Advocating for Myself (and Others)!
On Tuesday, December 11, 2017, surrounded by some of his hockey teammates, a former Churchill classmate and his younger brother, Churchill alumnus Nicholas addressed a local St. Louis school Board at their monthly meeting. Nicholas spoke about his journey with dyslexia, credited Churchill Center & School with giving him the tools he needs to learn and succeed, and advocated for himself and all the other students who need specialized reading programs instituted and taught in school.
The following is the heartfelt message Nicholas presented to the Board.
My name is Nicholas. I’m in 4th grade and today is my birthday. I am dyslexic. Dyslexia is a reading, writing and spelling disability. Before I learned I had dyslexia, I felt frustrated and stupid in school. Everyone else moved so fast and I would be stuck on one word. My teachers would tell me to sound out the word or to just try harder. But I couldn’t do it and I promise, I was trying very hard. Just for a minute, think about telling a first grader to sound out the word “circle.” It doesn’t work. The two “c’s” make completely different sounds. And then that silly letter “e” at the end . . . it makes no sound at all. I could not figure out my first grade homework and it made me angry.
I still struggle every day, especially with spelling and writing. I know that I am smart and I can learn but I need more help than I am getting at my current school. I have learned that most teachers are not taught about dyslexia so even when teachers want to help me, they do not know HOW to help.
I need special reading and spelling instruction by a person trained to teach dyslexic kids like me. There are a lot of us. I know there are others in my school that are frustrated and struggling. Many of them don’t even know it’s because they have dyslexia. I am glad my parents did not listen when my teachers told them nothing was wrong and they should wait and I would learn to read on my own. That was not true. Dyslexics do not just learn to read without help.
What I need and what other dyslexics in my school need is someone who can teach us the way we learn. That’s why I am here today. I need each of you to know dyslexic children in your schools are not getting the help they need. They are not learning to read. They are not learning to spell. They are not learning to write. Simply telling us to try harder will not work. Dyslexics are already the hardest workers in the class. We have to be just to keep up.
The good news is there are programs to help us learn to read. I need your help to bring those programs into our schools for kids like me. As you can see, I am reading. But I didn’t learn to read here; I had to leave my friends and go to Churchill Center & School, a school that helps dyslexic kids learn to read. I learned to read with the Wilson Reading System®, but I have not finished the program yet. I want to finish the program, but no one here has the training needed to teach me or other kids like me.
Dyslexia is the number one learning disability and it runs in families. I want to make sure my little brother and sister do not have to feel stupid and frustrated in school like I did. No little kid should have to feel like a failure. Thanks to my experience at Churchill, I know now that I was not failing at school, school was failing me. All schools need to teach reading in a way we can all learn.
Please stop using reading programs that don’t work. Please train our teachers to identify and to help dyslexic kids. Don’t waste our time in resource rooms without appropriate reading programs. Please stop failing bright, hard-working children like me. Make our school district be a leader in literacy for all kids!
To see and hear Nicholas’ message to the school Board, please click HERE.