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Oregon Tech Student Gains National Honor

Categories: In the News

The following article by Holly Dillemuth appeared on the Herald and News website on May 1, 2014. It features a top winner of Learning Ally’s 2013 National Achievement Award for students with learning disabilities, Dustin Henderson, who was recognized for his outstanding academic achievement. 

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Dustin HendersonWithout resources to help him study with a learning disorder, Dustin Henderson doesn’t believe he’d be attending Oregon Tech. The 19-year-old electrical engineering student has not only learned to study and learn with dyslexia since being diagnosed in elementary school; over the weekend, he received national recognition as one of six recipients for a national achievement award in Washington, D.C. He receives a $6,000 scholarship along with his award. At the awards gala and in front of almost 400 people, Henderson shared how the nonprofit has helped him work through his different learning style. Henderson also participated in a bipartisan caucus on dyslexia, where he emphasized the need for more education for teachers and administrators about the reading disorder.
“It was an opportunity to do some advocacy for other students with dyslexia,” Henderson said. “When I was first identified as (having dyselxia), a lot of teachers and administrators didn’t know what it was.”
By advocating for those with dyslexia, he wants to increase awareness about the learning disability.
“Not everybody learns the same,” he said. “Those students could be getting more help.”
Growing up
Henderson grew up in Madras, and was diagnosed with dyslexia in elementary school. He began using Learning Ally books and resources in the fifth grade, some of which converted text to speech.
“It was like living in two different worlds,” he wrote in an essay submitted to Learning Ally. “In one world, I was the intelligent kid that knew the answers to the math problems. In the other world, I was the (special education) student who couldn’t read or write.”
Henderson started using audio books and resources from Learning Ally that helped him eventually graduate as a high school valedictorian in Redmond in May 2013. The struggles that led him to Oregon Tech also allowed him to be acknowledged for working with them.
Henderson urges students not to hide their disability, but work through it to accomplish their goals.
“I definitely tried to hide my disability when I was younger,” he said. “I still am overcoming it. It’s really kind of almost a gift.
“I like to think of my mind as a web — everything is interconnected,” he added.
In an essay he submitted to Learning Alley, he also wrote, “I used to view my learning disability as the bane of my existence. But now I define it as a learning difference. I do not let my disability define me; instead I define it, and have been able to take this view and pass it on to others struggling with similar situations.”
He also is able to talk about dyslexia with others, including students his own age.
Through Learning Ally, Henderson now counts reading among his favorite pastimes. One of his favorite reads is “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” by Rick Riordan.
He also has help with his courses toward a degree in engineering, through Learning Ally and through understanding from his professors and instructors.
“Having correct pronunciation of those (electrical engineering) terms makes a really big difference for me here,” Henderson said, of the resources Learning Ally offers. “I might not be in college without them (Learning Ally). They’ve had a huge impact on my life.”
To learn more, go online at https://learningally.org/naa/apply to view a video about his story.