Turning It Around

Cheri Rae’s article on dyslexia, When Reading Hurts, was insightful and important. The influence of our local Dyslexia Awareness Resource Center and the success of Lindamood-Bell programs are profound. As the Executive Director for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFBD&) I am a strong advocate for those with learning differences, and grateful for any resource available to students who learn differently.

Four related areas of general concern for me are (1) for those families and students who can not for one reason or another receive the testing they need to determine the appropriate accommodations for their schooling; (2) for those who struggle with a learning difference, but when tested, their scores may not qualify them for accommodations; (3) families or students who cannot afford costly programs or assistive technology; and (4) for the teachers in both resource and regular classrooms who are already battling increasing class sizes and diminishing resources available to them to dedicate to their students.

RFB&D is a national nonprofit dedicated to providing audio books, mostly textbooks, for students to succeed in school. We do have the Harry Potter series and many other pleasure books as well. The Central California chapter is located in Goleta and engages over 200 volunteers who last year dedicated 15,000 hours to recording books that become part of RFB&D’s growing 62,000 volume national library. These books, ranging from chapter books for elementary school to medical and law books for post-graduate work. RFB&D books are available in CD or download format to students from across the country. Several features that are unique to RFB&D audio books are that they are all recorded by the human voice with full descriptions of charts, equations, and graphs. While most of our members listen to their book and follow along with the hardcopy version, RFB&D provides the capability to navigate books at the sentence level, placing bookmarks, and engaging the book in the same manner as a printed version.

The criteria to qualify to use RFB&D services are straightforward and far less complex than the testing and qualifications required for an IEP or 504 [individualized learning plans for schools]. Memberships are free to individuals. Members can download a book within minutes of registering on the RFB&D web site. A student can listen to a book on their computer or with a specialized playback device. Soon, RFB&D services will be available for use on MP3 players, iPods, and other more commonly used technology. A family can access RFB&D service at no cost. Furthermore, we work with schools and school districts to provide our services in resource and regular classrooms throughout the tri-county area. And, in many cases, RFB&D can provide schools with the tools and services at no cost, thanks to funding provided by local donors. We have integrated our services into the standard early reading comprehension programs in several local elementary schools (Accelerated Reader, Scholastic 180, etc.) with tremendous success. We also provide services for several junior high schools, high schools and community colleges.

Just three of many statistics generated through an independent study by Johns Hopkins University of students from grades K-12 using RFB&D audio books show a 76 percent increase in reading comprehension, a 52 percent increase in ready accuracy, and a 61 percent increase in self-confidence in less than 12 months.

I invite you to learn more about RFB&D by attending our annual free fundraising luncheon on Tuesday, November 16 (11:45-1:00) at the Doubletree Hotel. Our program will feature a keynote address by world-renowned paleontologist Jack Horner—a Macarthur Foundation Fellow ‘genius’ who flunked college seven times due to his dyslexia. Space is limited, registration is required, and donations are encouraged. You may also join us at one of our monthly one hour studio tours where you can learn more about our services and how you might contribute as a volunteer or community advocate. Please contact 681-0531 or for more information on our luncheon, studio tours, services, and volunteer opportunities.—Tim Schwartz


Cherie Rae’s article captures the essence of what a mother goes through when she realizes there is something different about her child. My son was diagnosed six years ago with dyslexia. It “takes a village to raise a child.” But, what do you do when the schools are failing your child? I enlisted the help of Ms. Joan Esposito, who took us through the Special Ed maze. My son was one of the fortunate ones who underwent Lindamood-Bell therapy. After years of low standardized test scores, this past year he finally achieved a score of “advanced” in language arts. So, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He has a good memory and was able to hide his disability because he was able to recite answers from memory. That only works for a short period of time, before the student falls so far behind; it’s difficult not to notice. Today, with his 504 Plan accommodation allowing additional time to complete school work, along with grammar and spell check, you don’t even notice his disability. He’ll never be cured of dyslexia, but he’s winning the battle to overcome it. My advice to mothers working their way through the school system is to keep a journal. It’s a good way to keep you focused on your mission and keep you sane. These kids are relegated to the lower ranks of their class and placed in special reading groups which more often than not cause self-esteem issues. They’re brilliant in their own way and deserve more than that.—Patty Quan

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