Undiagnosed learning disability can have a devastating impact. Over the past few weeks, Project Baltimore has shared the stories of people who say it’s cost them jobs, forced them to drop out of school, or carry feelings of shame. But there is help available.
“It’s helping me a lot in school and other places,” says 13-year-old Kevin Smoot. “I can do things I couldn’t do before.”
But doing those things, hasn’t come easy or quickly. Five years ago, Kevin was diagnosed with Dyslexia, a learning disorder that affects his reading.
“Sometimes I felt like I was stupid, and sometimes I felt really bad about myself that I couldn’t read,” says Kevin.
At the time, Kevin was going to a Baltimore City school. His mom feared if he fell behind, he’d never catch up. So, she went looking for help, and found it at the Dyslexia Tutoring Program at The Rotunda in North Baltimore.
“He was a very quiet child, kind of unsure of himself, and he’s really blossomed,” says Kevin’s tutor Margery Braver.
The Dyslexia Tutoring Program is a non-profit that helps about 200 students a year for free. The vast majority of those students are from Baltimore City, where many say they are not getting the help they need in school. Most students work with a tutor for about two years, while others stay for nearly a decade. The need for this service is so great, the program has nearly 200 volunteer tutors, and it’s still not enough.
“I think the schools can only do so much. You have 30 kids in a class and one teacher and all these kids are at all different skill levels,” says Braver. “Many need one on one services that can’t be provided by the schools. These places are critical.”
So, for the past five years, Kevin and Braver have met twice a week to work on the sounds, letters and words that once held Kevin Smoot back.
“A lot of them see themselves as failures and as stupid,” says Braver. “Whenever you start having successes, you start to feel better about yourself.”
“It gave me hope,” says Kevin.
While most of the students are from the city, The Dyslexia Tutoring Program is open to students from surrounding counties. And they are in need of more volunteers. Tutors are asked to help a child for at least one hour a week and training is provided for free. For more information about the Dyslexia Tutoring Program, go to http://www.dyslexiatutoringprogram.org/ or call them at 410-889-5487.