Taking the Initiative to Help Dyslexic Kids; Program Director's Goal Is to Help Children with Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt


Laura Bailet's brother and sisters used to tease her because she always had her nose in a book. Now she's doing her best to make sure no children ever get teased because they can't read.

Bailet's goal since becoming executive director of Nemours BrightStart! Dyslexia Initiative two years ago is to screen every incoming kindergartner in Duval County, all 12,000, regardless of income level, by the 2008-09 school year.

"I want to make sure we're identifying every one of those children," said Bailet, an authority on dyslexia and autism.

Since the project began last fall, 1,200 incoming kindergartners in 52 child-care centers have been screened. Those scoring in the lowest 25 percent have received intensive intervention through 30-minute-long lessons twice a week for nine weeks.

This school, year Bailet plans to screen twice as many children, in addition to rescreening the first groups to compare the rates of progress between those who had been developing normally and those who were behind. Bailet says the program will continue tutoring at the kindergarten level because no matter how good the intervention is, some of the students will continue to struggle.

"If she sees that a child has a problem, she doesn't rest until she finds -- or creates -- a solution," said Circuit Court Judge Karen Cole, who has collaborated with Bailet on a number of projects.

Their teamwork and mutual admiration began in 2003, when Bailet was one of 50 community leaders who met at the courthouse to discuss the need to help jailed juveniles learn to read, Cole said. Bailet stayed behind and volunteered to help.

Deborah Gianoulis, former WJXT TV-4 news anchor and an early literacy advocate, said of Bailet: " 'Change agent' is a very good way to describe her."

Gianoulis has a friend whose child was identified as learning disabled by her second-grade teacher. When the teacher recommended the youngster go into a special education class instead of third grade because she could never pass the FCATs, Gianoulis' advice was succinct: "Take her to Laura Bailet."

Bailet discovered that the child was severely dyslexic and saw that she got the help she needed. Not only was the child able to handle third grade, she passed the FCAT.

Bailet's penchant for change developed when she started teaching after graduating with a degree in English literature and a teaching certificate in learning disabilities from Wake Forest. The Charlotte, N.C., native realized that for the majority of children, learning disabilities began with reading disabilities. …


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