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$1 million grant helps fund dyslexia program at Sewickley center

Bobby Cherry
| Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, 2:18 p.m.

With a waiting list of children whose families seek support for dyslexia, a $1 million grant from a Sewickley Heights couple couldn't have come at a better time for Laughlin Children's Center, its director says.

The Sewickley-based educational nonprofit received the donation from Bob and Joan Peirce of Sewickley Heights, Executive Director Doug Florey said this week. A gift from the couple two years ago funded the creation of the dyslexia program at Laughlin.

The $1 million — the largest grant in Laughlin's 60-year history — is set to be given over 10 years and will allow the program be sustained, Florey said.

In a statement, the Peirces said they chose to fund the program to help serve more children. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that affects the way the brain processes information; it can result in difficulty reading, speaking, writing or spelling.

“Throughout our region there are many children with dyslexia who are on waiting lists for tutoring and counseling services — services that are not widely available due to a shortage of certified dyslexia instructors and facilities available to provide the help these children so desperately need,” the Peirces said.

The money will allow the center to offer lower tuition and increase available financial aid for the program, Florey said.

It also will spur a partnership with Robert Morris University in Moon, which will begin offering a Orton-Gillingham teacher training program, also underwritten in part by the Peirces.

Created in the 1930s, the Orton-Gillingham Approach focuses its reading instruction with a multisensory approach, Florey said.

With few teachers certified in the Orton-Gillingham Approach, Laughlin Dyslexia Program Coordinator Amy Jackson said the grant will help grow the number of educators able to help.

“There are probably hundreds of struggling readers in our area who could benefit from this one-on-one, structured, multisensory intervention,” she said.

Florey said the donation will help continue providing support to a portion of the learning and development services offered at Laughlin.

“We have all of our other programs that still need support,” Florey said. “It takes a pretty special couple to do something like this. Laughlin is really lucky because we have hundreds of donors who support us. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without every single one of those other donors, too.”

Bobby Cherry is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rcherry@tribweb.com.

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