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Fairfield University debuts online graduate certificate program of dyslexia educators

Story Copyright Westfair Communications

Fairfield University’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions has added a new elective to its coursework that is designed to prepare future educators who will be working with dyslexic students.

Jule McCombes-Tolis

The new one-year, 10-credit online graduate certificate program in multisensory structured literacy instruction includes Level I Certification in the Wilson Reading System (WRS), which is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction. The program is created by Wilson Language Training Corp., a literacy education provider, and is designed for students who require the most intensive level of reading instruction.

The WRS is accredited by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Jule McCombes-Tolis, director of the university’s Reading and Language Development Program, recently served as the IDA’s chief academic officer and has been appointed to run the program.

“Our candidates will come out of the program and incorporate their certification into their master’s program without having to pay extra for it,” she said, adding the new program will be offered as elective coursework. “We want to build bridges with our public schools and be responsive to what their needs are while preparing educators to be classroom ready when they leave us.”

Dyslexia is the most common of all neurocognitive disorders, according to data from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, and it affects 80 percent to 90 percent of all individuals with learning disabilities and 20 percent of the U.S. population. This brain-based condition has no cure, but dyslexic individuals can experience academic and professional success with the right supports.

McCombes-Tolis stated the WRS is viewed among educators as the “cornerstone program for serving children with dyslexia” and similar certificate programs using the WRS approach are found in other states, but Fairfield University is the first Connecticut school to offer a program of this nature. Graduate students who complete the new program will also be eligible for certification as a Structured Literacy/Dyslexia Interventionist with the International Dyslexia Association’s subsidiary, the Center for Effective Reading Instruction.

The first cohort of the Online Dyslexia Interventionist Certificate program has launched and the university is accepting applications for the fall 2019 and spring 2020 cohorts. The program is also pending final approval by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

“By taking a proactive approach to reading instruction and professional teacher development, we can equip teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to successfully provide explicit, research-based reading instruction to students who struggle the most,” said Barbara A. Wilson, president and co-founder of Wilson Language Training. “Fairfield University’s longstanding reputation as an exceptional academic institution, coupled with the flexible online format of the program, provides an ideal opportunity for educators.”

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