Former teacher finds answers to child’s reading delay

Missy Purcell is a former Gwinnett County Public School elementary teacher with three children. Her first two children are fluent readers, but her third child, Matthew, has struggled.

“I was told repeatedly that he’s young for his age,” Purcell said.

He was moved along each year from kindergarten through first and second grades making very little progress toward becoming an efficient reader.

Purcell did what many parents do, she requested intervention for her son. Slow to materialize, by third grade he was exposed to a form of “Structured Literacy” in a pilot program. For the first time Matthew made progress. Then COVID hit.

To compound the challenge of remote learning, the school removed Matthew from the pilot program in fourth grade because of the progress he’d made the previous year. Yet Matthew was still not reading fluently.

By this point Purcell took a friend’s advice and had him evaluated outside the school by an educational psychologist. Not only was Matthew diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia, but she said Matthew stated his “greatest goal in life is to learn to read.”

Having trusted the school system, Purcell felt she’d let her son down. He had become angry and exhibited all the physical symptoms of school anxiety, stomach aches and headaches.

That’s when they took him to visit the Sage School in Suwanee.

With a six student to one teacher ratio, Sage School employs the Structured Literacy method called the Orton-Gillingham Approach along with STEAM and drama to help students find success.

The school is in high demand. So much so they are expanding to a new location at 2435 Tech Center Parkway in Lawrenceville. With 90 students currently, the school hopes to double in size over the next few years.

“The demand in Gwinnett and our surrounding areas is great and we are honored to teach the next generation to become successful both in and out of the classroom,” said Angela Patton, Sage School founder and director of strategic development.

For Matthew, his whole world has changed in just 9 months. School anxiety and anger are gone, replaced with a newfound confidence in his ability to read.