Proving people wrong, learning to love dyslexia

A student writes about the hard work it took to overcome some of the challenges of dyslexia.

I first discovered I was dyslexic at 9 years old. A neighborhood friend named Ally had just told me a secret: Ally thought she had dyslexia. As Ally listed off the symptoms of dyslexia, it clicked. 

Dyslexia explained the struggles I had in school, why things that seemed like a breeze for my peers took me twice as long and why I left my classroom for half of the day to see Mr. Koch, who was my special education teacher. He spent hours every day going over the same problems and was the first teacher who truly believed I was smart. 

As soon as I made the connection to my schooling and dyslexia, I marched downstairs to my mother, who was making cookies, unaware of the hell I was about to unleash, and demanded she tell me the truth. Was I was dyslexic? 

When I used to ask why I left the classroom each day, my mom told me I “learned differently” than the other kids. That day, I wondered why she hadn’t told me more. I felt like she lied to me. My mother, who is a saint, sat me down and countered my anger and hostility with calmness and tranquility. 

We had a long talk about how I was dyslexic, and that all the other kids who left class with me also had a learning difference. The only reason she didn’t tell me about my dyslexia earlier was because she didn’t want me to use it as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something. 

My mom told me a secret of her own; she, too, was dyslexic.

The next few years of school seemed the same — constantly playing catch-up with my other peers, praying to not get called on in class and feeling like I needed to hide my learning difference. 

My mom was my support system during this time. We spent hours at the kitchen table going over math problems and spelling words. 

Many teachers told me I wouldn’t major in English in college — if I even scored high enough on my SATs to get accepted to college. It became a joke between my teachers, but I didn’t find it funny. I began to hate English almost as much as I hated my dyslexia.

It wasn’t until I transferred high schools that I truly began to flourish. I received a supportive individualized education program teacher who worked with me and talked to me like I was an adult. I separated my identity from my disability. By the 11th grade, I enrolled in honors classes and AP English. 

After years of my former guidance counselors and teachers telling me college was a pipe dream, I received an acceptance letter to Temple University. I knew that the hours of hard work finally paid off.

Now, I’m a sophomore secondary education and English major. I want to give back what my English teachers at my second high school gave to me — a passion for English and the ability to finally think I’m smart enough. I still can’t spell words most of the time and math still gives me more trouble than it does for my peers, but I have learned to love my dyslexia. It has made me the young woman I am today. 

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