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27 Jan, Friday
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Montreal Families

Dyslexia Facebook page aims to educate

When Melanie Brethour couldn’t find a support group after her son was diagnosed with dyslexia, she decided to create one herself. Two years ago, she formed the Facebook group Decoding Dyslexia Quebec — a resource where parents and caregivers can broaden their understanding of dyslexia, ask questions, find information and workshops, and hear personal stories.

As a parent to a child with dyslexia and a resource teacher with the Riverside School Board, Brethour has experience manoeuvring through the diagnosis process, and working with dyslexic children and others who may be at risk. But even with her experience in the classroom, there was much to be learned once she discovered her son had dyslexia. Brethour says she has gained a lot of knowledge over the past two years and she started the Facebook page to help parents find resources and get the appropriate help for their kids.

Brethour’s son Benjamin, who is now 11, was diagnosed at the age of 8 but signs that something wasn’t quite right appeared as early as Kindergarten. “Benjamin was in French immersion,” she said. “So we thought maybe it’s because he’s learning two languages; we speak English at home and he’s learning French at school and he’s having a really hard time remembering his letters and sounds.” As time went on, and even with support at school and at home, Benjamin became frustrated and homework was very difficult.

Diagnoses take time

Canada’s National Institute of Health has found dyslexia is identifiable from age 5.5 years with a 92% accuracy rate. But with schools stretched thin, and one in five children having dyslexia and other language-based learning difficulties, early testing isn’t always available.

Brethour said that generally children are diagnosed when they are in Grade 3, despite dyslexia being about more than just reading and writing. “It’s also about language, and processing language, which is why you can see the signs very early on, even in Pre-K or kindergarten.”

Quebec-based support

After Benjamin was diagnosed through privately-done testing with a neuro-psychologist, Brethour heard about Decoding Dyslexia, a support network led by parents and advocates that was already active in every US state and six Canadian provinces. “I was researching different groups to join and I knew there was an Ontario [Decoding Dyslexia group] and I reached out to them thinking, you know, I would love to start one in Quebec.”

The Quebec-wide Facebook group currently has 502 followers. Regular posts encourage families and their children “to learn, listen, support, ask questions and share,” and stress the importance of early intervention. “The sooner the better,” Brethour says. “Parents will often be told ‘let’s just wait and see how he does,’ or that ‘he’s a summer baby and might catch up,’ or ‘it’s because they’re learning two languages.’ That’s really a wait to fail model.”

While the Facebook group exists mainly for parents, Brethour knows of teachers who also follow the page to get information and insight. “Students who are at risk for reading difficulties, if they get the right intervention early on they can really improve,” she said. “And if they’re dyslexic, they’re always going to have dyslexia, it’s not something you can cure, but with the proper intervention they can become not only proficient but very good readers.”

She says that a strong support system at home, and celebrating strengths can be a huge boost for children’s confidence. Benjamin found his talent creating large-scale Rubik’s cube mosaics and has become an ambassador and artist for the company.

Besides fielding questions and sharing resources through Facebook, Brethour continues to research and educate herself in the hopes of helping more families and encouraging change in her school and others.

To follow the Decoding Dyslexia Quebec Facebook page, visit facebook.com/decodingdyslexiaquebec.

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