Figuring Out My World: Alison May
Alison’s story is the perfect example of what many families must go through when faced with the possibility of having a child diagnosed with a learning disability. Alison was not diagnosed with visual and auditory dyslexia until the summer before entering college. However, while still a toddler, her symptoms had been brought to her mother’s attention by her sister’s teacher. Alison’s mother then noticed her habits in repeating words incorrectly and how Alison would need tactile clues to follow directions. At the recommendation of her kindergarten teacher, Alison was tested for learning disabilities and the results from the school psychologists were that she was acting stubborn or disobedient. Her family did not stop with the school’s diagnosis. They had private testing completed that confirmed Alison did not have a specific learning disability. The final word came from a relative that happened to be a psychologist. He insisted Alison would grow out of her difficulties. So Alison continued on with her entire elementary, middle and high school journey as a student and daughter with an undiagnosed learning disability.
Alison spent 12 years of her life learning how to learn. She was comfortable with conversation, but could not understand directions. This caused her a lot of self-esteem issues as a young child trying to fit in with all the other kids. She felt an enormous amount of pressure at both school and home. At age seven, she finally came to the realization that she just did not understand. That is when she began to develop coping mechanisms like asking others to repeat and clarify directions, spoken or written. She used the cues of those around her, and observed her classmates and reactions of her teachers (Rodis, P., Garrod, A., & Boscardin, M.L., (2001). The only way Alison was going to be successful in school was if she remained focused on any strategy that would keep her up to par with her classmates. She had to work harder at things that came easy to her classmates. Socially, Alison did not have close friends, but she was friendly with everyone. It was so important for her to be normal that she sacrificed her social life. It would be more devastating to Alison if she became labeled as dumb or stupid, so her priority was academics. Alison succeeded in fooling everyone when she graduated third in her class of 237 from high school, but no one realized how she had hidden who she really was.
Dyslexia as a Learning Disability
There are pros and cons to the sequence of events in Alison’s life. Was it a good thing that she was not diagnosed as a young child? If Alison was diagnosed with dyslexia when initially tested, to what extent would her education have been different? Research has shown that teachers may hold lower expectations for students diagnosed as having dyslexia than for students without any learning disabilities, and these expectations may, in turn, impact student achievement (Hornstra,...