The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 17, 2013

New reading therapy program helps struggling Ashtabula County students

By STACY MILLBERG - For the Star Beacon
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Shaunna Chiacchiero and Lisa Vavpetic are no strangers to helping students, but their newest venture will allow them to really make a difference in the lives of struggling students.

Chiacchiero, a school psychologist, and Vavpetic, a school specialist, have partnered together to create Reading Solutions, an intensive and explicit reading therapy program for students in grades kindergarten through 12. The program is geared toward helping students with reading deficits ranging from mild to severe forms such as dyslexia, Vavpetic said.

Vavpetic brings to the program specialized training she received while working at a school in the Cleveland area. The school was designed specifically for at-risk students, she said. She was introduced to Chiacchiero when she moved into the area.

Reading Solutions utilizes three methods to help students read better: The Wilson Reading Method, Phono-Graphix and Primitive Reflex Method. By using the three different methods, Vavpetic and Chiacchiero are able to asses each student individually and taylor the program to meet a student’s specific needs.

The Wilson Reading Program is a highly structured remedial program that directly teaches the structure of the language to even the most challenged readers. Phono-Graphix is a suitable method for children who have problems with memory. Primitive Reflex therapy uses balance and movement therapy based on the concept of primitive reflexes that persist beyond a child’s first year of life.

“We are taking the best of the best and combining it almost in a prescripitive way for what works best for each student,” Vavpetic said. “Our mission and goal is to use our 20-plus years’ experience to help students not only grow but give them the tools they need to excel. You can’t put a price on that.”

Vavpetic said the ability to read is the key and both women say they started Reading Solutions because the number of students who can’t read is on the rise.

“Reading Solutions gives specialized results with long-term effects,” Vavpetic said. “Once they have it, they have it for life.”

The program combines neurological therapy and the reading process, Chiacchiero said.

“By combining the two paradigms, we are able to make strides in less time,” she said.

Chiacchiero said the best part of the program is when the students have that “A-Ha” moment and they realize they can do it.

“Their grades improve and their self-esteem improves,” she said.

Chiacchiero and Vavpetic make the program fun for students.

“We do it in a way that is fun,” Vavpetic said. “They don’t even realize they’re learning.”

The program can help students with various learning disabilities including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), inattentive students, students with neurological and auditory deficiency disorders and just the average student who is struggling, Vavpetic said.

Because the program is so individualized, some students can make a year’s growth in as little as 10 weeks, she said. Those results are not average; however, Vavpetic said generally after a year with the program, a student will see between three to five years’ growth. Those results are consistent with parent involvement, she said.

The program is offered through the Jefferson Community Recreation Center, but Vavpetic and Chiacchiero also have space available in Ashtabula if it is needed. Students can enroll in the program through referrals from their school district or their parents can enroll them.

“Parent commitment is crucial,” Vavpetic said.

Each student receives an assessment to see if he or she meets the criteria for the program. After that is determined, both long-term and short-term goals will be set and a plan will be mapped out. Each student will be tested throughout the program and the program will be adjusted as they go through. The program will be tailored to the parents’ and individual student’s desires and needs, Vavpetic said.

Vavpetic knows first-hand what the students are going through.

“I am ADHD and dyslexic,” she said. “It feels like people are talking and you can’t hear what they are saying. I would not be a reader if not for my mother and father doing everything they could for me.”

Vavpetic said between her and Chiacchiero, it is amazing what they can do for these students who are struggling.

Reading Solutions is the only program in Ashtabula County that combines both neurological therapy and the reading process.

“It is a great alternative for parents who can’t afford the price tag of a Sylvan or who don’t want to drive,” Chiacchiero said.

The cost of the initial assessment is $40, which will be rolled into the 10-week program cost if the student meets the criteria. Chiacchiero and Vavpetic are looking both day and evening options for the summer.

For more information and to set up and assessment, contact Vavpetic at 440-477-9976 or Chiacchiero at 440-812-4050.