Dyslexia in Gallatin Valley: Kids struggling to stay on track, forced to find outside resources

Posted at 2:52 PM, Dec 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-24 17:19:53-05

BOZEMAN – According to the National Institute of Health reported 1 in 5 Americans has dyslexia, and this statistic is reflected in Gallatin County.

8-year-old Jack Heicher stepped onto his Hoverboard he got for his birthday. Every so often as he rides around the kitchen and front room, a smile gleans from his young face. Something that rarely happened a couple of years ago. Why? Well because he was falling behind in school.

“Like it was two months in I started getting angry at people and then by the end I never got really happy by the end kindergarten,” said Jack. “Dumb and stupid, I felt like.”

Jack has been diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disorder that makes it difficult to read and comprehend words, letters, and symbols. Falling behind his peers in his school work started to affect him and soon he became angry and depressed. His depression was noticed right away by his mother January who did everything she could to help. His family moved houses hoping a different school would give him the one on one attention he would need. Still, his education fell short. The Heicher’s proceeded to their last resort, homeschooling.

“I don’t know that we blame the schools but we just want to see more help for the kids, right?” said January. “And the teachers try their best. We know it is not easy.”

January didn’t originally want to resort to homeschooling but she felt it was the only option. Her son needed one on one tutoring, which was not possible in a classroom. Dyslexia tutor, Sara Bernall from Gallatin Valley Learning Center said she sees many parents walk through her door frustrated with the lack of work being done to get their kids up to par.

“We know there is something going on,” said Bernall. “We know there is a problem here, and they are being told they are fine. ‘They are a little bit behind but they are going to catch up. Let’s wait and see. Let’s wait and see what happens. Let’s wait and see.’ We hear that all the time and how long do you wait and see before it is too late?”

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, students like Jack are three times more likely to drop out of school. The report also reports more than 50 percent of these students will make their way through the justice system by the time they are young adults.

“We don’t know how to handle it,” said Bernall. “The schools. We don’t have the staffing. We don’t have the money, we don’t have the education. So they end up in high school and ready to move on college and they are still reading at this first-grade level.”

Every day brings new challenges for January and her son Jack but they hope by sharing their story more parents in the valley will no longer feel alone and can come together to make a difference moving forward.

Next, we’ll look closer at the challenges students face as they navigate dyslexia.

Reporting by Mederios Babb for MTN News