Northern Michigan group helps dyslexic students

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Traverse City teen Grant Lesoski is an exceptionally bright kid, but by the time he reached the second grade, a teacher noticed that he acted out at reading time.

"He would wiggle in his seat, sharpen his pencil, or do anything he could so he didn't have to read," his mother, Wendy Lesoski, said.

Wendy Lesoski knew something was wrong when her son started saying he didn't want to go to school at all. After considerable monitoring, she became convinced her son had dyslexia, a disorder in which people struggle with reading, writing and spelling. Common characteristics include visually reversing letters and words, and the brain isn't able to process letters and words the way others do.

"It gets frustrating sometimes," said Grant, who now attends East Middle School. "When I'm reading, I mess up and I have to go back."

The Lesoskis are speaking publicly about Grant's disorder to raise awareness in Grand Traverse County about dyslexia, and to let people know about a community resource that's helped Grant.

The Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association, in a nondescript office on Hastings Drive, helps 150 students annually, and Wendy Lesoski said the association was a critical component in seeing her son do well in school.

"If a child is not thriving in a typical classroom setting, and where they need more one on one, I want people to know "1/8 it can really help you," she said.

For Grant, it's been a long haul of special education classes, then one-on-one tutoring with tutor Judy Heine, that has allowed him to vastly improve his reading and writing.

Heine said dyslexia is not an indicator of one's intelligence level. The disorder strikes individuals with average to above intelligence levels, yet difficulty reading can be misinterpreted as slowness by those who don't understand. The University of Michigan reports that dyslexia is the most common learning disability, and 80 percent of students with learning disabilities have dyslexia. It impacts more boys than girls.

Warning signs include difficulty remembering the spelling of words despite hours of studying and difficulty following spoken or written directions. A student may have exceptional verbal skills but struggle with the written language. Students also may have difficulty with math terminology, and usually a blood relative has had similar difficulties.

Students often write illegibly and in the classroom a student will have difficulty finishing work and be affected by schedule changes or substitute teachers.

Experts say children with dyslexia can do well in school with specialized education and tutoring like that offered at the Dyslexia Association, and Heine said an early diagnosis is very important.

"We like to get them as soon as possible," Heine said.

For Grant Lesoski, knowledge about his disorder is important, and he thinks someday he might pursue being a doctor.

"It would be helpful, to save lives and to help people," he said. "They've helped me along the way, and I want to give back."

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com

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