UF Offers Summer Camps for Kids with Dyslexia

Above: UF Offers Summer Camps for Kids with Dyslexia.

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UF Offers Summer Camps for Kids with Dyslexia

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Angela McQueen couldn’t take the frustration much longer. She had tried everything she knew to help her only child, Genevieve Owens. But her bright, capable fifth-grader was still struggling with her schoolwork. Genevieve, 11, knew the material well but consistently scored zeros on tests. Homework that would take others less than an hour to complete would average her four hours each evening.

McQueen, 34, of Lake City, Fla., says the pattern appeared in first grade and progressively worsened. By 2007 Genevieve was used to failure and developed a hatred for school in general.

“Between phone calls with her teachers and in-person visits, I spent just as much time at her school as she did,” says McQueen, a courthouse researcher in Gainesville. “I’ve known for years that there was something wrong, but I didn’t know what to do.”

Last May, McQueen finally found help for her daughter at the University of Florida’s Speech and Hearing Center, located in Dauer Hall. Testing revealed a diagnosis of dyslexia. In the 11 months since, she’s received therapy with graduate speech pathology students in the center. The results, McQueen says, are tremendous. Genevieve’s reading has skyrocketed from a third-grade level to above sixth-grade. Her grades are among the best in her class. And, she loves going to school.

To address the needs of students like Genevieve, UF alumni Troy and Julianne Davis of Jacksonville have endowed a fund to create an annual summer camp for kids with dyslexia. While the center has offered a range of testing and therapy services for many years, this inaugural camp will provide an intensive summer program specifically for kids with dyslexia June 9-Aug. 6.

“We know this will help a lot of children in the community. But it will also help UF students training to be speech language pathologists in the center,” says Julianne Davis, a speech language pathologist. “I’ve worked with school systems and parents before. I’ve seen the look in their eyes. Some get lost in the system and don’t know where to go. The more resources out there for parents the better.”

The Davises’ endowment will ensure the camp can operate on an annual basis. There will be a nominal charge to enroll, but the endowment provides scholarships for needy students. The fund is comprised of the Davises’ $100,000 gift, plus an anticipated $50,000 match from the state. Troy Davis is the owner and asset manager of Incisive Equity Management in Jacksonville.

“Services that are going on here would cost any family a small fortune in the private sector and wouldn’t be accessible for lower socioeconomic families,” says Chris Sapienza, chair of UF’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “That’s why the Davises are establishing scholarships.”

McQueen recalls her struggle to find such services for her daughter. It didn’t help that neither she nor Genevieve’s teachers knew what to look for. Only after testing did a doctor suspect dyslexia and refer her to UF’s Speech and Hearing Center.

“My daughter has wanted to be a veterinarian all her life. I used to tell her that college would be so hard for her because of all the reading and writing her courses would demand,” McQueen says. “But thanks to the center, she’s going to be just fine now. I know she’ll accomplish whatever she wants to do.”

McQueen plans to spread the word about UF’s testing and therapy services.

“It’s so important for parents to know that the testing is there for them,” she says. “The program can help … not just with reading, comprehension and math, but with their self-esteem, too. Image — the kids’ image of themselves — means a lot when it comes to education and learning,” says McQueen.

To learn more, or to register for the camp, contact Cassie Mobley at the Speech and Hearing Clinic, (352) 392-2041, ext. 277. Those wishing to contribute to the summer camp fund can contact Norman Portillo at the UF Foundation by calling (352) 846-3639.



Liesl O’Dell


Chris Sapienza, (352) 273-3712


Jim Brekke

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