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.


Mike's Journey Through Dyslexia
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Mike Boland, dyslexic college freshman at Rhode Island School of Design, with his mother Mary Ann, photographed at the Learning Ally recording studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts "It’s hard not to be a hovering helicopter mom when you have a kid with a learning difference," admits Mary Ann Boland, mother of 18-year old Mike Boland, a Learning Ally member who is dyslexic. As Mike prepared to start his freshman year at Rhode Island School of Design, Mary Ann sat down with us to recall the downs and ups of dyslexia in the family. Note: story is updated with video. "Before we started with the accommodation of Learning Ally, Mike's homework would just take hours; it was a labor of love every night and involved the whole family.  Mike has a younger brother who is quite bright, and we had to consider his meltdowns because all the attention was constantly going to Mike, and he needed it too. "My husband and I would  take shifts – 'Who’s going to read what book tonight to him?' Bob and I were Mike’s readers and it’s very time consuming.  We love the kid to death and we’d do anything to make his life easier.  We certainly went through the gamut of many arguments.  Like 'Please try harder' ... and you know that whole thing – you'd feel like if he would just somehow work harder, we could get through this. But he was doing the very best that he could the whole time. It’s hard not to be a hovering helicopter mom when you have a kid with a learning difference. "And so once Mike started with the accommodations offered by Learning Ally, it made a huge difference.  His comprehension went up. And not only Mike Boland, dyslexic Learning Ally member, just before starting his freshman year at Rhode Island School of Designdid it cut down on the number of hours he was spending on homework, but his independence and his self-esteem and self-confidence just blossomed because now he could do it on his own.  He could feel like he was an independent learner.  And by the time you’re seventh, eighth, ninth grade, you want to be independent.  You want to be able to grow and feel like you’re doing it on your own. "And so once he started to become a little bit more independent with his reading, you know, it just freed us up completely. And then finally we had some extra time.  I mean, he had time then to be a high school kid; he spent hours doing community service and loving it.  He was a basketball manager.  He took after-school art classes.  You know it just allowed him to have a normal full schedule that most kids work towards in high school. 19- year old Mike Boland, dyslexic Learning Ally member, with his mother Mary Ann, discussing the trials of homework and family life; the ups and downs of self-esteem when a learning disability is present in the family. "Mike has worked really hard in the last four years and once his independence and self-esteem improved and grew, it was so much easier to pull away.  And in the last two years he really has been on his own.  At this point, you know, we wouldn’t be sending him to college three thousand miles away, had he not achieved this level of independence. "And it’s fun for me now, too.  I mean, I finally joined a book club myself about a year ago and I’m reading as an adult, you know, and enjoying this process tremendously!  But I have no regrets for all the time I spent with Mike getting him to the point where he is as a student." Listen to Mike and his mom describe their experiences around his dyslexia:


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