Owner of dyslexic learning center overcomes pandemic challenges to reach clients
The dyslexic brain is wired a bit differently from others. A child or adult with dyslexia can be as smart as the next person, and still have trouble with things such as letter sounds that make up words. As a result, the typical way reading and writing are taught does not work well for the person with dyslexia. A person with dyslexia learns differently and needs someone who has the skills to teach to those differences effectively.
That’s where Jaimee Szymanski comes in. A professional speech-language pathologist, she opened Dynamic Dyslexia and Speech in Weirton, West Virginia, in November 2019.
“We offer dyslexia diagnostics, tutoring, speech-language therapy, advocacy, consulting, continuing education, and community engagement presentations,” she said.
Pandemic presents obstacles to serving clients
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the nation. Like most states, West Virginia mandated many businesses to restrict hours or close entirely.
“We had to shut our doors a few months after opening,” Szymanski said. “All of the classes and presentations I was scheduled to give were canceled. The masks posed a challenge as it is difficult to conduct speech-language therapy without seeing each other’s mouths.”
Her business was too small to qualify for most of the relief loans created by the federal government. Family members pitched in to help cover expenses until Dynamic Dyslexia and Speech was able to reopen in May 2020.
“I was fortunate to be given several face shields to use during therapy sessions,” she said. “I began giving free, online presentations, which was a blessing because I was able to reach people who could not previously attend.”
Come in, we’re open for business
In 2021, West Virginia wanted to rouse support for the state’s businesses. The West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WV SBDC) created the “Come In, We’re Open” campaign (#WeAreOpenWV), which helps entrepreneurs spread awareness that they are still here and ready to do business. The effort also encourages West Virginians to show our support for our community’s businesses with purchases, social media engagements, and visits that comply with the health precautions recommended by the state and the business proprietors.
Szymanski learned about the campaign on social media.
“I joined the campaign because I’m proud to own a small business in West Virginia and was anxious to let everyone know that we are open,” she said. “Small businesses are important because they are personal. I am trying to make my community better: better for the people that currently live here and better for the next generation.”
A personal connection leads to a professional mission
Szymanski’s interest in dyslexia grew out of her family’s experiences.
“My interest in dyslexia began when my younger sister was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2008,” she said.
Szymanski earned her master’s degree in speech-language pathology from West Virginia University and has received specialized training on dyslexia through the University of San Diego. She is working toward a PhD in Education with a concentration in Educational Law.
She currently holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. ASHA is the nation’s leading professional, credentialing, and scientific organization for speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech/language/hearing scientists.
In addition, she holds membership in the West Virginia Assistive Technology Service Advisory Council and the Bright Solutions for Dyslexia Professional Referral List and Speaker’s Bureau. Szymanski has given presentations to teachers, students, parents, professional development groups, and community organizations.
Dyslexia diagnostic and tutoring services can be hard to find. Some families travel for five hours to get experienced help from Dynamic Dyslexia and Speech.
“Our mission is to help those with dyslexia by offering testing, tutoring, and advocacy services,” she said. “We aspire to raise awareness and educate professionals, parents, and the community. I stayed in West Virginia because this was where I was born and raised, and I wanted to see the children in my community and state be successful.”
Small business owners can also get involved with the “Come In, We’re Open” campaign by visiting wvsbdc.com/weareopenwv