Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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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.


“Lift Up a Child; Don’t Leave it to Chance”
In 2007, a chance conversation in the parking lot between parents Madilyn Paolucci and Therese Llorente literally changed the Llorente family’s lives. Therese’s daughter Stephanie, 14, had just been diagnosed as an auditory learner, after struggling in school for years. Therese wondered, “Where do I go from here?” Madilyn said, “My daughter is also an auditory learner; we finally signed her up with Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, and then she started to get A's.” Therese promptly went home to do web search for RFB&D (Learning Ally's former name at that time), signed Stephanie up for membership, and a family began its transformation. Madilyn’s experience with her daughter rang true as an answer for Therese:  “That chance meeting in the parking lot was my chance knowing that some kids just learn differently, and that I could have my daughter helped." Up to this point, Therese and husband Peter had trudged through a tangle of frustration that many parents of auditory learners experience. “Quite honestly, before the testing, I didn’t know that she was bright. She was working hard, but we were all so frustrated. But then they gave her one test where you get a series of numbers, and they ask you to repeat those numbers backwards. And they couldn’t find enough numbers to challenge Stephanie! In this test result, she was ‘beyond college,’ and the key was hearing.” “And we began to realize that, for instance, if Peter was trying to explain math to her while he was watching the Broncos on TV, it’s too much hearing for Stephanie; and that noise made it more confusing, because she learns through listening! “I also used to have to do a lot of reading to her. I’ve talked to many mothers who want to hold onto that, but I don’t think that’s sustainable for the child or the parent.  And now I see my daughter with her MP3 player, sitting there in the chair for hours, knowing that before she would not have been able to read a textbook past two pages; but now she’s able to absorb it and understand it!” Soon after Therese signed Stephanie up for membership she realized, “Wow, this is working! This has changed my daughter.” Therese encouraged Stephanie to share her experience with others so they wouldn’t have to wait for a chance meeting to get help, the way she did. Ryley, Stephanie, Devin Llorente -- Learning Ally familyStephanie ended up writing personal notes to hundreds of local Colorado lawmakers who had been invited to the Denver studio for the annual Record-A-Thon. She wrote a narrative about her transformation through RFB&D for her school’s newsletter. Not wanting to stop there, Stephanie gave a testimonial speech at the Denver Studio’s DreamBuilders fundraising breakfast, and later, used it as the ticket to her entrance onto the school’s elite speech team. Therese and husband Peter were present when Stephanie made her speech at the fundraising breakfast, and decided right then to further their commitment to RFB&D by becoming DreamBuilder donors themselves: “It was an easy choice for our family to make.” Therese  joined the Denver Board of Directors in October 2010 because, like Stephanie, she wanted to have a first hand in letting more people, especially parents, get help for their kids. “I tell parents, if someone said, ‘I’m going to give you this secret code and you’re going to have successes in the world!’ You’d do it, right? So that’s it: RFB&D was, and now Learning Ally is your secret code!” But there’s more. The Llorente’s son, Ryley (15) became a volunteer, to help support people like his sister. And son Devin (11) has already expressed interest in one day becoming a volunteer himself. Therese’s advice: “Donating to Learning Ally allows you to lift up a child to reach the highest potential that they have.” -Diane Kelber


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