Learning Therapy Center

Current Learning Therapy Certificate students, please visit here for information on classes, enrollment, and important due dates.

Learning Therapy Center    


Learning Therapy may not be the difference between life and death, but it is often the difference between success and failure.  For some individuals, learning to read comes easily; for others, it heralds a downward spiral of educational defeat, poor self esteem, anxiety, self doubt, and embarrassment. Many of the individuals who live this reading nightmare have average to above-average intelligence yet are unable to succeed in school because they can’t read.  Written language is, arguably, the most important tool in traditional education, and without the ability to interpret the written word, all traditional education grinds to a halt.  Any of a number of learning disabilities can play a role in reading problems, but the most common is dyslexia.

According to the International Dyslexia Association (2002), dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities.  Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and a reluctance to read.  Dyslexia is not due to a vision problem, seeing “backwards,” lack of intelligence, lack of effort, lack of education, disease, attention issues, or emotional problems.  It is a real problem that requires effective interventions.

The Learning Therapy Center of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development is dedicated to the improvement of reading instruction for individuals who have dyslexia and related written-language disorders.  Located at SMU-in-Plano, the Center administers a diagnostic facility for written-language disorders and two graduate programs that prepare specialists to work with dyslexic children and adults—one prepares specialists at the teaching level, while the other more-advanced program develops specialists at the therapist level.  Both graduate programs are accredited by the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC) and subscribe to the Academic Language Therapy Association’s (ALTA) guidelines, standards of professional conduct, and code of ethics.

As an IMSLEC accredited course of Study, The Learning Therapy Center at SMU provides a rigorous course of study that is recognized by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). For full story please click here


Learning Therapist Certificate Program

This program prepares teachers to take state certification exams. The Texas State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) is the official certifying agency.

The Learning Therapist Certificate Program teaches individuals how to remediate dyslexia and related written-language disorders through professional educational therapy.  Therapists are trained in the structure of the written language, basic and advanced theory, multisensory teaching methods, curriculum, and sequential procedures for teaching written-language skills and learning strategies. The Therapist Program is a two-year course of study and requires 700 hours of clinical teaching experience in direct service to clients.

The Diagnostic Center for Dyslexia and Related Disorders

The Learning Therapy Center established the Diagnostic Center for Dyslexia and Related Disorders in response to a community need for services that evaluate individuals for learning disorders related to reading acquisition and comprehension. Dyslexia is involved in most disorders of this type, which include developmental spelling disability, developmental auditory imperception, dysgraphia, and receptive and expressive language disorders.  The Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive evaluative services and appropriate medical, psychological, and educational referrals and recommendations to children, adolescents, and adults who are at risk for dyslexia.  Please visit the Diagnostic Center's website to learn more about its services.

News and Contributions to the Community

Dr. Karen Vickery, the director of Southern Methodist University’s Learning Therapy Center, has been working with the Texas Education Agency on the development and revisions to the Dyslexia Handbook.  As a member of the Texas Education Agency’s Task Force Meeting for Revision of the Dyslexia Procedures 2013 she will help to ensure clarity and continuity of Dyslexia practices and procedures within Texas state public school districts. Also, Dr. Vickery has been an active advisory committee member to the panel of experts for SB 866. SB 866 is a bill that includes language that directs teacher’s preparation courses to provide pre-service teachers with information on dyslexia. This information will help them identify struggling readers in their classroom that might be exhibiting characteristics of dyslexia. 


Helen Macik, M.Ed., CALT, QI, Coordinator of the Diagnostic Center for Dyslexia and Related Disorders at SMU, received the IMSLEC Innovator Award for Outstanding Educator in a College or University at the 2013 IDA Conference. This award celebrates the many contributions that Helen has made to the field of dyslexia education. 




Dr. Terri Zerfas, faculty member at The Learning Therapy Center, received the Excellence in Education Award from the Dallas Branch of the International Dyslexia Association on February 8, 2013. This award only goes to select educators who make significant gains and show a strong commitment to the field of dyslexia remediation and research. 

In 1993, the Texas Instruments Foundation (TIF) approached the SMU Learning Therapy Center with a proposal to develop a phonics-based, prereading program for the Margaret Cone Center in Dallas.  Over the next few years, a team of educators from the Learning Therapy Center developed the Language Enrichment Activities Program (LEAP). This unique, multisensory, enriched language program provides lessons to be used throughout the day. It includes teacher training, model teaching by volunteers, parent workshops, and expandable lesson plans. 

For More Information

SMU Learning Therapy Center
SMU-in-Plano
5236 Tennyson Pkwy, Bldg. 4, Suite 108
Plano, TX 75024
Phone: 214-768-7323
Fax: 972-473-3442
learning@smu.edu