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A Dyslexic Wonder

special-needs-stories-girl-wonderingWhen I was younger my family moved seven times in one year. One house we lived in had a twelve-foot circumference tree fall on it, destroying it and making it unlivable. We ended up moving into the basement of my grandparents’ home, and we lived there for a year while the house we live in now was being built. As we were moving, dealing with trees, schools, new friends, and trying to keep our sanity, I was dealing with dyslexia.
Jennifer Smith, an Anne Ford & Allegra Ford Scholarship Finalist in 2011, was relieved and motivated by her dyslexia diagnosis at the age of nine. Intensive intervention helped her learn to read and her experiences gave her the courage to become a spokesperson for kids with dyslexia.
Having dyslexia has truly made me who I am today. By persevering and struggling just to learn how to read I gained something that is priceless, I gained self-confidence. I proved to myself that I am not stupid and that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I also gained understanding and a passion to help others who go through struggles similar to mine.

At the peak of my reading inability I had no self-confidence. My brothers and friends would tease me and call me stupid. One of my friends had chores to do before we could play together, so to pass the time she suggested that I read a book. She knew I could not read and after her “suggestion,” she looked at me and said “Oh wait, you can’t read.” Those words killed me inside. I felt hopeless, like a lost cause. At the center of my core, I felt stupid. It wasn’t until I was nine years old that I found out I had what was known as dyslexia. I was beyond relieved! There was a name for what was happening to me and finding that out helped me tremendously. No longer was my lack of literacy a mystery. When I finally came to understand what it was, I was more determined than ever to learn how to learn and learn how to read.

After being on the waiting list for a year, I was finally admitted to the Children’s Learning Center (CLC). Before I was accepted, however, the director spoke to my mother and me about her concerns. She questioned my ability to handle the required commitments as well as the fact that we lived over an hour away. Nonetheless, we persuaded her that both my mother and I were committed and willing to do whatever was necessary. Twice a week for three years we traveled back and forth to the CLC. Learning to read was fueled by a fire in my belly and a yearning in my soul.

Three years later, at the age of 12, I graduated from the program and could read well above what the public schools required. Because of my dedication and commitment to the program, the director asked me to speak at the CLC National Conference. That 15-minute speech took place in front of 4,400 people, and I received a standing ovation that lasted over two minutes. These events gave me the courage to help define my purpose and to create a drive and a passion within me to help kids with learning disabilities and to educate people who don’t have a learning disability to understand how it feels to have one.

That same year I began to write a book about my personal experiences with dyslexia. I wanted to tell the world what it’s like to live with a learning disability, and to explain the things I went through, and to let other LD people know they are not alone. Four years later, Dyslexia Wonders was published. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of my book goes directly to Children’s Learning Center. In this way I can give back and help others, like me, who need help learning to read. But I didn’t stop with just writing a book. I also created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit company called Jenny’s Wish Foundation. This foundation provides scholarships to kids with learning disabilities, and provides grants to organizations who help them. My desire is for every child to be able to reach his or her full potential and be all they can be.

The obstacles I overcame are directly related to my having dyslexia. Fortunately my optimism and dreams helped turn these events into something bigger than myself. Because of everything I’ve gone through, I am able to appreciate the love of learning. I now embrace my dyslexia.

In the fall I plan to attend a four-year college, with the goal of earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and a minor in music. Because I absolutely love art and music, I will incorporate them into my work and my play. My dream job is to someday assist in making music video sets, capturing audiences with heart-warming, gut-wrenching images, thus enhancing the message of the music and making it ever more powerful.

My life with dyslexia has truly been a journey, taking me across the United States to speak on behalf of my cause. I have received the Remy Johnston Award from the International Dyslexia Association, and have met many amazing people. I plan to continue advocating for those with learning disabilities and to help others understand what it is like. This passion grows with each speech, each workshop, and each encounter. Today I still love to learn on a personal level, and to empower others with encouragement. I am focused on my goals and am looking forward to my future.