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In 1958, Frances McGlannan set out on a now historical quest into the world of the child with specific reading/language-based learning difficulties, into the world of DYSLEXIA.
Frances McGlannan’s goal was to meet the needs of every child in each subject, in an ungraded program, rather than the lockstep approach of traditional education. Utilizing her own academically creative energy and scientific bent, she employed specific multisensory techniques, previously reserved for the blind and the deaf, to teach the dyslexic child.
With the production of an entire linguistic curriculum, unavailable commercially at the time, McGlannan School was founded in 1964. Proof that multisensory teaching techniques can be effectively adapted to the classroom was established. Compensatory teaching strategies to assist the student with auditory and visual processing deficits were also employed.
Articles regarding the school and its methods have been published by the Journal of Learning Disabilities, Time, Newsweek, Saturday Review and other publications including Hispanic publications in South America. Harper and Row published a detailed chapter on McGlannan School describing, in addition to the program, special environment factors built into the school building.
Today, McGlannan School remains in full operation as an academically rigorous educational Facility.
A seven-year-old crushed by classic symptoms of dyslexia was the catalyst that sent Frances McGlannan to the Public Library looking for answers. Serendipity intervened when she found Dr. Samuel Orton’s original text. There in print was recognition of the unusual symptoms observed plus a rationale. Appalled by the lack of information available, Frances McGlannan’s vision, boundless energy, and scientific bent went into high gear. Eight years of research and observation while tutoring at the University of Miami Reading Clinic, as well as the study of European professionals journals, resulted in the following:
- The development of new multisensory teaching methods with an associative component.
- Adaptation of methods used to teach the blind and the deaf to teaching dyslexics.
- Production of a linguistics curriculum, commercially unavailable at the time.
- Establishment of an academically successful school with a unique scheduling system for the delivery of individualized teaching techniques and methods for each student.
- Proof that multisensory techniques can be used effectively in a group setting.
- Demonstrating that the dyslexic child can achieve success.
Norman Cousins, while visiting South Florida, developed a keen interest in McGlannan’s work. A cover story was published in Saturday Review followed by Time, Newsweek, and other diverse publications. Approximately 15,000 requests for information were subsequently received. Frances McGlannan made extensive audio-visual presentations at national and state conferences to educators, psychologists, and medical personnel.
These presentations extended over a period of 18 years with high points in Boston, New York, Chicago, Memphis, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. She was appointed to the Florida Advisory Committee for Exceptional Education for seven years and numerous statewide committees for ten years. She worked diligently to further that cause of teaching disabled children in the public school system.
Also, Frances McGlannan was appointed by the State of Florida to represent and speak for the parents of Florida at United States Senate hearings. These hearings resulted in the passage of the Expanded Handicapped Child Act.
Following her two-year tenure (1976-1977) as the President of Florida Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (ACLD), now known as Learning Disabilities Association (LDA), the Association Board established the Frances McGlannnan Scholarship.
The Scholarship was awarded annually to a student pursuing graduate work in learning disabilities at any university within the Florida state system. A work of enduring value was McGlannan’s role in the establishment of the Journal of Learning Disabilities. At the request of Dr. Fineberg (National Institute of Mental Health), she met with Martin Topaz, the owner of the professional Press. Her objective to convince Mr. Topaz of the need for a Journal in the new field of learning disabilities. Their meeting was a success, and the journal was established in 1967.
In the late1970’s, the Journal was sold to an educational publisher, Pro-Ed, and continues today. Among Mrs. McGlannan’s many duties for the Journal of Learning Disabilities was the establishment of an office in Geneva, Switzerland. After professional visits to seven European countries and the Soviet Union to explain the new to foreign professionals, she gained support for the journal’s editorial board. Frances McGlannan was Editor of “Research of Interest” for six years while acting as an advisor for the new Journal.
During the 1980s, reflecting the ethnic diversity in Florida, the emphasis was on disseminating information to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Articles about dyslexia and McGlannan teaching methods appeared in Buenhogar (Spanish version of Good Housekeeping) and Vanidades (similar to Vogue); on Spanish television documentaries for South America and in-house training of tutors from these countries. The vision of Frances McGlannan, as delineated in the initial quotation, remains clear and thriving to this day through the dedication of Frances McGlannan herself and the entire McGlannan School staff. Frances McGlannan’s achievements are recognized today in the foyer of the International Dyslexia Association Headquarters in Towson, Maryland.