Ten years ago The Learning Center of North Texas (TLCNT) was a brand new nonprofit occupying two rooms on the campus of Hill School of Fort Worth. Now located in downtown Fort Worth, TLCNT is celebrating 10 years of helping children and adults who struggle with learning differences and disabilities by offering evaluations, resources, and hope, as well as providing guidance, training, and literacy support for their families, teachers, and community agencies.
In 1998 Hill School of Fort Worth initiated a long-range planning process involving parents,
Principal Lucille Helton, staff, board members, and community leaders who identified service gaps and areas of need regarding individuals with learning differences and disabilities in the greater Fort Worth community. An unmet need uncovered was for a resource center which could provide evaluations, diagnoses, parent/educator training/resources, and information on learning disabilities.
“Unless learning disabilities are identified early, diagnosed correctly and followed up by
appropriate medical, psychological, educational and social services, many of these individuals may be failures. The private sector must take the lead in this national challenge,” said the Learning Disabilities Association in 1998.
So, with the commitment of area philanthropists, education experts and community leaders,
Lucille Helton opened TLCNT in January 2001. To date TLCNT’s Pat & Don Williamson Evaluation Center has evaluated, diagnosed, and provided support and recommendations for over 1600 individuals with learning disabilities including dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder, memory problems, and other specific learning disabilities. Up to one third of individuals with learning disabilities also have attention deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder as a primary or secondary condition impacting their learning.
TLCNT has provided professional development based on current brain research to over 3600
Texas educators. The various training offered helps teachers differentiate their instruction to better accommodate and include students who struggle with specific learning disabilities, or who just have a different style of learning. Scientific research demonstrates that everyone’s brain is “wired differently”; therefore, people learn in different ways, requiring teachers to teach to the various learning styles in each classroom.
Dr. Leslie James, recently retired Assistant Superintendent at Fort Worth ISD, joined TLCNT as Executive DIrector in summer 2010. His extensive experience in public schools has helped Dr. James fully understand the impact and challenges associated with learning differences and disabilities. “It is so gratifying to be part of an organization that provides individuals, teachers and parents with the information necessary to demystify an individual’s learning problems, and more importantly, provide the tools everyone needs to ensure success at school, at home and at work.”
Learning disabilities arise from differences in brain structure and function and affect the brain’s ability to store, process or communicate information, says the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
Up to 15% of the US population is affected by some type of learning disability. In Tarrant County alone, up to 51,000 school-age children (between ages 5-18) are at risk of suffering from learning disabilities.
TLCNT’s evaluations emphasize individual strengths and weaknesses. A middle school student
came to TLCNT for an evaluation. He was receiving special education services, but his parents wanted further documentation of his strengths and weaknesses. He was not passing his classes at the time, and math was a particular problem. The upcoming TAKS test had his family concerned. TLCNT’s assessment indicated he was a smart young man with specific learning differences as well as ADHD. His self esteem was low, so the diagnostician had hoped the input regarding his strengths would be helpful to him.
Recently his mother called to confirm that her son is doing much better. In high school now, he is passing all classes and has achieved a high B average in Algebra. Because of his passing grades, he is playing sports. As his mom puts it, he is "feeling 10 feet tall." She always knew her son could do it, and she credited TLCNT for giving him the information, and confidence he needed to achieve success.
TLCNT’s programs also include services for adults for whom low-literacy is a barrier to education or employment. The Adult Services program works in partnership with community agencies to support individuals and to strengthen programs in Tarrant County by providing professional development, resources, instructional support, and program support.