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Connie082009-3I grew up in a household with a dyslexic father and brother, although at the time no one could give a name to what was wrong. My father dropped out of school in the 10th grade because reading and English were difficult for him, yet science and math he excelled at. During this time in our country’s history you were able to become an apprentice in a trade, even if you did not have a high school diploma, and my father became a very successful pipefitter. This is not the case today. When my younger brother was in first grade he struggled horribly with his school work and doing homework became torture for both my brother and my mother. At the end of the year it was decided that he should repeat the first grade due to the lack in his reading ability. This was a common practice in the 1970’s because not a lot was understood about reading disabilities and dyslexia.

After first grade my brother was passed along to higher grades even though he wasn’t doing well and struggled horribly. My parents were told that he was just a “slow” learner and he would eventually catch up. It wasn’t until my brother was in the 8th grade that the principal of our small school heard about a reading program that helped children like my brother, who she felt was dyslexic, and he entered into an Orton-Gillingham reading program that summer. It changed his life, increasing his reading ability and allowing him to pass high school.  After high school he went into the navy, and after earning his GI bill he came home and went into a program to become a pipefitter like my father. No longer an apprenticeship, this required an associated degree and the passing of a difficult test to enter the trades, where he has been successful for 25 years.

Where do I fit into all of this?  It turns out I have dyslexia as well, although not as severe as my father and brother. My difficulties started around fifth grade and school became my own personal nightmare.  I would study for hours only to fail a test, and homework didn’t make sense. I struggled through grade school and high school feeling stupid and my self esteem suffered. Around 11th grade things started making “sense” and my brain started making connections.  I would find out years later that that is very normal for girls who suffer dyslexia. For whatever reason we begin to comprehend language around the age of 17, this is not so for boys. Although my school work improved the damage had already been done to my self esteem and would take years to repair.

When I asked my mom why they didn’t help me the way they had helped my brother, she said they didn’t realize that I was suffering from dyslexia. My brothers problems were so severe that it never occurred to them that I may have some of the same issues because I managed to “pass” my classes with C’s and D’s.  Dyslexia does NOT present the same symptoms in all people and this is why is can be so difficult to diagnose.

I went on to Michigan Tech college where I eventually met my husband Bob and got married.  I didn’t complete my degree (which was in oceanography) at that time but instead focused on having my daughters and raising my family.  I went back to school at the age of 30, nearly 15 years after things began to “make sense”, as it took that long for me to gain confidence in myself and my abilities.  I went to school full time at night and on weekends while raising my girls and obtained my Bachelors of Science in education when I was 39.

I did this to prove to myself that I was not stupid, but an intelligent capable human being who just had a learning difference. I also did it for my daughters to teach them that anything is possible as long as you have the courage to believe in yourself.  This was a message that was especially important for my youngest daughter Amanda, who happens to also have dyslexia as severely as her grandfather and her uncle.  It is for her and all of the parents like ourselves that this site was created. Look for Amanda’s story on this site.

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