Moreover, it was a wake-up call things weren't going well at school.
"My daughter was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and I quickly figured out schools didn't know how to deal with that," said Rutherford.
"It broke my heart to hear her say she's stupid. I was really digging for solutions to let her shine because I knew she was smart."
Rutherford, who was a consultant in the software support industry for 22 years, took courses focusing on the brain, dyslexia and reading disorders.
Rutherford said she was flabbergasted that teachers are not taught how the brain works.
"I don't feel like they are equipped to deal with children who don't fit in the box, and those are the kids we specialize in," she said.
"I wanted to know how the brain worked when a child was reading, and that's what sent me out all over the place; because there was not one controlled place that teaches that."
She is now a certified reading therapist and neurodevelopmental therapy practitioner, and for 12 years she's been operating the reading and tutoring center called The Brain Zone from her home in Chino Hills.
"It started in the spare bedroom and now it's taken three-fourths of the house. That's all right, we don't need much living space anyway," she said.
The Brain Zone has 10 employees: seven instructors, plus Rutherford, and a couple of support staff members.
Enrollment ranges between 50 and 75 children, depending on the time of the year.
Rutherford said The Brain Zone takes students as young as 4. She said adults come in for dyslexia and even nursing students who come in to be tutored in math.
The one-on-one tutoring center has a wide curriculum designed to address learning, processing and attention issues, while also offering general tutoring, according to the website.
"Our doors are always open to struggling students, and our goal is to send them out as confident achievers. There is no assignment that should be insurmountable - that's why we are here; we can help," the website reads.
Some kids come in thinking The Brain Zone is going to be like school, and they're going to dread it, Rutherford said. But cognitive training isn't anything like school - it's interactive and students get to do things up and away from their desk, she said.
"What's even more interesting is when they quickly see their success and that light bulb of confidence goes off and they figure out they're reading and it's exciting," Rutherford said.
For 9-year-old Kate Van Steenwyk, The Brain Zone has given her the confidence to read out loud in class.
The Lytle Creek Elementary School fourth-grader remembers having to pause a lot, mispronouncing words and feeling nervous every time she was asked to read.
At home, Kate said she wouldn't want to read either, saying she would walk away, hide herself, all to get away from the book.
"But after they worked with me there was more fluency, and I started reading the words more correctly," she said. "I like reading now. I'm proud of myself and I'm reading a lot more books."
Kate's mother, Trina Van Steenwyk, is impressed with Rutherford's teaching methods and her love for children.
"Donna is focused on creating an environment to where kids get the tools they need to succeed and to reach their potential," Van Steenwyk said. "Kate went from hating school to now seeing the benefits."
Parent Caryn Knapp said Rutherford gave her answers school's weren't.
Her son, Joe, is a third-grader at Wickman Elementary school in Chino Hills. He attended The Brain Zone for two-and-a-half years and recently stopped attending.
"They couldn't figure out why he couldn't read," Knapp said. "They told me was he was immature and that he needs to be held back.
Joe ended up repeating the first grade, but Knapp said learning the same things over again didn't improve her son's reading disability, dyslexia.
"Donna did an assessment and figured out where he needed help," Knapp said. "At first it was tutoring five days a week and very aggressive but she knew exactly what areas he needed work in through her assessments, where his strong points were and his weaknesses.
"Donna is a miracle, she provided me with a plan and results to make Joe a successful student. Joe is always happy to go (to The Brain Zone). He loves Donna, feels at home there and she really knows how to relate to him. People like Donna have more insight to things school don't have."
Knapp said Joe now is at his grade level, reading out loud to his baby brother, and his confidence has done a 180-degree turn.
"He felt so judged and so critical he couldn't perform and now he's excited about oral projects and wants to participate," she said. "It almost makes me cry to hear him read out loud. It's so wonderful."
Rutherford said something special happens when a child learns how to read.
"They go months, years thinking they are not smart or they can't learn like their friends and that quickly defeats them," she said. "But when they finally figure out letters are pictures of sounds, it's magical."
Reach Canan via email, call her at 909-987-6397 ext. 425, or find her on Twitter @ChinoValleyNow.