Catching Up with Julianne Masser, Ph.D.

Posted: 11/05/2020 - 4:14pm

Still Succeeding with Dyslexia

In Succeeding with Dyslexia, we introduced Julianne Masser, a Ph.D. student in the School Psychology program at the University of Oregon, who was diagnosed with dyslexia in the 1st grade. We caught up with her and want to report that she is still succeeding with Dyslexia!

Question: What are you doing now? 

Answer: I finished my PhD in June 2020 and I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at Lee Pesky Learning Center (LPLC) in Boise, Idaho. As you may remember from the video in 2017, LPLC is where I received my dyslexia diagnosis in 1997. I work as both a clinician and research scientist. In my clinical work, I focus on conducting comprehensive psychoeducational evaluations and engaging in differential diagnosis. At LPLC we focus on a population of students struggling with learning and attention challenges, however, we evaluate across all areas of social-emotional health and self-regulation. In my empirical work, I work with LPLC CEO, Evelyn Johnson, EdD, to advance our understanding of the active ingredients of effective assessment and intervention for students with learning differences. I am in the process of drafting single-case pilot studies and disseminating research on LPLC's self-regulated learner model. I hope to continue this work as both an applied clinician and researcher throughout my career.

Julianne Masser at graduationJulianne Masser in cap and gown

Question: Are you still passionate about teaching kids to read? 

Answer: Yes! I continue to be very passionate about teaching students to read. During my graduate studies and fellowship at the UO Center on Teaching and Learning (CTL), I learned a lot about how to provide technical assistance for evidence-based reading instruction at the broad school, district, and state-level. In my postdoctoral work, I am learning more about intensive individualized instruction for students with severe and persistent academic difficulties. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about both evidence-based core reading instruction and highly-individualized tier 3 intervention for students with learning disabilities.

Question: Now that you are helping students who have dyslexia more directly, do you have any new insights, or feelings about how you approach instruction, or the kind of advice you give to students who are struggling with reading?

Answer: While there are some inherent differences between intervention approaches for general and special education contexts, I am emboldened in my belief that all children need access to high-quality explicit instruction regardless of their diagnosis! Students with dyslexia benefit from the same evidence-based reading instruction/approaches that research supports for the general education environment. The importance of systematic phonics instruction (with a solid scope and sequence) with modeling, mediated scaffolding, practice opportunities (including lots of review), and corrective feedback hold true across all contexts! We know what works, but we have to keep pushing to see it consistently implemented in and outside of school contexts. I continue to be passionate about practice-based research.

Having spent a majority of the 2019-2020 academic year in direct service delivery with students at LPLC with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and AD/HD, I continue to be inspired by the raw self-determination and perseverance of students with learning disabilities. I am encouraged not only by the students themselves, but also the families who advocate for their children and the teachers who teach them.

Consistent with my thoughts in 2017, I continue to believe that "struggling with reading" when you are a young child builds life skills in self-advocacy, self-awareness, and resilience. It also helps children develop coping mechanisms for managing anxiety, negative self-talk, and low self-esteem. While no one wants to experience sadness or insecurity, especially at a vulnerable point in childhood, these early experiences helped me develop determination and the ability to respond to adversity. Students with LD are forced to work harder than their peers at an early age. And while this does not feel fair when you're 6-years-old and spending hours memorizing sight words, studying spelling words, or attending extra intervention, these experiences make later long-term goals (whether academic, athletic, or emotional) easier to achieve.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my personal journey with dyslexia and celebrate the determination of all children with learning difficulties during October's Dyslexia Awareness month. 


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