Transformations Magazine January 2014 - page 15

Albany’s Purdue campus.
Unlike Trevor, Brandon
is a non-traditional
student: he is 36 years
old and married. Both
of Brandon’s parents
have dyslexia, so they
recognized the symptoms
of dyslexia in Brandon
when he was very young.
Because of the difficulties
they experienced as
persons with dyslexia,
they chose to enroll
Brandon at the de Paul
School in Louisville, a
school whose mission
is to provide a quality
education for students
who have learning
disabilities. He attended
de Paul for second
through fifth grade,
and said that the daily
routine focused on
organization—papers and
pencils were checked in
each day—and there was
a great deal of repetition.
Each subject was taught
two times per day and a
multi-sensory approach
was used: visual, aural,
and tactile. Through this
experience, he learned
that organization and
planning were keys to
his success as a student.
Now, every semester he
must re-learn a routine
for each of his classes and
establish an organization.
Brandon’s journey
through higher education
has been neither easy
nor direct. Purdue is
his eighth college. He
originally studied film
at Watkins College for
Art, Design, and Film
in Nashville, and at
Scottsdale Community
College.
“If you want
to see someone
with dyslexia
struggle, throw
him into a lab
where everything
must be done
in a specific
order without
any advance
preparation. It’s
demoralizing.”
Brandon Shell
Later, he began to
challenge himself by
pursuing subjects in
the sciences; math and
science had always
been more challenging
for him because of his
learning disability. What
works best for Brandon
is to have a professor
who explicitly explains
criteria and expectations
for the course, the
exams, and individual
assignments. He needs
to be able to prepare
for class ahead of time:
know the assignment,
read the material, take
notes, and understand
the nature of an exercise.
He must read slowly in
order to comprehend
the material. Group
work and lab work
are very frustrating
because everything is
spontaneous.
“If you want to see
someone with dyslexia
struggle, throw him into
a lab where everything
must be done in a
specific order without
any advance preparation.
It’s demoralizing. At
the end of the lab [the
professor] wants to see
the results and have
you explain the results.
Everyone around you
is writing down their
results and you are
just frazzled and tired.
Heaven forbid that you
have a partner who has
to put up with you. So
what I have learned to
do is ask my professor to
give me the labs ahead
of time so I can read
through the assignment,
take notes, and prepare.
If you count the time I
put in before the actual
lab, it takes me three
times longer than anyone
else to complete a lab.”
Jody Hamilton-Johnson
is a senior journalism
major at IU Southeast.
Unlike Trevor and
Brandon who were born
with learning disabilities,
Jody acquired her
learning disability from
a traumatic brain injury
(TBI). Her injury was
similar to the injury
suffered by Christopher
Reeve: her top two
vertebrae were shattered
in an accident. Doctors
did not expect her to be
able to walk after the
injury. Prior to her injury,
Jody had strong math
skills and was a trained
pianist who could play by
ear. Today math is very
difficult for her; she can
no longer play music by
ear and struggles reading
sheet music. At one time,
Jody could speak French
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