Homework can be a battle for some children and parents. More than just disinterest, many children struggle with the concepts. Those parents are often left reteaching topics, helping students navigate nightly homework and battling their child to complete their school assignments. That’s where the Murray Center for Behavioral Wellness can help. The Southfield-based center tests students for dyslexia and ADHD and helps parents find assistance for their children.
Dr. Sarah Murray runs the Murray Center for Behavioral Wellness, which is staffed with a pediatric neuropsychologist and four therapists. Three of the clinicians specialize in dyslexia diagnosis and treatment. There are also therapists to provide treatment for anxiety disorders or other mental health challenges.
Dyslexia is often misunderstood and underdiagnosed, Murray says. It is not reading backwards or a vision issue like many think. Rather dyslexia is an inefficiency in the reading process that makes decoding and comprehension difficult for the child.
Parents and teachers often realize the child is struggling and reach out for help.
“We are one of the few centers that specialize in dyslexia. A lot of people don’t know what they are looking at when it comes to dyslexia. They know something is going on, they just don’t know what it is,” Murray says.
Dyslexia, she adds, is often diagnosed in first through fourth grade. Parents and teachers may see that students recognize words one day, but not the next. They are slow and inconsistent in learning letter-sound associations. They often confuse commons words and have frequent reading errors. Many times, Murray says the kids struggle in school, act out and are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD – and it doesn’t get to the root of the issue.
“The work gets so difficult for the child and so laborious for them that they look distractible or off-task. It’s like sitting in a French class when you don’t speak French,” Murray says. “We dig deeper. We are looking for other reasons why they might be acting out or struggling.”
At the Murray Center for Behavioral Wellness, diagnosis and treatment begin with a day-long assessment.
“The parents would come in and talk with one of our clinicians and their child would participate in a full day of testing so we really look at how their brain functions,” Murray says. The child’s ability to read, memorize and learn are examined through interactive activities. “At the end of the testing, we give parents feedback on their child’s strengths and weaknesses. We talk about how to remediate it.”
The clinicians are able to give feedback to the parents the same day, which alleviates a lot of their anxiety. It also gives them the chance to meet with the parent and the child together and talk about what the results mean.
The Murray Center for Behavioral Wellness is set up with children in mind. Murray says the atmosphere is comfortable and inviting. There is also a therapy dog in the office every day for the children to lean on.
Murray said the testing isn’t stressful for the child and feels a lot like games and play. They use blocks, puzzles, memory games and other one-on-one, short, interactive tasks to evaluate the child.
“Once the child is diagnosed with dyslexia, we will send them to a specialized tutoring center to do the actual intervention. We recommend the Orton-Gillingham intervention, which is multisensory. We provide the information the tutoring center needs and the handover to make sure they can provide the most effective service to the student,” Murray adds.
Along with a tutor referral, the Murray Center can also help parents communicate with schools and get the appropriate accommodations for their children.
“We work with the teachers to provide an environment to help the child thrive. We tell them how the child learns best, whether they need extra breaks or fidget devices, or anything else they need to be successful in the classroom,” Murray says.
Clinicians follow the students as long as the parent requests, taking phone calls and emails, working with schools and doing reevaluations if needed.
Parents who want to have their children evaluated can call the Murray Center for Behavioral Wellness, no referral is required. Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance is also accepted at the Murray Center.
For more information, visit the Murray Center for Behavioral Wellness website or call 248-765-1795.