In 2008, Dynamic Dyslexia Design; The 3-D School and Evaluation Center
in Petal, Miss. opened its doors to 24 children. Today, as a state accredited non-public, special purpose school for children with dyslexia, it serves 106 children (grades 1-5) in a full day program designed specifically for dyslexic children. A staff of 20 includes dyslexia therapists, speech pathologists, and support teachers.
“In 2005, my colleague, Dr. Trudy Abel, assisted me in identifying and evaluating students for learning disabilities in a local private school,” said Dr. Cena Holifield, Executive Director of the 3-D School. “We became alarmed at the number of students that we were identifying as dyslexic, and surprised as to how many were also gifted.”
Also, alarming was the lack of appropriate intervention services for dyslexia in the schools. Thus began their mission for a transitional two year intervention program targeting the unique learning needs of dyslexic children. The goal was to remediate reading, writing, and spelling skills so students could return to their regular schools as stronger students.
“Research tells us that early intervention is critical and children with dyslexia need daily specialized multisensory instruction over a two to three year period,” said Dr. Holifield. “We also know that children with dyslexia require 500 to 1500 repetitions of this instruction in order to build the memory of critical reading concepts and spelling rules.”
Because regular classrooms are not designed to provide this specialized instruction, dyslexic children fall behind in the regular classroom setting. Many experience feelings of inadequacy. The 3-D School and Evaluation Center provides a safe environment and licensed dyslexia therapists who provide daily one-hour Orton-Gillingham based dyslexia therapy to students in small groups. In the classroom, explained Dr. Holifield, they receive language arts instruction with repetition and application of critical reading concepts.
“When they become functional readers,” said Dr. Holifield, “they can achieve in the regular classroom with a teacher who makes appropriate accommodations for them.”
Not all children with reading disabilities have dyslexia. The 3-D diagnosticians, Elesha McCarty, CCC-SLP, CALT, and Dr. Jane Herrin, evaluate children in grades K-12 and then guide parents to the appropriate services addressing the learning needs of their children.
Each year during the holiday season, the 3-D students participate in a community project. Past projects have included The Salvation Army Angel Tree, Christian Services, and Edwards Street Mission, the Shoe Box Ministry, and Pennies for Africa. This year the children collected food items for the Petal Children’s Task Force.
“Children with dyslexia are very sensitive to the needs of others,” said Dr. Holifield. “We teach them that each of them is being prepared by God for a special purpose in life that includes serving others.”
The 3-D School works in collaboration with William Carey University to train teachers to become dyslexia therapists through an International Dyslexia Association (IDA) accredited Master’s Degree program in Dyslexia Therapy.
Donations and the funds received by MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program) funds helps to supplement tuition fees for parents. The 3-D School offers scholarships to families with financial needs and does not turn away children due to the inability to pay tuition.