April 20, 2017

Tutor Spotlight: Heidi Thorstad, Dyslexia Specialist

In April 2017, we are highlighting Heidi Thorstad who is a dyslexia specialist and runs her own private practice tutoring center called Time for You Tutoring. Heidi is a former classroom teacher, homeschooling mother, and parent to a child who has dyslexia.

Here’s her story, presented in her own words.

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I’ve been an educator for over 20 years and have also homeschooled my 10-year-old triplets from the start.  So, teaching has always been a passion of mine.  I first became interested in learning about dyslexia when my son started to “hit a wall” as I was teaching him to read.

At the age of four, he was progressing at an age-appropriate pace as we began with a traditional phonics program.  Because he is a bright child and a hard worker, I had no reason to suspect his reading wouldn’t continue to improve.  However, by the age of seven, the time we spent working on reading, writing and spelling was bringing us both to tears daily.

I couldn’t understand why someone so bright with such an incredible amount of one-on-one attention couldn’t read.  I knew he was trying so hard too!  Nothing seemed to help.

One day, he brought me a handwritten note that said he loved my “ksisi and hogs” (kisses and hugs).  That’s when it hit me…he has a learning disability!  No matter how hard we worked, no matter how much time we invested, something was different about the way he was processing the information.

We took about six months off from ANY type of reading instruction. He got a subscription to Learning Ally and started reading age-appropriate audiobooks.  In that six-month time period, I worked on restoring our relationship and fostering a … tolerance … to reading.  I even hoped maybe he would start to enjoy books.

His transformation was magical and it’s no exaggeration to say that Learning Ally changed the course of his life forever!  He went from “hating” reading, to loving it (via audio books). 

During that same time period, I read everything I could about dyslexia and all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I started teaching my son using the Orton-Gillingham method and I am proud to say that after intense work, he has made great progress.  After seeing his amazing turn-around, I decided to get Orton-Gillingham certified so that I could help others who may have experienced the same frustration we did.

Professional Life

Approximately one year ago, I opened my own private practice tutoring center called Time for You Tutoring.  While I did enjoy my work in the past as a classroom teacher, I’ve found that the shift to working with learners one-on-one feels like a luxury.  I love having the opportunity to get to know my students better.   It’s a privilege to have these special relationships with kids who are so bright and creative and funny.  I also very much enjoy watching the transformation in my students’ self-confidence.

If you suspect your child is struggling with reading, don’t adopt a “wait and see” approach.  Of course, it’s never too late to learn to read and spell, but early intervention is important.  Seek out information:  talk to specialists, read appropriate books, ask your pediatrician for a referral to a neuropsychologist, talk to other parents who have “been there”…you will find the support you need!  Often times, especially when you first begin to gather information, the process can be overwhelming.  Don’t give up.  Just take one small step at a time.

In addition, when students start tutoring with me, they frequently comment on how much they dislike reading.  I encourage them to use Learning Ally not only for textbooks but for falling in love with audiobooks.  I stress that reading an audiobook is just as valid as reading a printed book.

It’s so exciting to watch a student blossom into a book lover!

Learning Ally LogoHeidi is Learning Ally’s April 2017 Tutor of the Month. To find out more about Learning Ally, a national nonprofit service people with dyslexia or visual impairment,  visit LearningAlly.org. To find out more about Heidi, visit her website TimeforYouTutoring.com.

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– Jules Johnson


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