TUPELO • In a little more than three months, an additional dyslexia evaluator has helped the Regional Rehabilitation Center break a log jam.
The waiting list for dyslexia evaluations has been chopped nearly in half since psychometrist Nita Crowell joined speech pathologist Nita Finch as a dyslexia testing specialist on the RRC staff.
“Before Nita (Crowell) started, we would tell people it would be well over a year, now it’s six to eight months,” said Robby Parman, executive director for the center, which provides physical, occupational and speech therapy, audiology and early intervention services without charge.
Dyslexia, a learning disability that interferes with the brain’s ability to decode letters and numbers, is one of the highest need areas for the 58-year-old Tupelo nonprofit agency.
“We get more calls about dyslexia than anything else,” Parman said.
A grant from Toyota Mississippi provided the catalyst to expand the center’s capacity to handle dyslexia evaluations. An anonymous donor provided additional funding to cover salary, benefits, training and materials for Crowell’s position.
“The community support is amazing,” Crowell said.
With its annual telethon in November, RRC capped off its annual fundraising efforts. The center received more than $400,000 in donations and grants.
“We are very blessed,” Parman said.
Dyslexia evaluations are time consuming. Testing, analyzing and reporting the results takes about 40 hours. In addition to determining if the student has mild, moderate or severe dyslexia, the evaluation provides program suggestions and practical recommendations for parents.
“It’s very thorough,” Crowell said.
A formal evaluation unlocks a range of school and community services for the child with dyslexia, Crowell said. It gives parents and educators a map of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.
Crowell has taught students with disabilities and developmental delays and performed assessments for decades. She worked for public schools for many years and worked as an independent contractor to provide assessments.
She developed an interest in dyslexia both from her work and the experiences of an extended family member.
“It broke my heart that children couldn’t read,” Crowell said.
She has watched the growth of effective therapies and learning strategies for those who struggle with dyslexia.
“We’ve learned so much during my career,” Crowell said. “In the foreseeable future, I think they get even stronger.”
“I feel confident the funding will be there for the first three years,” Parman said.
The waiting list for dyslexia services remains well over a year.
“Down the road, we’d like to have more dyslexia therapists; we really want to do more,” Parman said. “At least we know (with the evaluations) we can help them get to that next step.”