Recently at a birthday party, Island resident Julie Ogata Ciobanu was listening to her daughter talk to her friends.
“One girl said, “My brother has ADHD,” then another said, “I have dysgraphia and phonological awareness,” followed by my daughter Carys saying, “I have ADHD, dyslexia and dysgraphia.” The girls all started high-fiving each other and another girl looked sad and said, “I don’t have anything.” We realized that many local families are dealing with learning challenges, and because of Cindy, they know they’re nothing to be ashamed of!”
Cindy Dupuy, PhD founded her business,, because of her own struggles with dyslexia and dysgraphia from elementary school through graduate school.
“Though they did a diagnostic test on me in the 4th grade, they didn’t have a good idea of why I had dyslexia (words or numbers not appearing in order) and dysgraphia, which is a question of how I take ideas in my head and put them down on paper,” said Dupuy. “I got a bachelors degree in chemistry not because I was passionate about it, but because it was a self-limiting choice, as I couldn’t do the foreign language requirement.”
Dupuy ended up teaching kayaking in San Diego, and eventually moved to Ferndale, Wash., to work at Ocean Kayak. But because she missed teaching, Dupuy returned to college, to Western Washington University to get her master’s degree in teaching.
“By then, I’d figured out different ways of doing things and I took advantage of their disabilities support services,” she said. “I got a laptop and had an editor review my papers. But instead of studying to be a chemistry teacher, I was fascinated with learning disabilities.”
After getting her PhD in learning disabilities in 2001 from Northwestern University in Chicago in a record four years instead of the usual seven, Dupuy met her husband and moved to North Bend.
When she outgrew her small office in 2004, she discovered an affordable space in the Globe Building on Mercer Island, and because it offered easy access for her Seattle and Eastside clients, Dupuy settled in to working 60 plus hour weeks.
“My youngest client was 4, and my oldest 68, though most of my clients are kids,” she said. “There are two reasons I’m so busy, one because people are more aware of learning disabilities, and they don’t let their kids flounder, plus there are more clinicians out there so its easier to find someone to help you, and two, there’s a line (waiting) for my services because I’m incredibly good.”
As Ciobanu soon discovered, the has a 4-6 month waiting list for standard diagnostic testing, which includes an IQ test and about 5 hours of ‘face time’ with the student. “Our standard diagnostic evaluation takes 12 hours of face time, and I own 5 or 6 IQ tests,” said Dupuy. “While I do have core assessments, I pick assessments and tests that are right for each individual kid and appropriate to their needs. One size assessment doesn’t fit all.”
Dupuy also provides advocacy and remediation for established clients. Advocacy requires that Dupuy work with the school to ensure that parents and teachers are on the same page, with a section 504 or Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Dupuy will also help teachers figure out an accommodation plan for that student. Remediation builds an underlying skill set for the student to be successful, with a clinician from Dupuy’s staff of 5 implementing the lesson plan that Dupuy has tailor made for the student.
“If we don’t have room for a child, (on their schedule) I help them find an appropriate clinician and school placement,” she said. Dupuy is also often called upon by associates in the area to help them “gear up” with the latest technology to help kids with learning disabilities.
“Any piece of valuable technology can be a tool, a toy or torture,” she said. “If the parents and kids aren’t taught how to use voice recognition software, for example, it won’t be used as a tool, it will become torture, or the computer will be used as a toy. We generally spend 90 minutes debriefing parents with 12-20 pages of recommendations, so a lot of time is spent educating parents and helping the kids also understand what the numbers (on the diagnostic tests) mean.” Two more debriefings follow.
Dupuy developed software that helps her generate diagnostic reports that puts put readable, easily understood reports, and she and her assistant Pam have a color coded filing system to keep track of clients, and she scans and stores all her documents electronically. “We try and think smarter, to find ways to not work harder—its part of my core belief for kids that it’s an explanation, not an excuse.”
Noting that kids often come into her office thinking that they’re “dumber than a brick,” Dupuy said it is important for them to leave the office knowing that they are smart, capable and have amazing gifts. “I tell them that just because your brain is wired this way, it doesn’t have to limit you. Everybody has their own genius.”