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Lights, Camera, Accommodations for Dyslexic Filmmaker

Categories: Learning Disabilities

Keenan Jones, student with dyslexia.“I have this disability that makes my pursuit of education—from taking tests to learning material as quickly as other students—a little bit harder,” says 19-year-old Keenan Jones, a San Diego native, aspiring film student with dyslexia, and winner of Learning Ally’s Reitnouer Scholastic Achievement Award. Obstacles were in Keenan's path from the beginning, when he was born with a complex congenital heart defect. During one of three open-heart surgeries, his brain became oxygen-deprived on the heart-bypass machine, possibly causing his speech and reading challenges. With therapy, Keenan’s speech problems resolved and he grew into an eloquent, conversational young man, but his difficulty with reading persisted. “My main struggle is just the time it takes me to read,” Keenan explains. “My processing speed when reading text word-for-word on a page, compared to having a computer read it to me or using an audiobook, holds me back. That’s why I use accommodations.” Though his dyslexia sets him apart somewhat from his peers when he stays after school for extra time on a test or uses a note taker, his differences do not drag him down. Instead, Keenan focuses on his strengths.
“I keep a positive attitude. Dyslexia makes reading difficult, but it doesn’t affect sports. It doesn’t affect my other outside activities. In that sense, I’m just a normal kid who takes a little longer to get things done.”
Student filmmakerAn area Keenan truly shines in is filmmaking, a passion he discovered at a young age. Growing from humble roots in a stop-motion Lego film on his family’s camcorder—which turned out to be more indicative of his talents than predicted when the video won an award at a Los Angeles-based film festival!—Keenan’s interest in video led him to head his high school’s film club and take on freelance advertising jobs. Filmmaking is a pursuit Keenan plans to continue as a sophomore next year at the University of Southern California, where he also intends to study business. His goals embody his practicality and a degree of wisdom beyond his years: “I imagine myself doing behind the scenes work in film, not being a big director. I think everyone wants to do that. A more realistic goal is something in post-production, special effects or editing.” Having successfully navigated grade school, Keenan has some advice for younger students dealing with dyslexia: “If you need it, don't be afraid to ask for a note taker or audiobooks. Take advantage of technology and the resources your school has to offer.” A member of Learning Ally since 2010, Keenan began his relationship with the organization—true to his passion— with the subject of filmmaking. “Two of the very first audiobooks I downloaded from Learning Ally were The Art of Watching Films and The Five C’s of Cinematography,” he says. Dyslexia has made the rigors of school all the more challenging for Keenan, but he persevered, earning the Reitnouer Award in recognition of his academic achievement and extracurricular efforts. “I’m honored to have won the award,” he says. “I really do appreciate it.”

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About the Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Scholastic Achievement Awards The Reitnouer Award is given to Learning Ally members in the Southern California region who have a learning disability, are in high school or college, and have demonstrated outstanding academic accomplishment.

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