019 at New Summit School in Jackson. The goal of the Symposium is to promote dyslexia awareness to the general public as well as provide participants such as teachers and administrators with best practices for educating and advocating for individuals with dyslexia.