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Students with dyslexia overcome daily challenges in college

Students with dyslexia overcome daily challenges in college

Students with dyslexia overcome daily challenges in college
October 25
00:48 2018

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, however some UNT students are unaware of what dyslexia is.

For many students on campus though, it is a daily challenge they have learned to adapt to and wrestle with.

Music education freshman Emily Diguette was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was 5 years old. After repeating kindergarten twice, her family knew something was wrong.

“They evaluated me and realized it was a bigger problem than just getting the basics down,” Diguette said. “I was lucky enough to be in a school district where they recognized that instead of just thinking I was dumb.”

Throughout the rest of her school career, Diguette knew she had to approach her education in a different way. She was taught a different style of reading, writing and breaking down words. A common explanation of dyslexia is a difficulty with reading and writing. However, it also affects the perception of multitasking, directional sense and speaking.

In high school, Diguette developed a 504 plan, a personalized plan that lists the accommodations a student with dyslexia needs to function. She received more time on tests, the ability to use dictionaries and closer seating, which helped Diguette succeed in school.

However, now at UNT, Diguette is still waiting to acquire her accommodations. Since she has not been tested since elementary school, she is required to complete 12 hours of psychological testing to reconfirm she is dyslexic. With her school schedule, two jobs and commuting, the testing has taken Diguette more than six weeks to complete.

Diguette does not have a car and commutes by bus and by train to and from school. This has made her schedule more difficult to adjust for testing. Diguette now will not have her accommodations for her midterms. Simply

testing can take up time and money — both of which can be scarce depending on each student.

“I believe it is my fault because I didn’t get the testing done in the summer and I didn’t have it put together the first day of school,” Diguette said. “I wanted to do the testing on campus because I thought it would be free, but it costs $270.”

According to the on-campus testing center, for a student with less than $10,000 as their annual income, testing costs $250. Diguette makes more than $10,000, so the test costs more.

Diguette said despite not having her accommodations, she has tried to find ways to complete her homework. To substitute reading, she checks out MacBooks at the library and uses the “speak” feature to read her homework out loud to her. It is one of the things she has learned to adjust for her dyslexia.

In her major, Diguette also has difficulty reading music in different languages, singing and conducting at the same time, playing the piano with two hands and reading two lines of music at a time.

“I just wish someone understood the urgency,” Diguette said. “As a music major who commutes, I’m busy 8 a.m. 5 p.m. every day, and I need to get home and do homework.”

History junior Jade Stephenson’s dyslexia shows itself in her spelling and grammar rather than her reading. She often inverts phrases, reads them backward and adds random letters in words. She said she never had trouble from teachers regarding her dyslexia until she attended NCTC.

“The hardest part was getting some teachers to actually believe me,” Stephenson said. “They didn’t do a lot of background checking there.”

Stephenson juggles both dyslexia and bipolar disorder and said the best way to keep herself happy is to remove herself from negative situations and study the ways that work for her.

“Repetition is definitely what keeps me going,” Stephenson said. “If it weren’t for that I wouldn’t even pass.”

Director of the Office of Disabilities Katy Washington said accommodating every student is different. For many, the paperwork can be confusing, and if a student has old documentation, Washington said they need to be retested.

“Some students may have documentation that’s 15 years old,” Washington said. “We are going to want something that’s more current to know exactly where the issue is. We can use that to give them time to get something updated.”

The office sets up accommodations based on student report and documentation. If students have 504 plans from high school, they can transfer the information over to UNT.

“Sometimes when we get the 504 plans, they may be very curt and concise with no other information other than a diagnosis, so it doesn’t say what the deficits were,” Washington said.

Washington has worked at schools, ranging from community college to high schools, in offices of disabilities. She said the processes schools use to accommodate students are similar, but all students are different.

“Every place I’ve been is different — not only the staff but the culture you’re working in [and] the students you’re working with in terms of how they’re utilizing their accommodations,” Washington said. “Every place has its pros and its cons, and I’ve taken what I’ve learned from each place.”

Special education junior Anna Wojciechiwski remembers gripping her pencil so hard it would snap in elementary school — not out of frustration, but because the words in front of her were flipped over and out of focus.

Wojciechiwski was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in first grade. Luckily she had a teacher who was dyslexic and recognized the traits early on. Wojciechiwski enrolled in the Shelton School, a school designed for children with learning differences like attention deficit disorder, dysgraphia, dyslexia and dyscalculia.

“I had a teacher say I needed to go Shelton or I wouldn’t make it through school and that I’d have to drop out,” Wojciechiwski said.

Wojciechiwski attended Shelton until eighth grade and then transferred to Flower Mound High School. Like Diguette, she received the 504 accommodation. Now at UNT, she receives accommodations like Kurzweil, a program where all her textbooks are converted electronically and read to her.

“Being an education major too, I know about the accommodations,” Wojciechiwski said. “Something Shelton taught me is that public schools don’t really teach self-advocation.”

Wojciechiwski said her teachers at Shelton taught her how to speak up on topics she did not understand. Because of this, she sets herself up for success and is less afraid to ask questions.

Despite the difficulties she faces, Wojciechiwski said she loves her dyslexia because it allows her to see the world in a different way.

“Learn about what it is, don’t just sit and say you have dyslexia,” Wojciechiwski said. “Figure out what it is and what it does. [There are] many beneficial things that come from being dyslexic.”

Featured Image: Special education junior Anna Wojciechiwski has dyslexia and receives accommodations from the university. UNT provides programs such as Kurzweil, which provide all her books to be read to her through the computer. Dimmagio Escobedo

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Anna Orr

Anna Orr

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1 Comment

  1. PDEG
    PDEG October 25, 18:41

    There isn’t evidence that supports that dyslexia impacts non/reading tasks per se; dyslexia impacts students differently, but root causes are the same. In Texas, schools of higher education are required to review all prior testing before requiring students to be retested. This is part of the Texas Administrative Code. See TEC §51.9701 states that “unless otherwise provided by law, an institution of higher education, as
    defined by §61.003, may not reassess a student determined to have dyslexia for the purpose of
    assessing the student’s need for accommodations until the institution of higher education reevaluates
    the information obtained from previous assessments of the student.”
    Also, schools may provide preliminary or provisional accommodations based on your current documentation until new testing is done. If classified with a disability or if you have a history of one and accommodations, the presumption should be that you have a record of a disability and to avoid the impression of discrimination, those provisional accommodations should be considered.
    Call the Office of Civil Rights (214) 661-9600 and describe the situation. Find resources to help- including the Department of Rehabilitative Serbices (DAR) and the PRN or Parents Resource Network in Texas. Good luck!

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