Christian Education

Glimpse into the future: teenager charts his own education around dyslexia


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PARIS – By the time Jonah Padgett was in first or second grade, he was already frustrated with school.

“I remember at school, having a reading circle,” Padgett recalled in a Zoom interview last Friday. “And when it was my turn to read, the teacher would always correct me. And I was never able to finish a sentence. I think this is the first time that I realize that I was different from other children.

He read the words out of order. There were key letters he said he struggled with, especially the lowercase “d” with “g” and the lowercase “p” and “q”. He didn’t realize at first that he was saying the wrong words until he continued to be corrected. All the words brought sorrow; “Because” is the one that was particularly tricky.

“I couldn’t really see the difference in what she was pointing out to me. I just couldn’t read. I think my mom knew I had a problem even though I didn’t.

Padgett was then enrolled at Oxford Hills Christian Academy. At the end of the second year, his parents decided to take him out of school and work on a home schooling plan that suited his needs. With patience and a flexible approach, Jen Padgett was able to teach him to read. He spent a lot of time sitting on the sofa, reading books. One thing that helped Padgett was reading himself aloud. Over time it got better.

“I think I even tried reading backwards at one point,” he said. “I don’t remember how it worked, it was just a trick that I tried. Looking back, now reading fluently, when I was little, it’s amazing how far I’ve come. I don’t think I even realized it, but it’s something I can do now.

“And I couldn’t spell to save my life. Not at all, “he said.” That’s one aspect of dyslexia – spelling and reading go hand in hand, as a couple. With ‘because’ I finally learned. “Spell it last year. I’m still learning to spell, even though I’m in grade 12. It will never stop.”

Learning individually at home has given Padgett the freedom to learn on his own terms. With his two parent educators teaching him, he was more comfortable, could choose times that were conducive to learning and gave him more free time. He also struggled with math, a condition known as dyscalculia.

“I also struggled with math,” he said. “I would forget the stages of problems like long division and multiplication. I can do it, but I have to work really hard.

Padgett’s parents took him to a psychologist to test his learning abilities. He was subjected to a number of tests, such as building with blocks, doing math problems and reading exercises, doing comprehension, writing and spelling things. After his diagnoses, he continued with annual screenings to help him assess his progress and prepare for college.

“I would like to see dyslexia as my superpower and a part of me, but that would be a lie,” he said. “Sometimes I got frustrated. But I’m grateful for it because it got me through difficult situations.

Padgett is also grateful for the technology that helps conquer it. He often relies on audio books, which help him process information without having to use letters. He uses the “text to speech” function on his devices and the Quizzlet and Speechify programs. He also found multisensory techniques, such as building blocks or writing in sand with his hands or a stick, useful.

“My parents advocated trying whatever worked to help me learn,” Padgett explained. “I typed a lot, I learned that when I was very young. It would be very difficult to learn without technology and I wouldn’t want to learn without it.

“But because I have very supportive parents, I could do it [without], but it would have been much more difficult.

After being homeschooled in grades three, four and five, Padgett returned to grade six at Guy E. Rowe School, where he was able to have his father Jeff as a teacher. He found it reassuring to have his father’s support and the school year went pretty well for him. He returned to the Christian academy for the seventh and eighth grades and joined the school football team as a goalkeeper, in which he excelled. After that, he decided he had better go back to homeschooling, but he stayed on the football team for a few more years.

Padgett eventually gave up football in order to begin attending college classes at the University of Maine Augusta and Presque Isle in his freshman year, working on his foundation classes before leaving home to attend Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. Taking online classes has added more ways to learn at your own pace – attending virtual conferences and communicating with instructors on your own schedule.

After 12 years of private, public and home schooling, Padgett’s grades and comprehension are where they should be, even with dyslexia and dyscalculia.

“If something is important to you, you will take the time to do it,” said Padgett. “You might not like it, but you will.” And that’s what I’ve always done, I pushed myself even though I didn’t like it or understood why I didn’t. I have always strived to do better and do more than before.

“Some kids may not have had to work as hard as I do, but it’s part of life. I am who God made me and I have to accept it and work harder. Someone will always be better than at something. You can’t watch [dyslexia] as a handicap. Watch it like a super power, and something you’re going to have [to use] different ways [in order] to achieve your goals.

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