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Unlocking Dyslexia: Personal Stories Of Frustration — And Success

LA Johnson

"Today I'm 50 years old and when I heard your story on the radio I did the unexpected, I cried."

That's Scott Walker of Portland, Ore., writing to us about our series last week on dyslexia. "I know that must sound ridiculous but, after 50 years of fighting my fight there was someone else that really understood."

Walker says he felt a sense of belonging as he listened to Gabrielle Emanuel's piece on All Things Considered.

And he wasn't alone. On Twitter, on Facebook and in our email inboxes here at NPR Ed, comments like that poured in.

"Stumbling on every sentence people would label me as 'not so sharp,' " wrote Al Guillermo in a Facebook message. He expressed his ongoing struggle to read the simplest of texts and the panic that comes from public speaking. "I have worked so hard at trying to read or to spell correctly. Something people find easy to do in the third grade, I have never mastered."

Jo Roberts, a retired learning disability teacher from Iowa, remembered her efforts to teach students with dyslexia: "In a very small rural school, I taught fifth and sixth grade boys sight words with rustic dice and a game we called CHALLENGE," she said. "They were allowed to challenge each other and confiscate misread words by reading the correct word. ... Obviously, I did not have supervision and was not required to teach to the test — but it worked."

Junia Howell, a faculty member at Rice University, shared her experience from her viewpoint in higher education: "I am severely dyslexic. In high school, I had a second grade reading level but thanks to my accommodations and tutors, I managed to graduate valedictorian of my school. Since then I have completed my bachelor's, master's and am a few months from finishing my PhD in sociology. Given the severity of my case, throughout my journey I have been a continual ambassador explaining dyslexia and correcting misconceptions."

We even received some international responses. Lindy from Switzerland wrote to tell us about a teaching experience she had with one of her talented piano students, who had dyslexia. "We worked on all sorts of things, made up some games, etc., but not much helped until her school got a reading specialist."

Mike Wolfe from Seattle shared his lifelong struggle with reading. He says he wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until he was 32. "That diagnosis helps me laugh at the little twisted things [dyslexia] does to the English language." For example, he wrote " 'globe' became 'glob.' "

Sometimes he can laugh about dyslexia, and "some days it messes with everything I try to read," Wolfe wrote. "But more often my little strategies and coping skills get me through it."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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