A Winnipeg-based learning centre for dyslexic students hopes to expand into Brandon in the spring, filling a service gap for a learning disability still somewhat misunderstood.
Cheryl Hoffmann, director of KC Dyslexic Learning Centre, has already been working with two Brandon kids since the fall and plans to open a learning centre and hire tutors locally in the coming months.
There are more than 300 students enrolled at the Winnipeg centre, of which the vast majority are between the ages of eight and 16.
Hoffmann now offers her services to two students and has more people calling, though she’s unable to schedule more.
A Brandon family sent their eight-year-old son to Winnipeg to stay with grandparents during the summer in order for him to attend the learning centre and after that, Hoffmann began making the once-a-week trip to Brandon to continue the tutor sessions once the school year resumed.
There are general learning centres in Brandon, and public schools offer reading recovery programs, but there are no dyslexia-specific services in the area.
In order to expand her centre to Brandon, Hoffmann is looking for potential staff, but those tutors don’t necessarily have to be teachers — Hoffmann herself used to be a computer programmer before she started her certification as a Barton tutor and certified testing specialist.
"It’s about personality," she said. "It’s about the ability to learn the rules of language and teach them to someone without giving them the answer."
She first took the training eight years ago as her highly dyslexic daughter was in the Grade 6, struggling to read at a Grade 2 level.
At the time, the Winnipeg school dismissed a psychologist’s report that said her daughter was severely dyslexic.
And it’s a term that remains taboo.
When Hoffmann began tutoring eight years ago, she said teachers questioned her qualifications, though many have since accepted the tutoring methods.
"I’m not qualified to be a teacher, that’s absolutely correct, and I’m not a psychologist. But I am qualified to tutor for dyslexia and tutor for dyslexia because I did get my training."
But not all schools have come around, she said. Following a 2012 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that a B.C. school district discriminated against a dyslexic boy by not doing enough to give him the help he needed, Hoffmann said a similar scenario may play out in Winnipeg.
Brandon schools, Hoffmann said, have been welcoming since she started working with the two families in the fall.
She’s in the midst of hiring tutors to open up a Brandon centre with tutors who can also make house calls.
"It’s about the family, what works best."