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A View on Dyslexia

special-needs-stories-book-on-keyboardFrom about the 4th grade through the end of 9th grade, I struggled with most of my classes. Concepts and comprehension of coursework that seemed easy enough while sitting in class turned into an unending maze of questions once I sat down to do homework or had to sit for a test. My parents drilled the coursework at home and I paid attention in class. But still, I couldn’t understand why my classmates seemed to have no problem grasping what seemed to be out of my reach – no matter how hard I tried. I became extremely discouraged. Finally, at the end of the 9th grade, test results diagnosed me with dyslexia. That was the beginning of a whole new way of learning for me. Now that my problem had a name, I along with my parents and teachers were able to exchange frustrating non-productive learning tools for tools that actually worked for me.
Teighlor Smith, an Anne Ford & Allegra Ford Scholarship Finalist in 2011, was diagnosed with dyslexia at the end of 9th grade. She did not let the diagnosis take her off track in the pursuit of a business career. Instead, dyslexia challenged her to look at the bigger picture and develop new strategies for learning inside and outside of the classroom.
I was immediately enrolled in special tutoring for all my classes and was taught how to study all subjects in ways that best worked for me. Using these new tools, my grades have improved drastically.

Since my level of understanding or leadership ability would not be readily evident through test scores or my GPA, I realized that I needed to supplement my high school curriculum with activities that strengthen the skill set needed to excel in a business career. So I gained skills and knowledge through alternate activities, “owning” my supplemental development:

  • I have participated in business case competitions for the last three years and found that I not only enjoyed, but excelled at research, developing presentation material and am comfortable presenting in an auditorium setting. As a result, my team has placed 2nd and 3rd, and we've presented to executive level corporate representatives.
  • Additionally, I have chaired committees and held elected offices, with parliamentarian responsibilities.
  • I sought and was accepted to university college prep programs offered during the summer.
  • I have also sought opportunities to job shadow executive level managers, in an attempt to observe positive work habits and gain valuable mentorships in the business community. The individuals have offered me valuable work experience and an insight into the business world that is only secured through hands-on experience.
  • Finally, I am enrolled in my school's Business Track Program. The program focuses on strengthening and developing a sound foundation in the economic, financial, technological, international, and ethical aspects of business and has allowed me to secure paid employment of 15 hours a week as an administrative assistant at a real estate title company.

Dyslexia has challenged me to look at the bigger picture and to become creative in acquiring the skill set needed to succeed and to redefine a perceived weakness into a learning experience. I’ve had to learn new strategies to increase my GPA and gain core knowledge through alternate ways; alternate ways that advance leadership skills, concentrate on business development and foster critical thinking to solve complex business scenarios. These activities have complemented my high school curriculum, but more importantly, have set the stage for a successful college experience. In fall 2011, I will enter college as a beginning freshman. Going to college has always been a requirement for me, as I know gaining my undergraduate and graduate degrees in business will be the foundation of my professional career. Despite dyslexia, graduating from college has never been an option.

I choose to not only recognize that my “glass is half full,” but that my glass is really “spilling over.” I welcome the opportunity to share my experience with my peers who are diagnosed with learning challenges. If my experience can inspire someone else, I would love to instill in them that through hard work and creativity, they can accomplish anything they desire.