The MSL Club is a four-day non-residential camp for children in Years 1 to 8 with, or at risk of, reading and spelling difficulties. Many, but not all, have dyslexia diagnoses.
Such kids can often feel a bit like a fish out of water in mainstream schools, especially if they don’t know other kids their age with similar difficulties.
It can be a great relief to meet many other kids just like them, learn and play together and form friendships.
The camp aims to help these children feel less isolated, and more supported and celebrated.
Program for kids
The 2018 MSL Club in Melbourne was held at St Joan of Arc PS in Brighton from 15-18th January.
Morning sessions for kids involve intensive structured literacy intervention for 2-3 hours. Here are some 2017 photos borrowed from their website to give you the idea.
The sessions are run by experienced teachers and therapists with Multisensory Structured Learning (MSL) training, many of whom could earn much more elsewhere, but sign up to help kids, learn from and share ideas with like-minded colleagues, and make the club a success.
Volunteer Speech Pathologists from Gameplan Education provided free assessments for some of the older kids.
“It was so wonderful to teach alongside like minded professionals and to see children who often find school a challenge engaged, enthusiastic and happy”, said Sarah Asome, a key organiser.
A variety of afternoon activities are designed to build children’s relationships and confidence at MSL Club.
I asked Sarah for a few photos of things club participants did this year for this blog post, and it seemed to include robotics and making giant towers, quel fun. They also had fairy floss and slushies lined up for the last day this year, though these were under threat from a planned power cut (this and local roadwork detours kept organisers on their toes).
Sessions for parents and professionals
MSL Club also runs a parallel information days for parents and teachers.
This year’s sessions were astonishingly good value at $75 for a whole day, including lunch and morning tea. The well-attended Parent Info Day agenda is here, and presenters’ slides will be available on the MSL Club website soon. They contain heaps of great information, of the type now also accessible via the great new Dyslexia Victoria Support website.
The Professional Info Day agenda, which included a session from yours truly (here depicted banging on about that Seidenberg book again) is here. Slides from the sessions will all soon be on the MSL website, if you’re kicking yourself for missing out.
MSL Club provided an opportunity to listen to educators and researchers in the field of dyslexia, dyscalculia, speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychology, as well as expert teachers and advocates. I learnt quite a lot from the other speakers, and the day I attended was also excellent for professional networking. A morning session about Emotional Intelligence on one of the other days also looked great, and again very affordable at $50.
Staff and volunteers
As well as MSL Club Director Kate Bertoncello (below left) and Educational consultant Sarah Asome (below right), key organisers included Kathryn White (next picture down, on left, in 2017), Christine Clancy (on right), and Lauren Segal and Michael Bertoncello (not pictured, sorry).
The world’s greatest supermums (two sterling examples of the species, Heidi Gregory and Gemma Crouch, are pictured below) volunteered on the resource table and lent a hand with afternoon activities, plus there were some volunteer first aiders on hand in case of (hopefully just) papercuts.
The professionals and key volunteers involved all went out to dinner together on Wednesday night, to kick back, catch up and talk about how to change the literacy-teaching world.
“All the hard work paid off, and even with the road closures and power outages, it was still such a rewarding and inspiring four days,” said Kate Bertoncello.
Congratulations to the amazing team that made it all happen. I just wish this project could get some government or philanthropic funding to allow families without much spare cash (e.g. from public housing estates) to still send their dyslexic kids along for a holiday boost.
MSL Club Sydney 2018 and Melbourne 2019
More MSL Clubs are planned for Sydney in October 2018 and Melbourne in January 2019, but if you’d like to enrol a student, you need to keep a sharp eye on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/mslclubaustralia to find out when registrations open, and get in quick.
It’s first come, first served, and in 2017 the MSL Club was booked out in 24 hours.
Photos in this blog post are from the MSL Club website and Facebook page, the Dyslexia Victoria Support Facebook page, Kate Bertoncello, Rosemary Fazio, Heidi Gregory, and Sarah Asome.