We are Gail and Denton Kurtz, who have been married for over 46 years. Both are educators, Gail a master teacher and educational trainer, Denton a Licensed and National Board Certified School Psychologist and Mental Health Counselor/Psychotherapist and educational trainer. For many years we operated The Kurtz Center. It was born out of care, frustration, a desire for real change, and a philosophy based on “can do,” not “can’t do.” Even with the finest teachers and great effort, most people who have shown moderate to severe learning difficulties never had their problems remedied. This was the case even though they had received individual instruction, help from aides, extraordinary help from parents, tutoring, or even special program placement. Because of this failure and the amount of money, time and energy spent, several conclusions by educators and their helpers are presently being assumed.
These assumptions are:
- There are many people who will never learn to read through phonics.
- Because they can’t learn phonics, teach them a “sight” approach and/or through “whole language.”
- Nothing will help poor spellers except “spell check” or a secretary.
- Those who comprehend easily are born with the ability and others are not.
- Reading comprehension is difficult to train.
- Forcing yourself to read and read consistently is all you need to be a good reader.
- A lot of people, especially those with LD problems, just cannot and will not be able to express themselves through speaking or writing.
- For a lot of people, especially girls, math is hard and will always be hard.
- Intelligence cannot be trained.
The most pervasive assumption:
- “Once learning disabled, always learning disabled”, which suggests that there is little or no hope for remediation and that compensatory strategies and special accommodations are the only affective assists.
We have learned through one success after another that none of these assumptions are true!
Before we opened the Kurtz Center, we had heard of only one program that had any evidence of its working. The general information contained in the book, Making the Words Stand Still, by Dr. Donald Lyman, seemed to make sense, and the teachers, parents, and children who had experienced the program were enthusiastic. This was the first program to be offered at the Kurtz Center. In the four years we used it, we had many successes. We found, however, that it had shortcomings, which included a lack of individualization that essentially made it a shot gun approach (a lot of everything for everybody whether they needed it or not).
We found that the best we could do, even with above average or gifted learners, with this one program, was to get them to grade level. This was better than anything else we knew of, but it was just not good enough. We discovered that phonetic word attack problems were rampant, but that the method we were using mostly circumvented phonics training with an in-depth “sight” memory approach. Its phonics component was largely unsuccessful. We also learned that the author’s reference to “making the words stand still” could partly be explained by a new discovery called “Scotopic Sensitivity Irlen Syndrome”, which can be alleviated by colored filters, and by another recent finding called “Disorientation”.
By keeping an open mind and through serendipity, we found the programs of the Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes® Center, of which we are in no way affiliated*, and of those accumulated and developed by Joan Smith, Ed.D. at the Melvin-Smith Learning Center (author of You Don’t Have to be Dyslexic). Pat and Charles Lindamood discovered the major factor in reading difficulties/disabilities (phonemic or phonological awareness) and found a way to remedy the problem to a person’s ability level. Nanci Bell® discovered why people have challenges in vocabulary development, reading and listening comprehension, and oral and written expression, and designed programs to remedy them.
Phyllis Lindamood developed a program to enhance auditory and visual to motor development and handwriting difficulties. Kimberly Tuley, in conjunction with Lindamood-Bell®, understood what causes math computation and reasoning difficulties (including word problems), and developed a program to remedy them.
Joan Smith, through years of experience and experimentation developed unique methods and incorporated the work of Lindamood®, Bell®, and others who had developed ways of training the brain to function in ways that do not come naturally.
Gail and Denton Kurtz, with some key members of the Kurtz Center staff, have learned from these and other masters and have developed several unique programs as well as enhanced the development of others. The Kurtz Center, which maintained total independence from other centers or systems, had a large repertoire of successful multisensory programs from which to choose. A successful Individual Educational Plan can be developed to remediate any form of learning difficulty.
Our individualized treatment plans hold the keys to academic success, personal fulfillment, and self-esteem for persons with mild to severe learning challenges. We want to share them with people, and we want to train and/or consult with those who wish to succeed at implementing these programs for persons of all ages.
Attempts have been and are being made throughout the world to identify and remediate Learning Disabilities.
We have been a part of this in the public schools in the past, and from 1986 to 2006 through a private clinic/center called The Kurtz Center. Our center was located next to Orlando, in Maitland, Florida and later in Winter Park. Since 1986 we have discovered ways to identify and successfully remediate specific subtypes of these things called Learning Disabilities. We felt that the world needs to know that success is now available. We are not the only clinic/center to have achieved such extraordinary success, but unfortunately there are only a few presently available.
A definition of Learning Disabilities which comes via the U.S. Congress Public Law 94-142: Education for All Handicapped Children Act is:
Specific Learning Disabilities A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.
Such disorders include such conditions as perceptual handicaps, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Such term does not include children who have learning problems, which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor handicaps, or mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH)describes learning disabilities as:
A disorder that affects people’s ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain.
These limitations can show up in many ways — as specific difficulties with spoken and written language, coordination, self-control, or attention. Such difficulties extend to schoolwork and can impede learning to read or write, or to do math.