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Mattawan, Michigan, US

Hi! My name is Bryce. At the age of eight I was diagnosed with dyslexia, which I got genetically from my uncle who is dyslexic. Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes reading unimaginably difficult. A learning disability affects the way you learn. It is not that you have a low IQ. For the most part, people with learning disabilities have normal to above normal IQ’s. It’s just they need to learn differently than people who don’t have a disability.

In early elementary I got by with memorizing the short stories we had to read as a group. I really couldn’t read the story alone when my teacher asked me to, but I sometimes faked like I could. Imagine how I felt when somebody asked me what a word was. I received reading help in early elementary, but even that help didn’t teach me how to read. Again, I could memorize those stories that we read in my reading class but I couldn’t figure out the words of the story by myself. It wasn’t until I was in third grade that I was finally tested by two different people, one person here at school, and another person my Mom took me to see. They both said that I had dyslexia. That same year I was also diagnosed with ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD causes me to have a harder time paying attention.

By third grade, I could finally read, but only at a first grade reading level. I had been in summer tutoring and little did I know my tutor was going to be my teacher for the next three years and I would need to be tutored the rest of my school career. Sucks to be me! My class in third grade had absolutely no one I knew. I felt trapped, but by the middle of Fall I made friends with a couple of the other students, who were not technically friends, more like acquaintances.

On the day of the presidential election between George Bush and John Kerry, I was told that I am being moved to a different third class on a different team because I needed to have a special ed class and the team I was on didn’t have a special ed teacher. I was disappointed. My third grade year turned out to be alright, but it was hard to adjust to a new teacher and finding out I had to go to a special class for my disability. Could things get any worse?

In fourth grade, I was making gains decoding words and I was really learning how to read. Writing was a problem. I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the class. I had a person come to class at times with me and scribe for me. A scribe is someone who writes down what you want to say. It wasn’t that I couldn’t write, it was just that it took my brain longer to send the message to my fingers and my letters were very BIG. My spelling was also a problem. I also learned that year that kids who are in special education sometimes get called names like retarded. That name has followed me every year of my school career because other kids don’t understand what having a learning disability is or means.

Once I got into fifth grade, I was faced with another challenge. I found out I have dysgraphia. During fifth grade my teacher would scribe for me and I worked at learning how to type, which I really was not mastering. Again, my brain was sending those messages to my fingers at a slow pace. Sometimes I thought a snail could be faster than me. My homeroom teacher was so supportive and knew that I was giving all I had…

But I ran into one regular education teacher that I had for one class who did not think I had any problems. He thought I was stubborn and lazy. He would not follow my IEP and he would get mad at me when I tried to advocate for myself. He said if I worked harder, I could overcome my dyslexia and dysgraphia. But the problem was my brain is always working harder than most kids and I will never be cured but I was overcoming it, even though he was not keeping his end of the bargain — to follow what was written in my IEP. So I spent most of my fifth grade with someone who didn’t believe that I was “able.”

By sixth grade, I was between a fifth and sixth grade reading level, I had been tested at Mary Free Bed Hospital, which is a hospital that deals with rehabilitation for people who have disabilities. I was trained with assistive technology and I was on my way to success! My grades were really good and my teachers were very supportive. I really connected with the group of teachers that I had. (Mr. Ablo rocks!)

In seventh grade, my assistive technology was in full force. You can see me today with my laptop and microphone head-gear working on a paper or project. I talk into the microphone and it types exactly what I am saying, like it is doing right now as I write this paper. I am in regular education for all my classes, including Language Arts, and I get support from special education. My teachers have been great this year and I think have learned something about assistive technology because of me.

I still have ADD, dyslexia and dysgraphia, but even with all those “labels,” I am earning A’s and succeeding. My biggest problem now is not working ahead of my class on those papers and projects. So for all those years that people didn’t know what was wrong or thought I was not trying, called me lazy, or other mean names — I learn differently, but I learn and I am ABLE. Watch out world, because just like all the other famous “out of the box” people, I am going to amaze you.

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