The exclusive Jemicy School for children with dyslexia reaches only about 140 youngsters in its full-time classes, but that doesn't keep its staff from reaching others affected by the learning disorder.
Beginning next week, the Owings Mills school will share some different learning methods in a study skills course for middle school students, says Barbara Wolfe, a teacher who directs the school's outreach program. The 12-week evening course will help students organize their work, take notes, think critically, write reports and take tests.
"These students need a lot more attention," says Barbara Donick, a teacher in the outreach program. In note-taking, for instance, "you need to help the child pick out what's important," so they don't try to write down everything they hear.
Now in its second year, the school's outreach program has developed classes to help teachers, parents and children recognize and cope with dyslexia, a learning disability that inhibits a child's ability to read. Dyslexic children often reverse letters, see a "d" instead of a "b," or change the order of letters in a word, so that "quite" becomes "quiet" or "was" becomes "saw."
Dyslexia runs in families and seems to affect more boys than girls. However, it is a very individual disability, affecting each child differently, says Ms. Donick.
"No two children are alike," she says. "They learn, but they need different ways."
Because many children with dyslexia "test above average" and are verbally proficient, they are often thought to be lazy or unmotivated when they aren't reading or succeeding in school, says Ms. Wolfe. By the time the disability is diagnosed, many youngsters have fallen well behind and are struggling and discouraged.
Typically, the dyslexic child "gives you the impression that he has more capacity than he demonstrates," explains Dr. James Kavanagh of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Washington.
Two of Jemicy's outreach programs try to remedy this recognition problem, says Ms. Wolfe. A team of teachers presents three-session workshops for teachers in public and private schools who want to know more about dyslexia's symptoms. Although the reading lag is the most apparent symptom, it is not the only one.
"Everyone does not always know that a child who cannot outline or cannot pull out the main facts of a short article may be dyslexic," says Ms. Wolfe. "We really try to raise their awareness."
They also explain techniques teachers can use if they have dyslexic students in their classrooms.
At the request of the school, teacher or family, Ms. Wolfe and another teacher, Barbara Donick, go into schools to test and evaluate individual students.
Students in kindergarten through eighth grade at Jemicy often receive one-on-one instruction, says Ms. Wolfe. Groups are rarely larger than five students. For this reason, enrollment at the 20-year-old school is kept small.
Dr. Kavanagh says it's impossible to say how many children have dyslexia, though "in the absence of good data, we believe that 5 to 10 percent of the population is personally affected."
The Jemicy School's teacher workshops and consultation services are available throughout the school year. The workshop fee is $150 for three 75-minute sessions. The consultation fee is $225 for 15 hours of observation, testing and planning for individual students.
The Study Skills Course for middle-school students begins Nov. 3 and continues weekly at the school through Feb. 2, 1993. The course fee is $150.
For more information, contact Barbara Wolfe at the Jemicy School's Outreach Program, (410) 653-2700.