Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement


Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.

From Slow Reader to High Achiever
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Since being diagnosed with a learning disability as a child, Kara Scanlon has come a long way from the "slow reading table" she was forced to sit at in elementary school. Bright and charming, she recently graduated from the University of San Francisco with a double major in Physics and Math. Following is the transcript of Kara's thank you speech to donors at the Learning Ally DreamBuilders event in Hollywood, California on November 15, 2011. Kara Scanlon as a teenager and student with learning disabilities"Hello, my name is Kara. Before I begin, let me direct your attention to the video screen. ... that was me back in 2006. I stand before you the same energetic and optimistic girl, but now I am a confident woman as well. Many events have helped to shape me into whom I am today. Learning Ally rises to the top when I think about factors that created my confidence and eagerness to learn more. "Going to school and feeling stupid can break a person's soul and will to try. The cycle of trying and failing, and trying again and failing again can add up to create a disdain for school. Not being able to sounds out words meant sitting at the slow readers table, even though I could comprehend everything I heard when someone else read aloud. Not understanding the previous night's reading meant not being about to answer question in class. Not being able to write or spell the vocabulary words the teacher was using in lectures meant taking dismal notes which were worthless to study from.  Learning became a passion. I still have piles of books I want to read!" "Parental support could only go so far. It was a personal struggle no matter how hard my parents tried to help. I needed something more. At school, my parents could not read aloud in-class readings or sit down with me individually to slowly explain the material. I needed another form of support, something I could rely on morning, noon, or night. A friend of the family, my ally, suggested Learning Ally. I was given an amazing gift: a Learning Ally CD player. "I spent hours with creating worlds in my head about American History. The American Revolution, Gettysburg, and Martin Luther King came to life for me. I could see the events coming to life. I could understand it. Learning became a passion. Poetry, mystery novels, summer readings became fun and exciting. I had piles of books I wanted to read. My room hasn't changed much since: I still have piles of book I want to ready! Nothing could hold me back from trying to learn more. I went from getting Bs and Cs to As and Bs. I had teachers not choose me to answer questions in class because I raised my hand for every question. I started to volunteer to read aloud in class. Having dyslexia and volunteering to read aloud is a huge feat. It meant I was confident in my reading skills! That was momentous the first time I did it. I was proud and felt that I could conquer anything. Kara Scanlon at Learning Ally DreamBuilder's event in Los Angeles"This was all because of Learning Ally, which allowed me to read a book and hear the word I was reading at the same time. I could associate the shape of the word with the sound of the word, so it became easy to read on my own with practice. I no longer had to struggle with how to say the word or what the word was; I could simply read to understand which meant I spent time critically thinking about a subject instead of thinking about individual words. "I was no longer frustrated at school work. I no longer felt stupid or needed to lash out. I now love school. I recently graduated the University of San Francisco as a Physics and Math major. I am volunteering in a cancer research lab learning the functions specific proteins have on decreasing tumor size. I hope to study Biophysics in graduate school. None of this would have been possible without Learning Ally. I owe my confidence and love of learning to Learning Ally. "I am eternally grateful to the many people who read my text books aloud and the Dream Builders who make it possible for me to have new ways to listen to Learning Ally audio files. My story is a success story because of Learning Ally."

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