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Susan and Steve van der Vorst of Spruce Pine, North Carolina, have the fame of being the only two people that have worked at all three U.S. residential camps of its kind for children with dyslexia. They now own one of the three camps, Camp Spring Creek.
According to the National Institutes of Health, dyslexia is a “brain-based type of learning disability specifically impairing a person's ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence.” People with dyslexia often have trouble doing spelling, phonological processing, and rapid visual-verbal responding.
Said 50-year-old Susan, “Our oldest child was four when we figured out she had dyslexia. I had been in the field (already teaching children with dyslexia for six years) when she was born. I was one of those lucky parents who knew what I was doing beforehand.”
She first learned of her daughter having dyslexia after a pre-kindergarten screening. Susan ended up tutoring her daughter for a year at home using the Orton-Gillingham approach. Today, her daughter is at college studying to be a pediatric dentist. Their 15-year-old son also has dyslexia. Susan had been interested in dyslexia before the birth of her firstborn because of wanting to “do something” about illiteracy. Her father had dyslexia.
In 2002, the van der Vorsts were working at a Colorado residential camp for children with dyslexia. “And we weren't there a week before realizing there was nothing like it in the South,” said Susan. “At the time, there were only two residential camps in the country using a one-on-one Orton-Gillingham approach.” In 2003, the couple opened Camp Spring Creek, which hosted campers last summer from eleven states and six countries.
Susan said, “One of my favorite stories is about a little girl who left camp and went home to Birmingham, Alabama. She walked into her sixth grade class first day and said to the teacher that she had dyslexia and it shouldn't be a problem. She then told the teacher what she needed to succeed. Her parents and teachers were blown away. She was self-advocating. The girl started a support group for children with dyslexia at her school. I tell parents to tell their children they have dyslexia. That's not to define them, but so they know dyslexia is part of who they are and that it isn't their fault.”
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