Guest blog by Naveh Berner-Kadish, Learning Ally member
I vividly remember, in the second grade, when I first learned that I had dyslexia. When I first learned I was learning disabled, it came as a relief. I had a name for what I was experiencing, and I had something to work towards and to overcome - if only I could persevere.
With the help of mentors along the way, I began my journey of perseverance, which has brought me to where I am now, completing high school with honors and heading off to college with the aspiration of becoming a biomedical engineer.
I love books, which is ironic considering I can count the number of books I have “read” (in the traditional sense) on one hand.
This is not something that I like to publicize, but living with dyslexia makes reading and writing a chore. To say I don’t read is an oversimplification. Indeed, I have spent much of my life engaged in the dyslexic version of having my nose in a book – listening to books read aloud – most of which have been downloaded from Learning Ally – rather than processing the written text. Thus, while I may have only “read” a handful of books, I have learned to love reading through the incredible technology available today to people like me who not very long ago were cut off from the gift of literacy.
In elementary school, I felt my dyslexia held me back. I was constantly fighting against it and hadn’t yet learned to embrace it or found tools to compensate for it. But it was then that I first discovered audiobooks, which was the first step toward accepting my difference and not only to survive but to thrive, not in spite of but because of my dyslexia.
When I got to middle school, because I always loved math and science, I applied to a highly selective science and math magnet program. Although I was delighted to be accepted into the program, I later learned that the school was skeptical about whether I could succeed because of my significant learning disabilities. The classes were extremely difficult and I was surrounded by really smart kids.
But, in middle school, with the help of my wonderful special education teacher and the support of audiobooks, I learned how to work with, and around, my dyslexia. I began to rely even more heavily on audiobooks, particularly those I was able to download from Learning Ally.
By the end of middle school, I completed this challenging magnet program and was even scoring on par with my peers on standardized reading tests.
In high school, I continued searching for ways to work around and with my learning differences. With the help of my high school special education teacher, I learned new strategies and really figured out what I needed to succeed. I have benefited greatly from the dedication of many people who worked hard to open doors for people with learning differences. I too have wanted to contribute to smoothing the way for others and have learned that telling my story is a powerful way of doing so.
When I was twelve years old, as part of preparations for my Bar Mitzvah, I biked 50 miles to raise funds for Learning Ally. Although my original goal was to raise $1,800, by sharing my personal story of struggling with dyslexia I raised almost $6,000! More recently, I was able to help other public-school students and families in my county by participating in a panel on how to succeed in school for parents and elementary school-aged children who, like me, are both gifted and learning disabled.
I am excited to be entering Northeastern University this coming fall as a freshman in bioengineering. I want to help develop innovative technologies to improve global medical care. While physicians through their work are able to heal one person at a time, biomedical engineers are able through their innovation to create products that help heal thousands or even millions of people. Breakthroughs in biomedical engineering have not only improved the level of care, they have also increased the success of medical procedures. By creating medical devices that are less expensive to mass produce, I hope to increase access to lifesaving and life-improving healthcare for people even in remote areas of the world.
Learning Ally is a leading ed-tech nonprofit organization proven to transform the lives of struggling readers with learning differences. Not a member yet? Try a quick start package for your school or start an individual account. Then sign up for our Summer Reading Together – a free summer reading program for Learning Ally member schools and families.