Although it’s been many years since she was made to sit at the “slow readers’ table” as a dyslexic child in elementary school, the memory is vivid for long-time Learning Ally member Kara Scanlon
“Going to school and feeling stupid can break a person’s soul and will to try,” she said in a speech to Learning Ally supporters in Los Angeles a few years ago. “The cycle of trying and failing can add up to create a disdain for school. Not being able to read and sound out words was embarrassing, even though I could comprehend everything I heard when someone else read aloud.”
As a dyslexic student, laboring for hours over her school reading assignments, Kara used to say to herself, my brain hurts
. The phrase has stuck around. “Even now, I still jokingly say ‘my brain hurts’ when I’m working hard on something,” she admits.
Somewhere along the line, Kara stood up from the slow readers’ table and never looked back. Approachable, super-bright and graced with infectious charm, she is clearly relishing her time in graduate school and preparing for a career as an educational therapist. When we met up in late October at the Association of Educational Therapists
Conference in San Mateo, California, she was beaming with enthusiasm and trying not to blush over accolades from AET’s president Jeanette Rivera (pictured at left with Kara in photo above).
“Kara’s brilliant and she’s going to be a great therapist,” says Rivera. “She understands dyslexia and learning issues from personal experience – imagine how much empathy and wisdom she’ll be able to draw on when she is working with students who have learning differences today.”
"Learning Ally rises to the top when I think about factors that created my confidence and eagerness to learn more."
Now in her second year of graduate work at Holy Names University, Kara is pursuing her Masters in Education while honing in on a certificate in Educational Therapy. “My goal is to work with students like me,” she says, “particularly those with math and science issues since those are the fields of study I love most. I had three educational therapists for the different developmental stages I was in between elementary school and high school. They were all with me when I needed very specific help.
[caption id="attachment_21950" align="alignleft" width="145"] Kara in high school
“Part of being an educational therapist involves building up a ‘tool belt’ and putting all of your tools in it and knowing when to use them to help students get to the next level. Educational therapists understand the need for audiobooks and how they work, so they see Learning Ally as one of the critical tools to add to the tool belt. As a child it 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; I could simply listen and read to understand, and spend more time critically thinking about a subject. I owe a lot of my love of learning and confidence to Learning Ally.
“When you are struggling and you wish you could be doing better, you can get to a place of loneliness or despair. It’s easy to think you're the only person in the world who has this problem going on. But now we’ve come so far, between technology and understanding of disabilities – with so many resources online, options to meet people and talk to others – there’s no reason for anyone with a learning disability to ever feel alone anymore.”