By Cena Holifield, Ph.D., CALT and Rai Thompson, M.Ed., CALT, QI
A: William Carey University wants to ensure that Mississippi students with dyslexia receive quality intervention delivered by highly trained therapists; therefore, setting instructional standards based on evidence-based research is important. After reviewing IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards, it became obvious that through these standards, IDA was leading the way and raising the bar for educating professionals in the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of children with dyslexia. It was a privilege to accept the challenge of aligning the WCU program with the IDA Standards.
Q: How was the experience of preparing for and participating in the review?
A: The IDA staff was very helpful in guiding the department through the accreditation process. The process offered a learning experience that led to greater appreciation of the strengths of the program, and also revealed areas that could strengthen the program’s instruction and practicum.
Q: What does IDA Accreditation mean to your university?
A: WCU proudly displays the IDA Accreditation logo on the university’s website and other publications as recognition of its comprehensive dyslexia therapy program. Having IDA Accreditation brings greater awareness to current and prospective students of the quality of the program. It is certainly a positive recruiting tool for the program. The University’s President, Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Dean of Education have shown great appreciation to the department for its participation in the IDA review process that led to accreditation.
Q: Describe some of the innovative ideas you have implemented to give students a richer practicum experience.
A: In 2012, the Mississippi Legislature passed MS Code Section 137-37-1, which mandated dyslexia screening of all kindergarten and first grade children. As a result, many children are now being identified early and the demand for dyslexia therapists in the state is growing. This situation has created both public and private opportunities for dyslexia therapists-in-training to gain practicum experience.
The therapists-in-training at WCU must complete an internship that includes working with students with dyslexia for a minimum of three situations over the span of the therapy curriculum, which takes a minimum of two years to complete. During this practicum period, therapists-in-training are supervised by their instructors through personal observation visits and videos. At least ten observations are required for demonstration of proficiency in all areas outlined in the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards. Progress reports are submitted regularly for each therapy situation after each Mastery Check is administered. The progress reports must reflect a minimum of 720 therapy hours during the course of the therapy curriculum. Upon completion of the program, the dyslexia therapy graduates are prepared to meet the unique learning needs of students with dyslexia.
Q: How has your program leveraged outside partnerships to increase students’ learning experience?
A: WCU works in association with Neuhaus Education Center in Houston to bring the most current evidence-based reading instruction to its graduate students. WCU also works in association with Dynamic Dyslexia Design/The 3-D School in Petal, MS, a state accredited special purpose school for children with dyslexia. The 3-D School offers therapists-in-training opportunities to acquire their practicum requirements. WCU also works with public and private schools throughout the state to provide additional professional development opportunities.
Cena Holifield, Ph.D., CALT is an Assistant Professor at William Carey University where she serves as coordinator of the Master’s Degree in Dyslexia Therapy Program. Dr. Holifield co-founded Dynamic Dyslexia Design/The 3-D School located in Petal, Mississippi where she currently serves as executive director. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Administration and Masters of Education Degrees in Dyslexia Therapy and Elementary Education. She is a nationally Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and Co-Director of the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Association.
Rai Thompson, M.Ed., CALT, QI is the Assistant Director of Professional Development at Neuhaus Education Center. She is an instructor in the Dyslexia Therapy program at William Carey University. Mrs. Thompson also serves on the Board of the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC).
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