Fight Against Dyslexia Renewed

The News Tribune
Tuesday, September 14, 1993

Fight Against Dyslexia Renewed

Retired teacher opens center to battle disability

By Geoff Edgers, Staff Writer

Gertrude Webb faced of against dyslexia for the first time 56 years ago as a Boston Junior High School teacher. With the recent opening of her new center on South Street in Waltham, she aims to keep up the fight against this confounding learning disability.

The Webb International Center for Dyslexia will start by offering weekly workshops for parents, teachers, and pediatricians. Those attending will be taught how to help dyslexic children succeed in school and feel good about themselves.

“I was always challenged to help those that were hard to teach. If I could help these young people recognize that they had something to contribute, I could get them to stand on their own two feet,” Webb said.

Things have changed since her first confrontation with the disability. She was a first-year teacher at the time, handed an assignment by a young student that would change her life. The youngster’s poor grammar and abysmal spelling almost completely obscured an impressive grasp of logic and reasoning.

Webb spoke with the student privately. He told her to fail him like his other teachers. After being misunderstood for years, he had no confidence and expected to fail.

“Back in those days, one thought if you understood something, you could get it on paper,” Webb said. “Tragically, the kids who were suffering with it in the schools were always dumped into the lower-level classes.”

Since then, a lot has changed. Dyslexia, though still not fully understood, has been recognized and studied. People with the disability, who struggle with reading, writing, and sometimes speech, often thrive when working with music or art.

“My pleasure is seeing these people produce,” says Webb, who charges $35 for center memberships.

The Webb International Center for Dyslexia takes up two rooms in the basement of a South Street office building. Her problem solving sessions for parents, teachers, and pediatricians kick off today with a discussion titled, “Why does my child not like school?”

This latest venture comes after a career spent in many different educational roles. Webb has taught in Weston, developed curriculum for Polaroid, worked as a staff psychologist at Carney Hospital in Boston, served on Waltham’s School Committee for 18 years and was a director at Curry College.

After recently entering Curry’s early retirement program, she is glad to be working to help children with dyslexia.

“There’s much more understanding now, but it’s not all done,” Webb said.

And while she doesn’t know what happened to that student a half century ago, Webb knows she’ll never forget him. “I never saw this kid again, but he had stimulated my interest in the problem,” she said.