More than a Student and Tutor: A Mother and Son’s Journey

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Meet Children’s Dyslexia Center Student Joseph and Alyssa, his Biggest Advocate

Joseph Mittiga and his mother, Alyssa, recently attended the 150th Annual Meeting of the Council of Deliberation for the State of New York to relay their experience with the Children’s Dyslexia Centers – Central New York, where Joseph is a student and Alyssa is a tutor, as well as Joseph’s mom. Below is a condensed version of Alyssa’s speech at the Sept. 27 event:

I am Alyssa Mittiga, Joseph’s mother, a tutor at The Children’s Dyslexia Center and one of the two trainers of Initial level scholars.

First, I would like to speak as a mom.  I cannot begin to tell you how much growth Joseph has displayed over the past two years, due to the foundation he received at the Center.  Joseph no longer remembers with clarity what it was like to not know how to read, nor all the negative feelings associated with it.  There are some memories, but like an old scar, they are fading by the day. 

This past year in his reading of over 24 books for school, all on grade level or above, demonstrates how far he has come. He still has hurdles with writing, but I believe that the solid base he has received by attending the Children’s Dyslexia Center will continue to be the bedrock, for which his writing will build upon.  It is a slow arduous process, but not one that he is incapable of overcoming. 

Joseph is like a different child then he was a few years ago.  His personality is the same, but he is more self-confident, more willing to take risks, and willing to open himself up to experiences he might not have before.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still times of challenge, as there always will be, but he self corrects, and moves on.  I’m grateful that he will be unable to remember what it was like to not know how to read, and the feelings that come with that. 

I am beyond grateful that my son was able to experience this method of learning.   Please know that the rewards are forever to these children.  It is not just the two years they attend, but it is the foundation for which they continue to prosper and grow.  It is also more than the gift of reading, but  there are other areas of growth that were not even the target, they are a  result of the process of actually being able to decode and encode words to read.   It is heartwarming to watch these children open up, radiate and shine, and know that these are just the byproducts of having the correct tools to understanding our written language.  Without them, the whole self of the child suffers, not just reading and writing.  Know that your gift to these children encompasses so much more then you might realize.

I would now like to move on to my experience as a trainer of scholars.  As I transitioned from being a student learning the multi-sensory approach to reading and spelling, to teaching, I silently observed, reflected on my own experience as a student, and asked questions that might aid the learning of new scholars. 

What did I learn?  I learned that it is easier to give more one on one time, more guidance initially, so that the foundation of our scholars is like that of our students, rock solid. 

Knowing that more children will be reached because a scholar is trained is the greatest motivator for me.  My role in all of this is possible because of two factors.  The first, that my son is dyslexic, which brought us to the Center to begin with.  On challenging days, I remind him of the good that came about him being dyslexic and the lives changed because of this one factor.  The second factor is because of all of you, your generosity, the generosity of so many, and for the [Central New York Children’s Dyslexia] Center existing.

[Central New York Children’s Dyslexia] Center News:

  • 165 children who have started services in our program.
  • Among 224 applications, 221 have been accepted
  • Currently there are 24 children on the wait list (*equivalent to about a 2-year wait)
  • 51 people have taken part in our training program; 43 became certified.       
  • 26 individuals have taken part in the advanced training; 11 became certified.

In closing, I want you all to know that the impact of your generosity goes beyond each attending child.  It reaches scholars, who take their knowledge into the community to aid other children who are on the wait list, or even those who are not even on the wait list yet.  These scholars also become sources of information, aid, help, and guidance within the community. They become beacons of light, when darkness surrounds concerned parents.  They help the expansion of education about dyslexia, so more people are aware.  All of the things you may never view or possibly hear about, but I can attest that all of these things happen.  I have seen firsthand how many individuals and families can be affected by one trained individual.  The impact is vast.  You cannot put a price on the value of that.

Joseph and his proud mother and tutor, Alyssa

Joseph took the time to share what he has gained as a student at the Central New York Children’s Dyslexia Center, and the strategies for learning that resonated with him. Below are just a couple of things he had to say at the Sept. 27 event, where he received a standing ovation:

At this point, I don’t really remember what life was like before I attended the Children’s Dyslexia Center.  I feel like I caught up with everyone else, and now I’m capable of attending a grammar and writing program that is intense.  It is not easy, but I persevere

The vocabulary began as a painful challenging chore, but I used strategies that I learned at the Center to aid me. My mom put the vocabulary words on sticky notes with the definition on each stair, so every time I went up the stairs, I had to trace out the word, say the word and read the definition.  There were words on every stair for two flights, and each time I wanted to play legos in the attic, I had to trace and read words on every stair.  Although it was a tedious task, I memorized all of my vocabulary words.

When I reflect back to a time before the Center, if someone had told me that these would be my achievements, I would never had believed them!  Thank you for the impact that you all have had on my life.  I really appreciate it. 

Reprinted with the permission of: TRUSTEES OF THE MASONIC HALL AND ASYLUM FUND. Edited by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York for the members of the Masonic Fraternity and their families: