Living successfully with dyslexia
Reading is a progressively learned skill for most students, starting with letter recognition, their sounds, building them into small words and then sentences. When a child reads 20 minutes a day, he or she will usually maintain at or above grade level reading and enjoy greater academic success.
However, that’s not the case with everyone. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 percent of the world’s population may be dyslexic.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, dyslexia is defined as a “brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. It can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to developing dyslexia.”
Since it is often inherited, many adults first learned about their own dyslexia when their children were diagnosed. Online screening tests are available for any who want to check their symptoms against a list of common characteristics of dyslexia.
The Davis Dyslexia Association International website lists more than 37 common characteristics of dyslexia that a person may exhibit. Despite this, academic learning is still
“With appropriate remediation, individuals with dyslexia can learn to read and write. With good instruction, dyslexia becomes much less debilitating. Many students with dyslexia now attend college and become successful in positions which require considerable reading and writing,” states the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia.
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, students with dyslexia are allowed special classroom accommodations such as tutors, alternative teaching methods and additional time to complete work or tests.
Quincy Mickey, 19, of La Grande was born with dyslexia, and because of that, she has difficulty establishing left-to-right order for many confusable letters (d/b) and (s/f) and also for words like was/saw and of/for. Many of her words are transposed such as “eh” (he), “ot” (to), “ta” (at) and “eht” (the). She said she also has trouble with transposed letters within larger words.
Just when she thinks she has mastered one combination of transposed letters, her short-term memory does not sustain the lesson, and she has to try again. She gets confused and frustrated and often reverts back to phonetically written or transposed letters.
Quincy first noticed her disability in the early primary grades of public school when other kids were learning to read simple sentences.
“The other kids were reading sentences and paragraphs better than I was,” she said. “The teacher asked me to read, and I messed up, so the kids were teasing me.”
As a result, school was very difficult for Quincy, and she became disinterested and fell behind academically. As much as possible, she tried to hide her disability from others.
“I hated reading, especially in front of people,” she said. “I never got my homework finished or I would skip the assignment altogether. I was always in the resource room and never with my classmates.”
Over the school years, teachers tried to help Quincy, but by her high school years, she was still reading at a third grade level.
“Some words I couldn’t pronounce or sound out. The teachers tried to make me look up words in the dictionary, but I couldn’t find them because I wanted to look them up according to how they sounded,” Quincy said.
Frustrated that customary tools of learning weren’t working for her, she left the public school system and home schooled at the beginning of her sophomore year. That idea was short-lived, and she returned to school.
“In January 2009, I enrolled at Imbler,” she said. “They put me in a special education classroom. At first I didn’t want help, but halfway through the year, I finally let them help me.”
Kathryn Creech and a teacher’s aid, Lori Walker, were instrumental in helping her ease back into academics.
“They read the test questions to me, and I would circle one of the multi-choice answers, but when I had to write something, they would transcribe my verbal answers into writing for me,” Quincy said.
Oral tests came much easier for Quincy, and she excelled as an athlete. Outside the classroom she was socially gregarious, competitive in many sport venues and even ambidextrous. But when it came to classroom reading, writing and math, she became quickly disinterested, even zoning-out mentally and easily distracted by peripheral sounds.
Tutors were invaluable to her learning. In her senior year, she did a course online to earn a necessary credit for graduation. She was tutored for this twice a week by Kalli Johnson of La Grande. Quincy ultimately earned a modified high school diploma from Imbler in 2012.
“Lori Walker and Kalli Johnson were mainly the ones that helped me to graduate,” a grateful Quincy said.
Johnson has continued to tutor Quincy beyond graduation to help her improve her reading.
“In the first year of tutoring, Quincy gained two reading levels from third grade to fifth grade,” Johnson said. “During her second year, Quincy has reached the sixth-grade reading level. I’d like to see Quincy continue a consistent habit of reading out loud along with audio recordings of her reading material.”
Vocational tutor Dawn Roe of
“In January, I took my final certification test for the nurse’s assistant course,” she said. “There was a recording on an MP-3 player that played the questions to me.”
The physical part of the testing was easy for her because she excels at anything physical. She loves to work with her hands, and for entertainment she loves putting puzzles together. Her other senses come to her rescue when reading and writing challenge her.
“I’m a good listener and very watchful. I explain things in my own way,” Quincy said. “I like interacting with people and hearing the stories from older ones who have experiences I haven’t done yet.”
Quincy’s vocational aspirations do not end there, however. She would also like to get certified in fire fighting and work along with other family members during the fire season.
“That’s mostly physical training and testing. I know I can do that,” she said.
Quincy is following her passions, and yet she hasn’t forgotten what it was like to go through school with this disability. To youths who have dyslexia and are struggling in
“Keep trying and don’t give up because if you do, you won’t learn as much,” she said. “If you keep working at it, you will get a normal diploma. I can read 10 times better than I did two years ago, so keep working at it.”