By Elana Warsen

Shyla Puelston has always been committed to helping her children achieve their goals, but when her oldest son Gavin showed signs of dyslexia, she wasn’t sure how to help him. Shyla sought support from Great Minds Learning Center and found more than just tutoring services for Gavin. She also gained empowerment to help her entire family cope with the effects of dyslexia.


Dyslexia has been part of Shyla’s family for generations. Her father is dyslexic, and so are three of Shyla’s five children.

“My dad didn’t get help when he was young and didn’t understand what the problem was until he was forty,” Shyla says. “To this day he can’t spell.”

Fortunately, the future looks brighter for Shyla’s children. With help from Great Minds Learning Center, Gavin, Delainey, and Camden are learning and achieving their goals.

Shyla and her husband Jeremiah first sought help from Great Minds Learning Center in 2012 when their son Gavin was in second grade. Gavin had struggled academically since preschool, showing little improvement despite hard work at school and at home.

“The interventions offered at the school were not benefitting him,” says Shyla. “He’s very smart. Yet he had to be pulled out of the classroom during class time to do an intervention that wasn’t working. At home we would practice more when he was already sick of trying to learn. He would get upset and I would get upset. It was very frustrating.”

Finally, a math assignment provided insight into Gavin’s difficulty. Asked to write numbers 1-100 in sequence, Gavin produced a paper with errors characteristic of dyslexia.

“I looked at Gavin’s math assignment where he had written 1-100 in sequence and all of the numbers were written backwards and reversed.” Shyla recalls. “There was a definite pattern to the mistakes.”

Suspecting dyslexia, the Puelstons decided to contact Great Minds Learning Center Director Marianne Jylha for her expert opinion.

“Marianne met with Gavin and she told us he has a pretty severe case of dyslexia,” says Shyla, who enrolled Gavin in twice weekly tutoring sessions. “The difference is in Marianne’s program. Unlike the school intervention, Great Minds’ intervention is designed to address dyslexia.”

The results were almost immediate.

“Gavin started tutoring with Marianne at the end of October,” Shyla recalls. “We noticed by January or February, ‘Wow, he’s picking up on the skills!’ It was kind of cool to watch it happen. He started out at a beginning to middle kindergarten level and quickly caught up to grade level.”


At the same time that Gavin was learning about math and reading, his parents were learning about dyslexia.

“It makes so much sense now with what we have learned about dyslexia. All of the things that Gavin did as a kid—Marianne explained that they are common traits of dyslexic kids. He couldn’t tie his shoes when he was little. He never crawled,” she says. “She also told us it can be hereditary, which we didn’t know.”

When Gavin’s younger siblings, sister Delainey and brother Camden, also showed signs of dyslexia in elementary school, Shyla and Jeremiah knew how to help. With Great Minds Learning Center in their parenting arsenal, they were able to spare their children the frustration of failure.

“I’ve had people suggest to me, ‘Oh, why don’t you get your kids an IEP and then they can qualify for special education services?’” Shyla says. “An IEP isn’t going to help. They are smart kids. They don’t need to be pulled out of class. They need dyslexia instruction, which is what they get from Marianne.”

Working with Marianne has paid off.

“Thank God for Great Minds!” Shyla says. “I don’t know where my kids would be without their help!”

Now 14, 11, and seven, Gavin, Delainey, and Camden are keeping up with their classmates and getting ready to go to a new school. The family is moving to Florida, and they plan to take Great Minds with them. They will use the computer to do virtual tutoring sessions from afar.

“The tutoring centers I’ve looked into in Florida just aren’t a good fit,” Shyla says. “They are not specific to dyslexia the way that Great Minds is. We have a personal connection with Marianne. She is so genuine and passionate. You can tell she really wants to reach the kids and make people aware of the realities of dyslexia. At the other tutoring centers it seemed like it was just a job.”

Shyla believes that Marianne’s combination of passion and expertise can make a difference for other families too.

“I have recommended Great Minds to so many friends and relatives who have kids struggling in school,” she says. “I tell them, ‘Marianne will be honest about what she sees as the problem and about how well she can help. She’s not in it for the money.’ A lot of people have seen the same success that we have.”

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