(July 18, 2018) Catherine Read speaks with Krista Gauthier who is the founder of Sliding Doors Squared, an enrichment program for children with dyslexia. Studies have shown that children with dyslexia excel in STEM related curriculum and careers, so Gathier’s program focuses on reading tutoring and STEM enrichment to help these students excel. Unfortunately, many dyslexic students go undiagnosed, and because they have a barrier to learning how to read they are not encouraged to explore and engage with other content. Sliding Doors Squared is designed to help these students realize their potential.
Gauthier has a background in teaching, so when her daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia she was thrown into a whole new world in the education subculture. She quickly learned that there are not many resources for parents of children who have dyslexia. If a child is diagnosed, it is very expensive to seek the necessary early intervention to keep students on track. One year ago, Gauthier embarked on a journey to bring much needed resources to the community. Together with her daughter’s reading tutor Joyce Maryanopolis, they founded Sliding Doors Squared (SD2). This program is currently offered at St. Bernadette Catholic School in Springfield as an after-school program, and they are looking to expand to another location in the Reston/Herndon area this year.
Gauthier shares that 15-20% of the general population live with dyslexia, and 30-40% of engineers and scientists are dyslexic. She also notes that 48% of the prison population is identified as dyslexic. She believes if students are identified early and taught how to read in a way that their brain can process properly, then the students can move on and excel in school. The STEM aspect of the Sliding Doors program is designed to introduce kids to subjects like robotics and engineering. It also includes opportunities to meet area scientists on their monthly Science Saturdays field trips, many who have dyslexia themselves. This allows the students to see themselves in their role models, and understand first hand that they can achieve and succeed despite their challenges.
Most of the people who run the programming with Sliding Doors are volunteers. They must be trained in the evidence-based reading curriculum, and commit to a 2 year program with their students. Many of the volunteers are teachers themselves, who benefit from understanding how dyslexic children learn, which can improve how they approach student with similar challenges in their own classrooms.
Another key element of the Sliding Doors program includes networking opportunities for parents. As a parent herself, Gauthier realized how few opportunities there were to meet and speak with other parents, along with how difficult it was to seek out resources. As part of the Science Saturday programming, Sliding Doors often offers programming geared towards parents where they can attend workshops, learn about advocacy, or listen to speakers who can help them learn about how to best support their children.