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PSU joins national dyslexia initiative

Pittsburg State University’s Center for READing will join with the Dyslexia Awareness Foundation to bring a new initiative to the area, hoping to raise awareness and fight dyslexia.  

The Center for READing was created in January of 1996. The Center for READing has provided service to thousands of students who are at risk for reading disabilities or who have been diagnosed as having dyslexia for a reading disability. 

“The Dyslexia Awareness Foundation (DAF) has the ability to generate considerable interest in dyslexia and the Center for READing has the ability to assist those individuals,” said David Hurford, chair of the Department of Psychology and Counseling and director of the Center for READing. “The more resources that are generated, the more individuals that the DAF and the Center for READing can assist.” 

It is estimated that 15 to 20% of the nation’s children have some form of reading disability. In addition, nearly 33% of the nation’s children do not read at the Basic Level, which is a rudimentary ability to read. 

“The programs at the Center for READing were developed for the child who has difficulty learning to read,” Hurford said. “These children are at risk for dropping out of school, parental abuse, poor self-esteem and a disproportionate percentage eventually find their way into the welfare and criminal justice systems.” 

Dyslexia is thought to occur in around 1 in 5 students. Whether the reading difficulty is specifically dyslexia or occurs for some other reason, the Center for READing provides solutions so that all children can become competent readers. 

“The initiative with the Dyslexia Awareness Foundation will focus on preventing reading failure,” Hurford said. “…and providing services to those individuals who already have struggled and given up on reading.” 

The university provides space for the Center for READing and graduate assistant support. The Center for READing provides intervention services for families not only from the four-state area, but as far away as California. 

“The future of a child with reading difficulties seems to be fairly bleak in our service-oriented society that requires each of its members to know how to read,” Hurford said. “Reading difficulties are not just an academic quandary, but a social problem as well.” 

At the Center for READing, they evaluate the individual’s ability to engage in phonological processing, to read, spell and to comprehend. It is important to evaluate attentional abilities as nearly 50% of individuals who have dyslexia also have ADHD. 

“Unfortunately, for those who have dyslexia, the areas of the brain that analyze and further process sensory information were not developed to connect sounds and letters very well,” Hurford said. “As a result, it is very difficult for these individuals to learn to read. The good news is that research has demonstrated specific mechanisms to help these individuals to learn to read.” 

Along with the initiative taking place within the Center for READing, the Dyslexia Awareness Foundation is also focusing their efforts in the prison system. 

“For many years there has been a strong interest in prison reform,” Hurford said. “We know that 60% of prison inmates and 85% of juvenile offenders have serious difficulties reading. Reading truly is an essential skill in our society and lacking reading skills very seriously inhibits an individual’s ability to be successful.” 

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