The Friendship Aspire Lab School for Dyslexia is still relatively new to Maumelle.
Formerly known as the Hannah School, it moved to 2 Country Club Circle, near the Country Club of Arkansas, in 2020, and became affiliated with the Friendship system just last year.
The school started on Monday with 38 students and 11 faculty and staff said Cathy Dille, who works in administration and also serves as bookkeeper. Her double duty is actually triple as she’s also the parent of one of the students at the school.
“We are the only dyslexia school in the state of Arkansas,” Dille said in a phone interview earlier this week. “For schools, the reading ready percentages are sad, really sad. That's why we are here. For those kids.”
Sometimes called a reading disability, dyslexia is a learning disorder that impacts how people process language.
Dyslexia can involve transposing letters or words but Dille had a useful analogy.
“You know that junk drawer you have in your house,” she said. “And it is full of stuff. Scissors. Rubber bands. A hammer. If you think of a dyslexic as a junk drawer, everything is all jumbled up and they have a hard time finding things in their junk drawer.”
Dille said the advantage Friendship had over schools is that it is an immersive experience.
“A public school, you might get three, 45-minute classes a week,” she said. “Here, from when they walk into the building, to when they leave, they’re working.”
Dille added the exceptions were for breaks for lunch and PE.
“These kids, with very structured interventions,” Dille said. “They can be taught to read or write. It just takes longer.”
For that reason, while students range from Kindergarten to eighth-graders, classes aren’t structured by age, but by where they are in the learning process.
“A fifth-grader, who just started here, isn’t ready for that level of curriculum,” she said. “So they might be with a second-grader. It is about structuring the classes so the students can succeed.”
She added that a student without dyslexia might start Kindergarten, and they’re ready to move on to the next grade.
“It might take these kids two years, or three years, depending,” Dille said. “We have a very structured intervention and it is all day long.”
It also just isn’t teaching as Dille said the school has speech, occupational and physical therapists on staff and in the building working with the students.
Friendship uses the Wilson Reading System, among other interventions. It is described as, “a Tier 3 program that works with students in grades 2-12 (and adults) with language based learning disabilities, like dyslexia,” according to the school’s website.
Dille noted that teachers for all the classes work together to help educate the students.
“Our school is different in that way,” she said and added that about one in five students have a form of dyslexia. More than 40 million Americans have dyslexia, with only about 2 million diagnosed.
All that work isn’t cheap.
“Our school is expensive,” Dille said and the price tag comes with a bit of sticker shock as tuition is $12,500 with another $1,000 for books and supplies. There’s also a $400 assessment before the student can start.
Dille said the recent LEARNS Act and the school vouchers that came with it, can be used to offset some of those costs, with about half of the expense being covered by the state. The school also accepts some scholarships.
Because dyslexia is considered a disability, students are also immediately eligible for the funds.
For more, check out the school’s website, by clicking here or call 501-800-1080.
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