Hello and welcome! I’m glad you are here. I decided to re-post this blog from last October because it was one of my most favorite 31 Days posts.
I hope you enjoy it again…or maybe for the first time.
Abbey was a pleasure to interview. She is a smart, talented and well-spoken young lady.
I know you will appreciate her story.
I had the privilege of sitting down with Abbie and her mother last week to talk about her Dyslexia. I first heard about Abbie when my Assistant Principal gave me a copy of her 6th grade writing sample. It was about her dyslexia. It was evident as I read her words, that Abbie embraced her dyslexia, which is a rare quality in a 6th grader. I was impressed & intrigued. Fast-Forward 3 years ~ sitting in a meeting with my Assistant Principal a couple of weeks ago, Abbie’s name came up again. She had written a speech about her Dyslexia for one of her 9th grade classes. I knew right away this was a student with extraordinary maturity in embracing her Dyslexia & I just had to hear her story, so I set up an interview with Abbie and her mom and discovered quickly she is no ordinary 14 year old.
I have dyslexia and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Kids can be so cruel when you mess up with common words. I have had an experience where I was reading out of the text book and said the word ‘Muslim’ thinking, “it’s History, that makes sense”, but no, [the word] was ‘museum’. The whole class exploded in laughter. Being laughed at and having no control of this is not acceptable.
Abbie was diagnosed officially in 2nd grade with dyslexia. Parents hoped her struggle to read was developmental, but having an older brother with dyslexia helped them not to be afraid Abbie’s diagnosis. It was such a blessing for Abbie to have Mrs. VandenBerge as her first grade teacher. Mrs. Vandenberge has a MEd in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading. She recognized Abbie’s struggles of blending sounds and retaining words from one page to the next and took Abbie under her excellent care that year, tutoring after school & her even during the summer.
Abbie began to realize her struggles in 1st grade when she discovered it was harder for her to learn to read. As she grew older, being in separate classes than her friends was difficult. Peers started noticing more of Abbie’s struggles and differences in 4-5-6 grades as opposed to 1st and 2nd grades where every one was learning to read – Abbie didn’t “stick-out” as much then.
Now, Abbie looks back and appreciates those years and the teachers that went out of their way to help her. She understands the need for accommodations and considers them valuable to her now.
One accommodation that helped Abbie the most were small groups. Because reading was so difficult for Abbie, she had not completely read through a book on her own. It wasn’t until 5th grade when her small group teacher, Mrs. English took the time to read and talk through the book, “The Year I Got Polio” with Abbie. I wish I had a picture to share of Abbie’s smile as her mom told me this is what finally sparked an interest in Abbie, to what books have to offer. Abbie utilizes audio-books whenever available, now, especially for summer reading assignments.
“Teachers should try show more sensitivity – know your students -don’t put dyslexic students on the spot to read. Pull students aside to teach them in the way they learn best.”
One thing I want people to stop doing is try to fix all our [dyslexic’s] problems, like telling me all of my misspelled or mispronounced words. You may think you are helping, but to me you’re pointing out the obvious. We know when we misspell and we will ask if we need help.
I asked Abbie about how she helps her friends understand her struggles with dyslexia.
A lot of my friends need lots of reminders of my struggles. They will call me out about my spelling over Twitter, etc. After a couple of sleeps, they forget and I have to remind them again.
Abbie asks for help and/or clarification from her teachers and she knows that when she has a test she has to plan out her studying strategies, knowing she may not have the outcome as great as her peers, but she will get more out of the information because of the way she studies.
~Making flash cards: Abbie writes down things she need to learn for the test, goes back & reads from text book, then writes down more info & makes more flashcards.
~Records info for review: Abbie records her test questions, pauses, and then records the answer. She plays back the recording, answers verbally, then waits to check how close she came to the answer by listening to the answer she recorded. (this was my personal favorite ~ amazing strategy!)
~Note Exchange: Abbie exchanges notes with her teacher b/c she has to write so fast to keep up with class lecture and has trouble going to back to reread & will miss information. Both mom & Abbie say note exchange has been the best accommodation for Abbie.
Abbie’s parents are a true inspiration and a great support to her. Abbie tells about her dad helping her study by talking through information for a test which helps her process it more successfully. They problem solve with her, but as her mom explains, it is up to Abbie to follow through – “she has to learn to deal with it. Abbie is very vocal, persistent and doesn’t just accept issues- she will fight for herself”. When she comes home with an issue or problem they problem solve together, but want to mostly want to be an encouragement to Abbie.
When a dyslexic is reading you know what’s going on in their head and should never laugh. Don’t point out every mistake, but just simply ask what they are trying to say. I am glad to be dyslexic because without it I would have never overcome what I have. Dyslexia gives you a view of life that I would have never had before.
Her parents feel that dealing with the struggles of dyslexia has made Abbie sympathetic to other’s difficulties. Abbie’s empathy has allowed her reach out to younger kids by being involved with the PAL’s program in her school district. She can relate easily to other’s struggles. Having an older successful brother with dyslexia, Abbie realized at an early age that her success would not depend on her dyslexia -she could be successful. When Abbie was younger, she feared that she would not be successful in high school, but now, she does not even see a relationship between her dyslexia and not having success.
Abbie would love for people to not rush to judgment about her abilities.
Abbie has a work ethic that is not often seen in a 14 year old. Abbie is an all around student. She is in Honor Society, a Cheerleader & involved in her community’s YoungLife organization. Abbie is very talented, having an ‘eye’ for fashion. Her mom pointed out how talented Abbie is at putting outfits together & decorating.
It is evident in the beautiful quotes below,
Abbie’s mom is one of her biggest fans ~
To younger-self & all dyslexic children: When you become an advocate for yourself you:
1.Learn to embrace your dyslexia
2.When you embrace your dyslexia, you will know how to deal with conflicts.
3. Don’t get too frustrated with yourself – speak up for yourself – know that it is going to be ok. You won’t understand it all right now, but it will become clearer and you will appreciate all you have now.
As you can tell, Abbie has maturity beyond her years and a grasp of who she is at the tender age of 14.
Dyslexia does not define Abbie; and because of this, her life…her story will make a difference for Dyslexia Awareness…toward Dyslexia Action throughout our nation.
Abbie’s teachers made a big impact in her life.
~ she made a big impact in their lives, too…
I’ve know Abbie since kindergarten, as a student & as my daughter’s best friend! Abbie has “owned” her dyslexia since she was first diagnosed…always speaking frankly to her friends, educating others & persistently working to achieve her goals! Abbie is highly intelligent, very creative, has a great sense of humor & is a joy to be around…but I believe her persistence & drive to be the qualities that have brought her where she is today! Whether it was playing scrappy defense for youth basketball, attempting a new gymnastics stunt, tackling her academics or working towards any goal…Abbie makes it happen regardless of her learning difference! I am so proud of her! ~Libby Martin, Asst. Principal
I had Abbie the first year she was released to “fly on her own” in reading class and on the testing. She was so excited to stay in the room and not be pulled out. She had the biggest smile on her face when the day came for the STAAR reading test and I told her to pick a spot in the room. It made me so proud to see her confidence. In sixth grade we write a narrative about some event that changed our lives. Abbie wrote one of the most amazing and powerful essay about how having dyslexia taught her to be strong and the benefits she gained in her struggle. As I read it, tears welled up in my eyes and hers and we both hugged. I asked her if I could share it with some teachers and of course, she said yes. Everyone that read it had the same reaction. She took what could have been an obstacle and turned it into a gift. She is my hero!! ~Mrs. Butler, 6th grade teacher
Abbie was such a sweet, hard working Second Grader. She was very bright, always thinking. Abbie always had a smile on her face. She was kind, respectful, and compassionate to all! ~Mrs. DeHondt, 2nd grade teacher
As soon as I met Abbie, I knew she was a special little girl. Abbie had a happy disposition and a good work ethic ~ something a teacher loves to see in her students. Abbie did not catch that “reading bug” than many first graders get. Finding the key to working with her meant listening to her feelings. Showing Abbie how much I cared about her, helped her gain confidence to attempt any literacy activity. I quickly learned that rewarding Abbie for her effort rather than the product was most affective. Even as a first grader, she had a heart for not giving up and dealing with whatever came her way…and she did it with a smile! Abbie taught me throughout our time together. She ended up helping me be the best I could be!! ~Mrs.Vandenberge, 1st grade teacher
When Abbie was in fifth grade, she was always willing to ask for help so that she could understand what she needed to do. No matter the work she needed to complete, or how difficult it might have been due to her dyslexia, Abbie never quit. I was proud of Abbie then, and I continue to admire her strength and perseverance today! ~Mrs. Dentler, 5th grade teacher
Abby was one of the hardest working students I ever had. She was never satisfied with good she wanted it to be great. She never made excuses that she wasn’t able to write something well or express herself like she wanted to because of her dyslexia. It almost seemed to push her harder and make her writing not just good but great and that’s what it was, GREAT! With her great attitude, sweet personality, and drive Abby will succeed in all aspects of her life and be a role model for not only her peers but for her teachers as well. Abby will always be one of my “Heroes.” ~Mrs. Self, 6th grade teacher
If you would like to contact Abbie directly about her story you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org