You know when something so fantastic happens to someone you know, and it fills your heart with happiness? My heart is so happy; I want to share this true story of an extraordinary young woman making a very powerful impact on the life of a little girl in the Dyslexia Buddy Network. If you are a parent of a child with dyslexia, get your tissues ready.
I bring in speakers to the Dyslexia Buddy Network (DBN) to tell our youth about their own experience growing up with dyslexia. A mom in our group referred me to her niece, Kathleen, a college student studying Sports Marketing Communication. I invited Kathleen to be a speaker and since her college was out of state, she offered to write a letter for DBN parents to share with their kids, and what follows after this letter is your Tissue Alert.

“I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was in 2nd grade. I remember when I was little I could not remember my alphabet and struggled with math and could not read well, I also use to write backwards!  After I was diagnosed, I was put in the one of Scottish Rite Children’s Dyslexia Centers that used the Orton Gillingham Approach. After a few months I remember when I could read my first billboard while driving with my mom. IT WAS EPIC!

It was always a struggle for me in school when it came to my academic and peers. I felt stupid and had low self esteem because I had two very intelligent older brothers who always got straight A’s and I ended up with C’s. My dad was always positive and treated my report card like they were As because he knew I tried my best. I also took my test separate from my peers. I ended up with a lot of backlash from my peers, “why does she get special treatment”, “how come you are never here to take the test.” At such a young age they were ignorant to my learning disability and why I had to leave the room for every test. I was always the last one to get picked for class projects because kids thought I was “too Dumb” to be in their group to contribute. I would come home crying and very upset and did not want to go to school, embarrassed by the way I learn.

My mom taught me to look at my dyslexia as a gift and just tell people, I am just like you, I just learn differently. Even though I struggled in a lot of areas of academics and school life, I was a very outgoing little girl my mom said, and would go up and talk to just about anyone.
I eventually learned to own my dyslexia and not let it define me. I found things I was passionate about such as, writing my own stories, art, and sports! I was on the Varsity Tennis team all four years of high school, national art honor society and much more. I am a avid hockey fan (Go Blackhawks!). I took a liking to the Chicago Blackhawks Ice crew girls and they adopted me as their “younger sister”. One of the crew girls eventually told me she was dyslexic too. She taught me to always follow my dreams and never give up. Since then I did just that. I went to college and knew I wanted to work in sports. I have had multiple internships with professional sports teams such as, St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, and even studied abroad and worked for Chelsea Football Club.
This is only a small portion of my story! There is so much more I would love to share with you and your children about my journey “growing up backwards”. I would love to become a mentor to your young children and teach them tools and ways to deal with growing up dyslexia. I want to let kids know they are not alone. I would love to teach them they have the power to do anything they set their mind to and to always follow their dreams!” — Kathleen
A DBN mom asked Kathleen if she’d be willing to provide some encouragement to her 10-year old daughter, Abby. Kathleen has embraced this with her entire heart, going above and beyond! She has talked with Abby on a regular basis – Skyping, writing letters, talking on the phone, providing much needed inspiration and empowerment. When Kathleen was back in Illinois after having graduated college (Yay!), she and Abby finally had the opportunity to meet in person. Kathleen showed up with a bunch of thoughtful presents – a Build-A-Bear wearing a soccer uniform (Abby’s favorite sport) which Kathleen named Ms. Confidence, and the book “It’s Called Dyslexia” which helped Kathleen when she was Abby’s age. And as if that weren’t enough to make all of us Dyslexia Mama Bears cry, Kathleen took Abby’s Chicago Blackhawks jersey and had it autographed by Jonathan Toews!
Kathleen wrote on Facebook,  “Be a person you needed when you were younger!” Meet my favorite girl Abby! The most fun loving, confident, and smartest young lady I have ever met! I am so proud of how far she has come and the confidence that surrounds her!