Robert* had always known he was dyslexic. “Words on a page didn’t make sense to me – like they were foreign letters.” His father was dyslexic, and Robert remembered being tested when he was younger, but, in switching schools, he, along with his paperwork had fallen through the cracks. “I just filled things in… I would pick out words, then try to infer the rest. I never asked for help. I knew I needed it, but I felt embarrassed.”
During a meeting a The Children’s Home last summer, Robert was asked to read aloud. He refused. Barbara Howard, Aftercare Coordinator, who was leading the meeting, visited with Robert afterward and the depth of his disability came to light. Barbara enlisted the help of board member Janet Laughter, who jumped in without hesitation.
Janet, a former principal, knew of a program she believed would work for Robert, but it would require quite a commitment from both of them – 45 minutes a day for 146 lessons. Robert was hesitant at first, but, “then Janet told me she could help me be able to read… that got me inspired.”
Although we didn’t know it at the time, Robert had been tested in high school, and it was confirmed he was severely dyslexic. “Severe dyslexia… severe… that crushed me. I thought there was something wrong with me. It made me feel depressed.” Robert saw limited options. He figured he’d drop out of school as a junior, get his GED and “just work.”
Janet and the Simonsons, Robert’s houseparents, did not accept that prognosis for Robert. “Janet completely flipped my point of view around. She told me I’m not stupid. She showed me it’s genetic – it’s just something I have to work on. She gave me the confidence to say, ‘I have this disability, but I can overcome it.’ She helps me realize my strengths and work on my weaknesses. Jara and Michael (Simonson) have played a big part as well – they really encourage me and help me where they can.”
Robert is not only learning to read – in less than a year he has gone from planning to not graduate to being interested in several different colleges. He’s transformed from being embarrassed to ask for help to advocating for himself with teachers and with potential college admissions officers.
“I’m not worrying what everyone else thinks anymore… It’s still kind of embarrassing… but I believe my future is valuable and worth fighting for.”
Thank you to Janet and all those who, like her, believe in our kids and speak into them, restoring their belief in themselves.
*name has been changed