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Conversations with the Inspiring Kathy Denious

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathy Denious.

Kathy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My older son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2004. The world of autism was very new to me. I began attending parent groups and staying up late reading anything I could get my hands on regarding treatment. I attended autism, social skills, and educational conferences. My son began occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and vision therapy. He attended various social skills groups.

When he was in elementary school, I began volunteering at his school. I was concerned that other children would treat him differently, which they did. I wanted to understand what his day was like so I could advocate for him and help him to acquire the skills he would need in order to socialize well with his peers.

While volunteering at his school, I worked with small groups, mostly children with learning differences, and I developed a passion for it. In 2010, I decided that this is my life’s work and returned to school. I attended Arizona State University and obtained a master’s degree in education with a concentration in special education.

Following graduation, I began teaching in public schools. I developed skills writing IEPs, objectives, and goals. I learned about assistive technology and multi-sensory teaching methods. I also began tutoring children with autism, dysgraphia, dyslexia, and other learning challenges during the evenings and weekends. I loved it!

I quickly realized that working one-on-one with students produced positive and significant changes in a short amount of time. I also realized that it is vital to create a relationship of trust with each student, ensuring that the student experiences a safe, anxiety-free environment. Making sure my students felt good about themselves and had successes every day (however small) became my priority. When a child feels safe without fear of being bullied or shamed, learning becomes easy.

In 2014, I began teaching privately full-time. I believe every child is capable of learning. Children who learn differently often struggle and my goal is to build a trusting relationship with your son or daughter and help him or her to acquire a passion for learning. Working with your child, I will find what inspires and motivates them and design supplemental or primary lesson plans suited to their interests, skills, and abilities. No matter the nature of your children’s challenges or differences, I want to find a way to help them unlock their potential and believe in themselves and their ability to succeed.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I found it challenging to find the time to learn and be trained to teach students with a wide variety of learning differences. I did this while working full-time and raising my family. It was important for me to understand the challenges each of my students face, so I learned various teaching methods for specific learning disabilities. For example, phonemic awareness methods for children with dyslexia; executive functioning training for students with ADHD; and social skills training for students with autism.

I also attended professional development classes to learn how to support students who learn differently. I attended Landmark School’s Summer Institute for Educators in Boston and I found it challenging to leave my children while I attended these training courses. Over time, I found a few courses online as well as local conferences that didn’t take me away from my family as long or as often.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
As I mentioned above, I hold a Master of Education in Special Education from Arizona State University.  I work as a private teacher for students with learning differences. Most of my current students have dyslexia, autism, ADHD or language-based learning disabilities.  

I use research-based instructional practices for all levels of learning disabilities. I design an individual curriculum for each students’ learning style and provide resources to assist with mastering the content, including the use of assistive technology and virtual reality. I teach complete courses for reading, math, grammar, writing and social studies (K-8), complete courses for Algebra, Geometry, English (9-12), one-on-one reading tutorials, academic tutoring, and executive functioning skills. I am trained in the Lindamood-Bell Phoneme Sequencing Program for Reading, Spelling, and Speech, and I specialize in the use of a multi-sensory approach to teaching.  Some of my proudest moments are receiving feedback from neuropsychologists that my student’s dyslexia is remediated or getting a text message from a parent saying their son or daughter finally loves learning.

Looking back on your childhood, what experiences do you feel played an important role in shaping the person you grew up to be?
I grew up in a small town in Indiana. I was one of five children and spent most of my days playing with my siblings. My youngest brother struggled in school. I remember watching my mom spend hours trying to teach him to read. I remember the arguments that she had with my father when the school decided to hold him back a year. I remember wondering why my brother struggled to learn, and more importantly, why the school couldn’t help him.  

My brother has since been diagnosed with dyslexia. It wasn’t labeled dyslexia in the 80’s and there weren’t specific teaching methods to help him. I think that if he were born in this generation, things would have been very different for him.

When we talk now, I tell him about assistive technology like Audible, text-to-speech, and all the wonderful apps available to help him read. He’s a very proud man and has a difficult time talking to me about this. I know that many adults struggle with dyslexia and don’t seek help. I wish they would. I think it would change their life.

Last week, I received a call from a young man in Tucson. He was attending Pima Community College and he can’t read. He asked me if I would teach him phonics. It took a lot of courage for him to reach out for help and I admire him for that.

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1 Comment

  1. Claudia Reyna

    March 23, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Thank You for writing an article on Kathy! We live in Tucson and have been working with Kathy since August. She is AMAZING! My daughter has learned SO much with Kathy’s wonderful teaching skills. Thank You for sharing this gem with Phoenix!

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