Part I The Challenge of the Quest
Through its public service activities and its support of educational and medical research, The Orton Dyslexia Society works toward the day when every child and adult will have the opportunity to master language to the extent required for full participation in our culture. It was this goal which guided the life work of Sally Childs who was tireless in demanding that every teacher be taught to understand the language thoroughly so that every child may learn it well enough to lead a productive and satisfying life. To represent the countless teachers and members of this Society who remember her with admiration and affection, we have asked some of her close personal and professional associates to share their thoughts with us in the first part of this section, "A Tribute to Sally Childs." Here are recollections by Aylett R. Cox, Marion Welchman, Roger Saunders, Alice Koontz, and Margaret Rawson. Mary Lee Enfield's powerful keynote address at the Society's San Francisco Conference in 1987, "The Quest for Literacy," conveys a message Sally Childs would applaud by demanding that we reject the notion that functional illiteracy cannot be defeated. Enfield is a passionate believer in the power of well-trained caring professionals to make a difference, and her own work in Bloomington supports her conviction. From Germany Edith Klasen reports on a slowly changing climate among educators and researchers who not long ago rejected the concept of dyslexia entirely. With determination and commitment groups such as the Legasthenia Aid Circle and the Bavarian Dyslexia Association continue the quest for awareness, understanding, and appropriate treatment for German dyslexics. Her review reminds us that the issue is universal as is the need to work together to meet its challenges.
A Tribute to Sally Childs In 1962 Anna Gillingham sent Sally Childs, her colleague of 20 years, to Texas to help the Dallas Language Research and Training Program establish a teacher training center at the Hockaday School. Disappointed at first with the news that Anna herself was unable to come, I soon realized how lucky we were in her replacement. Sally proved to be a brilliant, vigorous, charming, exciting lady who ultimately became my role model, my inspiration, my mentor, my friend. Sally and her handsome English-professor husband, Ralph, spent six months each year in Dallas for the next five years. Sally helped us to develop a precise, multisensory, Orton-Gillingham curriculum for teaching the skills of written language to groups of severely blocked dyslexic students and their teachers, hundreds of whom sought our help when we moved in 1965 from The Hockaday School to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Dallas. Sally's four major educational principles were: exacting, demanding emphases on precise, thorough, logical, sequenced, multisensory teaching; insistence on the importance of presenting all new learning through discovery, both for permanency and for students' enjoyment; persistence in urging the development of criterion-referenced tests, to prove students' progress as well as to attest to teachers' accountability; demonstration of the need to break every process into small manageable steps so that dyslexics could permanently absorb each. These principles became the cornerstones of the Alphabetic Phonics curriculum which was specifically designed by an interdisciplinary team (under the direction of Dr. Lucius Waites) to provide permanent literacy for over one thousand dyslexics through small-group teaching. Spelling was Sally's special interest. Among other valuable publications, she wrote Sound Spelling in an effort to make the teaching of spelling more reliable and scientific. Her work inspired us and barely preceded the United States government's publication of Paul Hanna's computer count of the Thorndyke list of the most commonly used words in English. This count corroborated that running English is predominately phonetic. In the Scottish Rite Language Laboratory we discovered that spelling is more easily mastered by dyslexic students when they can rely on automatic knowledge of the predominant possibilities. Sally assisted us in evolving the Instant Spelling concept and, indeed, the entire Alphabetic Phonics curriculum. So successful and far-reaching was Sally's influence that today the
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curriculum she inspired is thriving in five established teacher training centers: at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, in association with the Aylett Royall Cox Institute; at the Neuhaus Learning Center in Houston; at the Scottish Rite Learning Center of West Texas in Lubbock; at the Katheryne B. Payne Foundation in Oklahoma City; at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. Another Center is now developing in Michigan and still another in England. Sally Child's expertise, experience, knowledge, enterprise, and sustained interest in dyslexia were major factors contributing to the Texas legislation, passed in 1986. The law, enacted 25 years after she came to Dallas, mandates that all teachers recognize and treat dyslexia in the regular classroom. And this in a state where, in 1958, dyslexia was unrecognized and the word itself even resented in educational circles. Sally Childs was far more than my mentor and guide. In addition to her extensive professional impact on my life, she was a warm, loyal, intuitive, humane friend. Throughout the many travels and cruises which the Coxes shared with the Childses, her vast knowledge of the world, her interest in all people, her light-hearted and never-failing sense of humor made each experience a vivid memory: Orton meetings, especially those at Santa Barbara, Boston, and New York; cruises in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean; visits to Disney World and in the Childs' homes in Connecticut and Maine, and in the Coxes' homes in Dallas and Jacksonville, Texas. George Cox and I treasure the memory of every golden moment and shall especially never forget her warm, loving relationship with Ralph, which dominated her life. Sally told us in the early stages of our work together that others had developed valuable, shortened, adapted versions of the work of Dr. Orton and Anna Gillingham. All were valuable and were succeeding in helping numerous children. But no one yet, she believed, was upholding the complete, precise standard set by the originators, designed by them to retrain the most severely blocked students. Someone, somewhere, she stated, must adhere to, extend, and up-date their ideal. How grateful we are to Sally Childs for prodding, inspiring, encouraging, and helping us to realize that dream. Aylett R. Cox I was introduced to the work of Orton, Gillingham, and Stillman in my quest to unravel the problems caused by dyslexia. Soon the name of Sally Childs came to my attention. Hearing that she was holidaying in Bristol during the spring of 1966, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation my husband and I went to see her. Listening to Sally that first evening helped change many lives on this side of the Atlantic. Before leaving our first meeting I became convinced that parents and teachers concerned about children with specific learning difficulties would benefit by sharing and that we should have an organization to meet this need.
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In October 1966 the Bath Association for Dylsexia was born. Its aims: To establish the incidence and extent of Specific Language Disability (Dyslexia) To provide remedial treatment for children so that they may attain their full potential. How ambitious we were! But with Sally's great teaching contribution we made a start. Each Easter for the five years from 1969-1973 an intensive two-week course was attended by teachers wishing to learn how to deal with dyslexia. Sally directed each one and the teachers left with their exhilaration surpassing their exhaustion. Over the intervening years I listened to Sally's teachings, passed on to her students who regard their exposure to such a remarkable teacher as one of their most regarding experiences. Many children have benefitted and their opportunities in life have been enhanced as a result of her work in Bath. The British Dyslexia Association plans its first International Conference, Easter 1989, in the Bath College where Sally lectured. I think she would approve. Marion Welchman I shall always have a great admiration for my friend Sally Childs. I first met her w h e n she was Vice-President of the Orton Dyslexia Society, and her first speech was to review her travels, particularly the trip which she and Ralph had taken to Greece. In her speech she used the word "boustrophedon," and, sitting beside June Orton, she recognized my lack of vocabulary and quickly diagrammed "as the ox plows" with her finger. I was then to become Sally's Program Chairman when she became President, and therefore we worked closely together from then on until her death. Sally was an inspiration to all of us. She was very creative with her talents of teaching, yet held rigorously to the basic philosophy of Anna Gillingham. How often she would say, "If you can show me a better way, I'm willing to listen, but you will have to prove that it is better." She was scientific about the language, always searching for new patterns and logic and for simplification in order for dyslexic students to master the language better and faster. She was a multifaceted person and I always admired her and felt comfortable placing her in any group, for she could chat with mothers about draperies and home decorating and child rearing practices, yet in the higher professional ranks she could also ask provocative questions and offer challenging responses herself. Sally is greatly missed, for she continued to offer leadership and to
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share with others who could profit from her vast experiences. We are happy that in the Orton Office there is a portrait which will forever be a reminder of her leadership in the field of specific developmental dyslexia. Roger E. Saunders Those of us who knew Sally Childs well knew she was a Reactor. Listeners were never left wondering how she felt about events and issues. She felt rage that so many dyslexic students are still being lost in the administrative cracks of the very law designed to aid them. "We have the knowledge to help them, we've had it a long time, and we're still not doing the job!" She felt sadness that at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in the majority of colleges, the structure of our language is not a required course for future teachers, a requirement she considered essential if they are to teach both their regular and "irregular" students systematically. And she felt disappointment that there is no national board, as she dreamed of, to certify teachers in the techniques of Anna Gillingham. It is ironic that the origin of her own dyslexic problems will remain unknown, for her three strokes prevented her being a subject for the neuroanatomy research in Boston. However, she will long be a lively subject in discussions on dyslexia because of several practical writings she gave us and because of the many teachers she reached. Alice Koontz Sight unseen, I feel confident in agreeing with the many statements that will accompany mine in praise of the admirable and lovable aspects of the life and character of Sally Childs. Anecdotes will come to mind illustrating most of them from my own experience, as our first meeting in 1951 ripened into productive work together and a warm and especially valued friendship. In addition to underlining everyone else's words, I should like to celebrate Sally's helpfulness to novices w h o needed her. I was in a particularly fortunate position to observe this side of Sally's contribution to us all as she gave me both direct and subtle training as her vice-presidential assistant in the Orton Society and then bolstered my reluctant courage to follow her in its presidency. "Go ahead," said she. "I'll help you." She did, and give me a valuable pattern to follow when I, in turn, needed to prepare for the next succession. Her readiness to respond any time, even to a late night phone call, gave many a needed boost to confidence, along with practical information, wise counsel, and the feeling of a happy personal visit. Surprisingly often the needed information or idea was right at hand or she knew just where to turn for it. She never made me feel obligated to take her advice, although when I failed to do so, later events were very likely to make me wish I had. And so, just as she had learned from her teachers, not only to teach
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facts and skills, but how to communicate leadership roles and values, she passed these gifts along to the rest of us. She made us in fact, her deeply appreciative "cultural heirs," as she was proud to be Anna Gillingham's "professional heir," keeping open the channel to that special part of the future which is our common concern. Besides, sailing that or any other channel with Sally, and often with Ralph too, was likely to be a delightful, invigorating experience, an enrichment of life. Margaret Rawson