Allison Arne ('09)
Dyslexia is Strength
Allison Arne (’09)
The Schenck School Annual Report 2015-2016
The dinner table lacked food. I sat at my place crying, next to my teary eyed mom. I was stupid, and we both knew it. It had been another long night of writing and rewriting the same word on a piece of paper. It was second grade, and I still could not spell chocolate for my spelling test the next day. I sat blubbering out tears of worthlessness knowing I was dumb. Silent tears of frustration stained my mother’s face; she didn’t know how to help me. I would come home later that week with yet another failing test grade. My lack of self-confidence from constantly failing continued another year until one summer day before fourth grade. After days of testing with strangers, Mom told me I was dyslexic and always would be. She also said I was smart. I asked “You mean I’m Georgia Tech Smart?” Unfortunately, she didn’t only tell me I was dyslexic, she told everyone. I avoided those who knew, quickly diving into the pool, because they would know I was weird and different. A new school accepted me as a student. I told all of my friends I was going to pirate school, not realizing private was a totally different word. I started my fourth grade year as a student at the Schenck School, a place only for dyslexics, where I learned how to be me.
At Schenck, I learned Orton Gillingham, a different way to decipher English words. But the most important thing was everyone was like me. Soon I was rushing home with the Tale of Despereaux in hand, plopping down on my bed, and eating the words up. Eventually I craved this new knowledge and craved showing people my reading skills. Each day I learned something new, whether I learned Latin prefixes or the simple rhyme “I before e except after c or when sounding like ‘a’ as in neighbor or weigh.” I couldn’t get enough of school. Although reading takes me places I have never been, my favorite part was my father saying to me recently, “Allison, your love of reading makes me so proud, because I never thought you’d say that eight years ago. It’s a miracle.”
I craved learning and loved Schenck, but eventually I had to return to my old world. Schenck decided I had all the skills I needed. My mom advocated for me throughout middle school and told teachers about my disabilities and academic needs. I was first put in the classes with students who weren’t motivated to learn, but with my mom’s advocacy I was tested for and placed in the gifted program to take my education as far as I could. My grades soared throughout middle school, as did my group of friends, who believed I was smart despite my dyslexia.
Entering high school, I walked up to all of my teachers after school, making rounds to tell them I was dyslexic and that eventually I might need help and extended time. I was no longer the tiny six grader whose mom told the school everything. I was me: a strong, independent dyslexic who loves to learn and be the best I can be. My attitude towards learning didn’t change, and I became proud of the fact that I was dyslexic. For me, dyslexia is a strength.
My dyslexia taught me to work for my grades and my education. My time management skills have improved to compensate for my slower processing. Managing sleep, family, friends, studying, music lessons, and swimming has been a challenge but I have found ways to accomplish all of them. Last year while I watched friends enjoy their high school time, I sat up very late each night studying and reading because each assignment took me longer. In addition to academics, dyslexia affects how I read music. It impacts my ability to interpret symbols, maintain tempos, and read the notes properly. This makes sight reading in class and during auditions frustrating. I have worked hard with my music teachers to overcome these challenges. My struggles as a dyslexic have made me a stronger person through hard work and increased determination.
Students and teachers are surprised to find out that I’m dyslexic. They perceive dyslexics as being dumb. I try to teach others how a dyslexic just learns differently. I still come across people who get angry when I get extended time because to them I am smart enough to not need it. Just this month, a girl in one of my AP classes became visibly furious that I was allowed to stay and finish a test when she wasn’t. At first, I was taken aback and confused as to how such a bright girl felt that way. I realized I needed to explain why I need extended time and how I process differently from her. Other people look at me, some of them my best friends, and say “Man, I wish I had extended time. You don’t even need it because you’re smart.” I find myself having to explain: “You don’t have a disability. I love being dyslexic but I can’t tell what I would give to be normal and be able to process as fast as those without a learning disability.”
My dyslexia has shaped me and I love who I have become. Dyslexia has been one of the biggest struggles and greatest gifts of my life. When I went on a trip my junior year and was asked to say something personal about myself, I stood up and looked around. “I’m dyslexic. Everyone thought I was dumb but I’m taking the hardest classes at my school this coming year. I’m going to prove them all wrong.” And I sat down.
This essay was written by Allison for her college applications.
Allison is currently at senior at Lakeside High School where she is in her third year as a member of the Beta Club, serving as vice president her junior year and president her senior year. In addition, she is a member of the National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Society. In her junior year, she was named an AP Scholar and received the George Eastman Young Leaders Award. Also in her junior year, she scored an 800 on her math SAT. Outside of the classroom, Allison is an accomplished musician. She plays oboe, cymbals and piano in the School’s band and marching band. In addition, Allison has been on the school’s varsity swim team for four years and this year was elected as team captain. During her summers, Allison swims for a summer swim league and has been a swim coach for her league for the past 3 years. Allison is also four-year member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and has been a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church where she served as a youth representative on three committees. She is also an i
nternational ambassador through the People to People Student Ambassador Program and loves to travel with her family. Allison has been accepted to several colleges including UGA's Honors Program and UNC-Chapel Hill. However, she wants to experience the northeast and cold winters so she plans to attend the University of Rochester in the fall and major in one of the sciences, possibly neuroscience