Freedom Scientific Learning Systems Group Presents
Mother and Daughter Team Up for Success
“I know that I would not have known about, nor pursued, any of the resources I now rely upon if not for my mother's knowledge about services and products and her assistance in searching for them,” states Melinda Kendrick.
Melinda's School Experience
From this statement, you probably think that Melinda struggled throughout her school years trying to prove that her abilities far outweighed her grades. No, this was not Melinda’s situation. Melinda, a landscape architect, found elementary school to be extremely easy. As she says, “Just listen in class and spit it back out on a test later.” Her grades were excellent. She was at the top of her class and she always tested above average on placement tests. Melinda’s teachers all seemed to think that she was making good progress. However, Deborah, Melinda’s mother, sensed a problem. Deborah and Melinda would share Melinda’s reading assignments. Deborah would read a chapter to Melinda and then Melinda would read a chapter. These reading sessions needed an extra step not required by most parents. Deborah, a parent who is blind, felt that reading with and to her children was extremely important. Therefore she would get braille copies of all of her children's reading materials from National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D). Deborah Kendrick, a well-known disability advocate, author, and columnist, began to realize that Melinda was struggling with reading comprehension. Melinda could understand and retain the information that had been read aloud to her, but could only comprehend less than half of the material that she read herself. Deborah continuously sought help for her daughter, but the elementary school teachers saw the student at the top of class and a mom who was probably just overly concerned.
When it was time to go to high school, Melinda tested in the 97th percentile and was placed in all Advanced Placement classes. It was not long after the first quarter that Melinda started encountering problems. She had to drop out of the accelerated classes. Deborah spoke with teachers and counselors asking for disability testing for Melinda, but she was constantly told, “Melinda is smart, but lazy.” Melinda reports, “I was always the last one out of the classroom on exam days and never quite finished. The teachers were kind, but thought I simply was not prepared.”
Finally a Diagnosis
By the time Melinda was ready to go to college she was recognizing more of her learning challenges. She did not have trouble typing her thoughts, but handwriting her thoughts was a different issue. She would fuse words together, insert inappropriate words into a sentence, and replace letters to make new incorrect words. Melinda discovered that she had scotopic sensitivity, and that using smoky colored overlays gave her some relief. She avoided reading anything in its entirety and concentrated only on what she thought were the key words. As a compensatory strategy, she was very attentive in class and would spend time after class picking the teacher’s brain in order to avoid reading all the material herself.
Melinda was accepted to Wright State University. Melinda and her mom knew that Wright State had an excellent Office of Disability Services (ODS) and they were eager to have Melinda tested there. Melinda explains the test results, “I was the poster child, diagnosed with dyslexia and a learning comprehension disability ... especially comprehension of the written word.” Finally they had a diagnosis. Now how would Melinda deal with dyslexia?
With the services provided by ODS at Wright State, Melinda began to see a turnaround in her grades. Books on tape or a reader helped her to ace her tests rather than accepting a D from reading the test herself. Although educationally things were looking up for Melinda, she decided to take a hiatus from her hard work at Wright State and traveled for the next four years. She took her tape recorder along and read more books from NLS in four years than she had in the past 19!
Back to School and Technology's Promise
With mom’s help, Melinda began to investigate going back to school. Melinda credits her mom, “I know that I would not have known about, nor pursued, any of the resources I now rely upon if not for her knowledge about services and products and her assistance in searching for them.” Taking Deborah’s advice, Melinda went to the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR). It was here where she met Alyson Roeseler whose understanding and hard work helped Melinda through every step of her next seven years of school. With BVR guidance, Melinda attended Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (CSTCC).
It was during this time that Deborah Kendrick and Jay Leventhal, writers and editors for AccessWorld, a technology magazine, became aware of some of the new technology products that could help Melinda. Melinda had her first exposure to products such as WYNN at an American Council for the Blind conference. This demonstration sparked an interest in computer-aided instruction that would help her read materials that she could not get from RFB&D. Even though she had no computer technology available to her at CSTCC, Melinda graduated cum laude with an Associate in Applied Business in Landscape Horticulture with a concentration in landscape design. She made the Dean’s List every term! Her professors encouraged her to continue her education. She went on to The Ohio State University (OSU).
Melinda became proficient using WYNN at OSU. The Office of Disability Services at OSU had an excellent computer lab where Melinda could learn WYNN. “I spent every free hour I had at the lab! I had a resource that increased my comprehension and saved me time.” Melinda explained that while she still used books on tape and readers, WYNN made her more efficient and more independent. She explained that readers were required to read everything including parentheses and colons. With so many of these interruptions she could not concentrate on the body of text. “So, WYNN wasn’t just an added convenience. I was retaining the information better by having WYNN read to me.” By semester break of her first year at Ohio State, BVR bought Melinda her personal copy of WYNN to be installed on her laptop. This enabled her to spend more time in the architecture building with her fellow students.
When asked what features of WYNN that she found the most helpful to her. She quickly summarized the following:
- Using Masking to reduce the glare and contrast between letters and background
- Changing the color of the background for easier reading – loves the mauve background color
- Spotlighting feature while the voice reads to you – likes to have each line of her text spotlighted as opposed to word-by-word
- Changing the speed of the text being read to you – likes 125-135 words minute (Melinda reads 50 wpm without WYNN)
- Changing font size
- Bookmarking pages – easy to reference when studying
WYNN Helps Melinda Transition from College to Work
After graduating from Ohio State University in 2006 with a BS in Landscape Architecture, Melinda worked with a firm specializing in urban design, landscape architecture, civil engineering, and branding. Melinda says the job of landscape architecture is more akin to architecture than it is to landscaping. She had to develop and create construction drawings for contractors from columns to pool coping to the installation of retaining and seating walls to pavement installations. It was not long before information that she was researching in zoning documents or city codes needed fast turnarounds. Melinda stated, “WYNN was a life-saver! Long wordy documents that I read 4 and 5 times and still could not comprehend were suddenly a breeze. I was keeping pace with my coworkers!”
Melinda felt by sharing her story with our readers it was her opportunity to “pay it forward.” She explains, “While I love telling my story and listening to the stories of other students, teachers, parents or professionals who have some form of LD or know someone who does, I still have a problem talking about it at work. There is such a stigma about LD that still persists. If mainstream teachers still think that learning disabilities and lower IQs go hand in hand, what hope do I have that my boss will see the truth of it?” She continues, “My hope, with this article and through speaking about LD and the tools that are available to aid in overcoming the problems we face, is that others will begin to see that learning disabilities are just a different learning style. Then they will understand that with the proper tools and instruction we are all capable of achieving anything we are motivated to achieve.”
We wish Melinda all the best as she strives to expand her professional career! You have done an excellent job of “paying it forward” by sharing your experiences. Thank you!
Keep an Eye on the News
Technology Empowers Differentiated Instruction. Read a summary of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Webinar, “Differentiated Instruction + Tech = Powerful Learning,” presented by Grace Smith and Stephanie Throne–authors of the book Differentiating Instruction with Technology in K-5 Classrooms and the soon-to-be-published Differentiating Instruction with Technology in Middle School Classrooms. (Visit eSchoolNews.com for more information.)
Technology - The Great Equalizer
We hear that all the time! But it certainly holds true for persons with a disability who are looking for the same opportunities in life as everyone else. Here's a chance to show the world what is possible through assistive technology! Take a moment to learn about this exciting contest by visiting ATIA's AT Video YouTube Contest: Broadcast Assistive Technology at ATIA.org.
Tip of the Month
Differential Coloring - Emphasizing Letter Combinations and Words
Do you work with your students on specific spelling rules? Do some of your students omit small words or parts of words when reading? If so, WYNN has a great tool to visually emphasize these important patterns or words to assist with memorization. It is called differential coloring.
Differential coloring is used to emphasize groups of letters or words in the text in a contrasting color for easier identification. Some examples of text you may choose to show in contrasting colors are prefixes (for example, bi-, re-, im-), suffixes (for example, -ing, -tion, -tial), and small words that tend to get overlooked when reading (for example, and, the, of).
Note: You must be in Text View to use differential coloring.
To set up differential coloring, do the following:
- From the Settings menu, choose Differential Coloring.
- In the Character String edit box, type the character(s) or word you want to display in a contrasting color.
- In the Differential Color combo box, choose the color you want to use to display the character string you entered.
- Select the Whole Words Only check box to apply the differential coloring to the character string only when it appears by itself. Clear this check box to apply differential coloring to the character string even when it appears as part of a larger word (for example, "the" versus "their").
- Select the Show Differential Coloring check box to turn on differential coloring. Clear this check box if you do not want WYNN to apply differential coloring.
- Click Add to add the character string to the Defined Combinations list.
- Click the OK button.
To save these settings for future use, do the following:
- Choose Save Settings from the Settings menu.
- Click the More button.
- Choose Differential Coloring.
- Type a name for these settings in the Enter new settings file name edit box.
- Retrieve this setting whenever you want differential coloring to be active.
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About Freedom Scientific LSG
Freedom Scientific, Learning Systems Group provides products that are acclaimed for their easy-to-use interface, innovative technology, and flexible but powerful features. Designed by educational experts to enhance the learning process for struggling students, WYNN provides reading and writing solutions. Freedom Scientific LSG also created TestTalker, which provides test-taking preparations and worksheet completion. To find out more about our products, please visit us at www.freedomscientific.com/lsg.