Dyslexia Advocacy: A student perspective

Note: Acadia Connor, Lexington HS 2017, has been an articulate dyslexia advocate throughout her high school years. She is currently a marketing communications intern at ResearchILD and plans to attend Skidmore College in the fall. Here she speaks passionately about her experience with dyslexia and her recent appearance at the MA State House on the topic of dyslexia advocacy and the need for Massachusetts funding support for programs that address the dyslexia challenge.

My Journey with Dyslexia by Acadia Connor

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it’s stupid.” – Albert Einstein

My journey with dyslexia started in elementary school. Many teachers knew I had difficulty reading, but with my expansive vocabulary I went undiagnosed for years. In middle school, I was called stupid and laughed at by my peers for not reading aloud correctly by my peers. For example, I might read the word ‘car’ and then say ‘automobile’.
In 6th grade, my English teacher luckily recognized my dyslexia and spoke to my parents. I met with a neuropsychologist, who concluded I had moderate dyslexia-two of the three types.
I was stunned. I thought that dyslexics were unintelligent, and saw everything backwards, both attributes with which I did not identify. I felt mislabeled, but actively learned about dyslexia. I do not read backwards. I might be thinking “b” and then write “d” but I don’t see “b” and “d” as each other. My brain manipulates information differently and that is what makes the letters seem backwards.
I was told by many to “work harder,” and I do. Sometimes I go home and watch videos, such as Crash Course US History, to support in-class lessons. I just need the information presented in a different way.
The school provided me with an Independent Education Program which levels the academic playing field. For example, the school gives me extra time because my brain takes longer to process questions. Open responses are always the hardest for me.Taking languages as a dyslexic is horrible! I had a hard enough time understanding English without learning how to conjugate irregular verbs in French.
Despite stress, many tears, and hours of tutoring I find myself in high school doing well academically. I am taking two honors courses – something I never thought I would or could do.
I am working to reduce my accommodations because in the work force I will not be given extra time to write a report for my boss. I have began to take less time on tests and take more quizzes in the classroom.
Having dyslexia has connected me to a larger community. For two summers during middle school, I attended The Carroll School, a school with a special dyslexia summer program. I was with other teens who were exactly like me and had the same struggles. Given that 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, I am constantly finding new members of this community rather than in a separate room.
I am inspired by how successful dyslexics are. Richard Branson, the CEO of the Virgin brands, is dyslexic and owns his own island! Branson has a positive outlook on dyslexia and how it helps you see things most people do not. He is the reason I am proud to be a dyslexic.
As the years go on, I have developed a love for being dyslexic. Dyslexics are special in how they see the world and can come up with ideas “normal” people don’t. Dyslexia is a constant journey. I will always struggle with writing coherently in one draft, and I will have to check my b’s from my d’s. But I know that I have gone through a lot of adversity and that has only made me more prepared for the world. Do not underestimate dyslexics because that kid you laughed at in class could be your boss someday.
A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to speak to the school committee at the state house. The room was filled and people were spilling out into the hall. The committee seemed extremely engaged and concerned about the issue of dyslexia. The event once again demonstrated the amazing community of dyslexics. Watch the rest of my talk below:

1 thought on “Dyslexia Advocacy: A student perspective

  1. I was at the state house for this testimony. It was one of many stories by children detailing their struggles with dyslexia. Even with very supportive school systems, dyslexics face hurdles others do not. The kids spoke openly about their challenges and successes. Hearing experiences first hand is so powerful and hopefully will lead to a better understanding by adults, and inform how we can help these children better.

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