West Island Literacy Group Spreading the Word on Dyslexia


Understanding learning disabilities is a key component in helping those struggling with poor literacy.

This month, Literacy Unlimited hosted a workshop for Anglophone literacy groups, as well as professionals working in the adult education field. Representatives from five Quebec organizations and institutions gathered for the day to learn about an important topic: Teaching Adults with Learning Disabilities.

Workshop speaker Heather Desjardins, owns and operates The Open Door Educational Services, a tutoring company in Ottawa focused on tutoring students with reading and spelling challenges, as well as dyslexia. Heather introduced the attendees to the basics of dyslexia, the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach, as well as the Susan Barton Reading and Spelling System.

Attendees spent the afternoon mastering basic strategies for working with adults who have low phonemic awareness and who show signs of dyslexia. Many reported that they plan on using their skills in their daily work; either working directly with adult learners or training the tutors who do so.

One afternoon on such a complex topic is just the tip of the iceberg. Dyslexia affects approximately 15% of the population, representing 3 million Canadians. Heather points out that “this, in conjunction with the extremely low rate of diagnosis, means there are so many who are mislabelled as lazy or slow. It is critical to raise awareness so that they can get the right type of help, and can see themselves correctly as bright, creative, and capable individuals.”

A staggering 40 – 50% of the Quebec population struggle with low literacy. The Quebec Government’s recent 20 million dollar investment into literacy programs demonstrates the profound nature of this issue. Literacy Unlimited is committed to delivering successful tutoring programs, and will continue exploring the growing body of research available on learning disabilities, in order to best serve our learners.

Our day was made possible thanks to a generous grant from a Literacy Unlimited volunteer.

Literacy Unlimited is a community organization dedicated to changing lives through improved adult literacy. Founded in 1981 with one tutor and one learner, Literacy Unlimited now offers literacy and computer programs to up to 40 tutor-learner teams annually, and offers classroom and study support skills to the Adult Education Centres of the Lester B. Pearson School Board. They can be reached at 514-694-0007 or online at literacyunlimited.ca.


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