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Professionals at HCDS

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Certified Academic Language Therapist

Deborah Brown


Deborah is specially trained in the multi-sensory approach which uses the five (5) senses to unlock a student’s ability to read, write, and spell with confidence.


This strategy engages students by making learning fun and helping them to understand the spelling of words. It also focuses on the instructional details behind reading a passage, and/or the mechanics of writing.

Deborah founded Hill Country Dyslexia Services in 2019. Her professional career as an educator began in 2003. She has taught in public school as a classroom teacher and as a dyslexia specialist. Deborah has been previously in public schools and a private school as dyslexia specialist/CALT for a total of 17 years. Although she retired from the public school system in 2019, she continues her passion of helping and instructing children with reading difficulties such as dyslexia and related disorders.

As an experienced educator, she recognizes the challenges that people with dyslexia face in both academic and personal settings. Due to this, she is dedicated to providing an individualized, evidence-based curriculum for her students so that they are equipped with the knowledge and tools to not only be successful in school, but in life as well. The children that Brown has seen throughout the years are so important to her. She stays in touch with former students and their families after they are finished with therapy.

Deborah holds a master’s degree in Education from Texas State University. Furthermore, she is a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist (TX # 2129), and a Certified Academic Language Therapist (TX # 4385). She is a certified Wilson Reading Systems Dyslexia Practitioner as well. 


Her goal is to provide all her students with a foundation of Orton-Gillingham based reading instruction.  Therapy used can be either Basic Language Skills or Wilson Program. Each curriculum is a  multi-sensory approach to improve their phonemic awareness, decoding,  fluency, cursive, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension, and written language skills.  She hopes that every single one of her students will continue to grow, improve, and become their own biggest advocate!

Please call HCDS at 512-648-2291 or use our contact form to make an appointment with Debbie.


Dyslexia Specialist

Marcia Harlan

Marcia has close to forty years in the field of educating young students.  She earned her degree in elementary education at Texas Wesleyan University in Ft. Worth, Texas.  She is a certified professional who has dedicated her life to ensuring that students achieve and learn the love of reading.


Prior to serving as a dyslexia specialist at Travis Elementary School, San Marcos, for nineteen years, Marcia taught in the Kindergarten through Fourth Grade classrooms.  Throughout those eighteen years, she became acutely aware and sensitive to the struggling readers in her classroom, which began her journey of discovering why they were having difficulty.  More importantly, her deep interest led her to the reality that these struggling readers actually did have the potential to learn and flourish.  Her desire to acquire all the skills she could to facilitate their success led her to the Neuhaus Education Learning Center in Houston, where she studied over the course of five years, totaling over 200 hours of training in Multisensory Reading instruction.  Following her training, for three summers, she facilitated long distance learning from Neuhaus for teachers in Language Enrichment training. 


As a dyslexia specialist, she mentored teachers as they were acquiring the skills of teaching reading, taught students in first through fifth grades daily, served as a Response to Intervention committee lead, and served on the districts’ Dyslexia placement committee for nineteen years.


 As rewarding as these responsibilities were, her greatest passion has always been to work with the struggling reader, especially those that have been found to have dyslexic characteristics and other learning difficulties.  Teaching them to “break the code” of the complex English language, giving them the love of a variety of different language forms, playing with word meanings and learning to spell, continues to be what Marcia is most passionate about.

Marcia is also a member of the: 


Marilyn Elliott

Certified Special Education Teacher

Marilyn began her teaching career as a Certified Special Education Teacher, earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Applied Learning and Development with Honors at The University of Texas at Austin.


She taught students with dyslexia throughout her career and sought out specialized dyslexia training in 2005 through the Scottish Rite Learning Center of Austin, earning the title Certified Academic Language Therapist. This rigorous training in Take Flight of over 200 hours and two years of training, gave her the skill set needed to help students with dyslexia unlock the mysteries of reading.


Take Flight offers intensive phonological awareness therapy, an essential skill that underlies a student’s ability to learn to read and spell. Take Flight contains the five components of effective reading: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency and Reading Comprehension. Students learn all 44 sounds of the English language, 96 letter–sound correspondence rules and 87 affixes. They also learn spelling rules for base words and derivatives. Oral reading fluency is improved through practiced readings. Take Flight also introduces comprehension and vocabulary building strategies for both narrative and expository text in the context of oral reading exercises to prepare students for successful, independent reading. As a first grade struggling reader herself, she identifies and empathizes with those emotions of frustration, anxiety, and embarrassment that can further compound the reading experience. Although 22 years were devoted to elementary age students, the last year at the high school level brought an appreciation, love, and devotion to help instill a love of reading at any age. One of the highest compliments she received from a parent was when she was told, “My daughter went from hating reading to loving it - I now can’t get her to put a book down and sometimes have to resort to using lost privileges of a book in order to get other things done.”


Marilyn has been a member of ALTA since 2005 and a CALT since 2007.

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Emily Straw, M.S. CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist

Emily is an ASHA certified speech language pathologist. She graduated from Baylor University with her masters degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in December of 2020. She has worked  private practice with students of a variety of ages and communication difficulties. She currently works for Hays CISD in the elementary school setting.


During her education at Baylor University, Emily served as a reading specialist working with students who have dyslexia. Additionally as a graduate clinician Mrs. Straw participated in Camp Success, which is a summer camp for students with both dyslexia and speech impairment.


Emily's goal is to help students grow in speech and language skills. She is qualified to help students with reading comprehension, grammar, vocabulary, articulation, social skills, stuttering and so much more.


If your struggling reader also struggles with aspects of speech and language please call HCDS at (512) 648-2291 or use our contact form to make an appointment with Emily.


Abbey Niemann

Early Childhood Specialist

Abbey is a former elementary educator with almost 20 years of classroom experience in Early Education. She taught Kindergarten for 16 years and 2nd grade for 3 years. She earned her degree in Early Education from Southwest Texas State University (currently known as Texas State University). She has lived in San Marcos for almost 25 years with her husband and her 2 children. 

During her career as an elementary teacher she has worked with hundreds of students with a range of abilities. She believes in supporting students where they are to help them grow and accomplish their goals. She is passionate about the early years of school and believes providing a solid foundation is the key to success.

The past few years have been hard on us all, especially children that are just starting school! If you feel like your child needs support with reading or math please call us to see how we can help your child reach their potential. We will start with a screener to see your child’s needs and create a plan to help your child succeed. 

If your child has not started school and you would like to give them a head start we can help with that too. Abbey has 16 years of Kindergarten experience so she knows what teachers are looking for! 

Please call HCDS at 512-648-2291 or use our contact form to make an appointment with Abbey.


Laura Beatty

Math and Writing Specialist

Laura Beatty is a retired public school teacher with certifications in general education and special education.  She taught for 30 years in San Antonio area schools.  Her BS in Education is from the University of Kansas.  She has participated in professional development for Language Arts and Math instruction throughout her career as an educator. She has participated in Autism Academies and received specialized training to teach students with Dyslexia, behavioral concerns, learning disabilities in reading, written language, math,  and Autism.   Laura’s experience includes 7 years being an elementary classroom teacher, 6 years teaching students with special needs at a secondary level, and 17 years teaching elementary students with special needs as a special education teacher.  After retiring from public school teaching, Laura was invited to teach at the University of Science and Technology in Quingdao, China.  She taught formal/critical writing, reading in English, business English, and oral English while in China.

Laura believes that every student can learn and wants to learn.  She works with students to find the combination of strategies and materials that will help them be successful.  Her teaching strategies and philosophy about student learning is very student centered.

Laura enjoys traveling and exploring new places.  She hikes and kayaks and seeks out interesting places to visit.  She also enjoys museums and reading.  She has 4 grown children and 4 grandchildren.

She is looking forward to helping your child become an independent and motivated life-long learner.  


Veronica Tristan

Licensed Educational Diagnostician

Veronica Tristan is an experienced bilingual diagnostician who is driven to collaborate in an environment that promotes individualized learning for children with disabilities.

A person can be tested by a neurologist or a diagnostician. Veronica is a Licensed Educational Diagnostician (Bilingual) for the State of Texas.

Tests are completed usually last between two and four hours depending on the pace and knowledge of a student. These tests can measure:


  • Cognitive abilities

  • Oral language

  • Listening comprehension

  • And all academic skills (phonemic awareness, reading, writing skill, spelling, and math skills)

Veronica is a bilingual diagnostician with more than ten years of testing students for dyslexia and other disabilities. She also holds a Master’s degree in Special Education and is currently obtaining her doctorate with a focus in Special Education practices. She holds a certification in bilingual education, and special education. She also holds a principal certification and is certified as an educational diagnostician. 

She is passionate about helping children who struggle with dyslexia and other learning differences. She is a dedicated educator with a son that also suffers from dyslexia. She understands the importance of teaching to a child’s individual needs. She has an inclusive philosophy and believes that all students should have an opportunity to learn to read.

Please call HCDS at 512-648-2291 or use our contact form to make an appointment with Veronica.

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