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A Seat at the Table

A seat at the table – that is all Katie wanted and expected when she started school. Little did she, Stan or I know that obtaining that seat would entail a 10-year battle involving self-sacrifice, tenacity, thousands of miles of travel and deep pockets. Why? Because Katie is one of the 1 in 5 who is dyslexic, but our state of Kansas has refused to identify it or recognize it as a learning disability. These students have not qualified for IEPs nor have their teachers known how to teach a child with dyslexia to read.

Katie entered kindergarten with the expectation that now she would join her older sisters and brother with a seat at the table…she would learn to read! Sadly, it was not to be. As Stan and I desperately looked for answers, as her teachers’ efforts were failing, we discovered touted methods of teaching a child to read suggested by Kansas educators and doctors…they included learning to juggle, re-learning how to crawl and vision therapy…none gave Katie that seat she needed.

Finally, a third grade teacher who had moved to Wichita from Texas, suggested that Katie might be dyslexic. We could find no one in Kansas who knew anything about dyslexia and certainly no one who could test for it, so began the first of many, many trips out of state to find answers. The first answer came in the form of diagnosis…profoundly dyslexic…and from there the journey began to find the services needed to provide for Katie that seat she needed for academic success.

We sent a wonderful educator, Mrs. Pangrac to Texas to learn to work with Katie four mornings a week at 7 a.m., which she did through seventh grade. Additionally, Katie spent four years at summer camps in North Carolina and New York State doing intensive remediation, and finally, beginning in eighth grade, she spent two years at a boarding school, Killdonan in Amenia, N.Y. that was geared toward total emersion in learning to read and focusing on the dyslexic student. After two years in N.Y., her teachers agreed that she was ready to be mainstreamed as a sophomore in high school, BUT with accommodation…that was not to be had in Kansas. Katie claimed her academic seat at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. from which she graduated with honors.

When we put Katie on the plane to travel to Killdonan as an eighth grader to begin the boarding school experience, I swore that if there was anything I could do to prevent this from being the only alternative for a bright, tenacious, dyslexic child to learn to read, write and spell, it would be my life’s mission. Three years later, I met Jeanine Phillips and ultimately the Phillips Fundamental Learning Center was born.

Please help us keep our super-powered dyslexic students in Kansas.

Please help provide them a seat at the table!


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