Of Westminster does publicity work for the...

PAM VALIS

August 01, 1993

PAM VALIS of Westminster does publicity work for the Learning Disabilities Association of Carroll County, a support group for parents of children with learning disabilities.

She takes information to schools, libraries and doctors' offices throughout the county to inform families of their legal rights and of new strategies for coping with learning disabilities.

There are an estimated 2,000 children with learning disabilities in Carroll County; 30 families are members of the association.

Organization's comments: "[Ms. Valis] was really the pushing force that got me involved," said Stephanie Tighe, association president.

Ms. Valis puts in many hours -- and considerable amounts of her own money -- in the effort to educate people about learning disabilities, Ms. Tighe said. She credited Ms. Valis with the group's membership increase of about 35 percent over the past year.

When well-known child psychiatrist and author Larry Silver came to speak in Carroll County last year, Ms. Valis helped publicize the event. More than 200 people attended.

"It took a lot of work," Ms. Tighe said. "She did a great job."

Volunteer's comments: "They call [learning disability] the invisible handicap," Ms. Valis said. "Lots of times it goes undiagnosed for a long time."

Children with learning disabilities "can be taught, but they have to learn in different ways," she said.

For example, they have more success reading if they listen to a recording of a book while reading it, she said. Or, they may be helped during a test if someone reads the questions to them.

She said children whose disabilities go undiagnosed are often labeled "lazy," "stupid" or even "bad."

"It just breaks my heart when I hear people say, 'He's just lazy,' or 'He's just stupid,' " Ms. Valis said.

"They learn to work around their disabilities," she said. "You can get through. I'm convinced of that."

She said she became involved because one of her sons is learning disabled. The hints given to her by other parents have been valuable, she said, adding that she hopes to pass on the help she received.

"I would love to make a difference for the next child coming up."

Volunteer's background: Ms. Valis, 40, and her husband, Robert Valis, have two sons and a daughter.

Ms. Valis is a member of Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church. She does the bookkeeping for her husband's auto repair business.

To nominate someone for Volunteer of the Week, call 751-7900 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Nominations may

be faxed to the office at 751-7916.

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