Owen is a current grade 9 innovator at NEIA who is bright, independent, and a strong leader. He chose to share his story to start a dialogue and encourage his peers.
Owen struggled in elementary school and, by third grade, was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. He learned about the diagnosis and adopted strategies and techniques to work through his challenges.
At NEIA, Owen thrives due to his own perseverance and hard work, along with the support and guidance from his teachers and peers.
Owen is a current grade 9 innovator at NEIA who is bright, independent, and a strong leader among his peers. He works hard and appreciates both the challenge that NEIA provides and the ability to work with his teachers to meet his own learning needs.
However, school life wasn’t always this clear-cut for Owen. He struggled to focus in school and knew his peers didn’t understand what he was going through. He knew he was just as intelligent as everyone else but found school challenging.
In third grade, Owen met a teacher who truly believed in him and wanted to work with him to ensure he thrived at school. She recognized the behavior Owen exhibited in class as dyslexia and dysgraphia. She met with his parents to see if they would agree to have him tested.
After getting tested, Owen’s parents sat him down at the dining room table to explain that the challenges he experienced at school were due to dyslexia and dysgraphia. “I vividly remember that conversation with my parents,” said Owen. “We were in between putting my little brother to bed and picking up my older brother from swim practice. They sat me down, and when they told me I had dyslexia, I was confused. Imagine a third-grader who has no idea what a learning difference is trying to comprehend having dyslexia.”
The next day he went to school with his head spinning and met up with his teacher. She was able to explain dyslexia in simpler terms, but Owen still wasn’t sure he fully comprehended the situation.
“I kept a journal at school and struggled with my handwriting,” said Owen. “I was scared to read books. I confided in my teacher, and she explained how I could work through my fear.”
As Owen learned more about dyslexia and dysgraphia, he began to use tools to work through his challenges. He attended conferences where he could meet other kids like him.
“I realized that the other kids weren’t smarter than me,” said Owen. “It was only that I learned differently than other kids.”
Hard Work Pays Off
As Owen started 8th grade, he recognized a huge change in himself and his learning. He understood that his challenge with dyslexia was just that — a challenge. He learned strategies for the classroom that helped him overcome his fears and enjoy learning.
“I had a huge history paper to do, and I remember spending a lot of time researching, editing, and correcting my work,” said Owen. “I saw how far I had come in my writing. I wasn’t embarrassed or afraid to share my work. I was proud of that paper and recognized the results of my hard work.”
Transitioning to NEIA to start grade 9, Owen made sure he was open with his teachers and appreciated the sense of community and belonging he felt almost from day one. The teachers support his learning accommodations and work with Owen to find tools that work for him. He uses strategies like taking digital notes on his iPad and listening to audiobooks.
Owen admits the one class that still intimidated him was language. He had never taken a language class before and was a little nervous when he began Spanish. Lis, his Spanish teacher, takes time to review examples with him.
“I love the style of teaching in Spanish class. The Rassias Center presents language with excitement and emotion,” said Owen. “I’m not sure I would have had the same level of success given how I learn. We actively speak the language in class and constantly listen to pick up nuances. It is an effective method for me.”
Sharing His Story
Owen has spent a lot of time advocating for kids with learning disabilities. He’s spoken on panels and even built a website. Early into the year, he knew he wanted to share his story with the NEIA community to talk openly about his experience. He hoped it could offer a degree of hope to other students who might be struggling. Owen was right.
“It’s the most wonderful feeling to know that sharing your story helped someone else,” said Owen. “I wanted to let other people know that it’s possible to work hard and persevere. People will always be there to support you if you put in the work.”
After Owen shared his remarks with the NEIA community, the students cheered, and one person came up to share a personal story related to his own. Owen thrives at NEIA because of his own perseverance and hard work, along with the support and guidance from his teachers and peers.
“I was glad to hear the cheers but even happier to know that my message resonated with someone in the audience,” said Owen. “The NEIA community is so supportive and kind-hearted. I knew that opening up and sharing my story was the right thing to do.”
Next year, Owen will be entering grade 10 and has much to look forward to, especially language and innovation studio. He’s excited to continue to advance in Spanish and enjoys the challenge it presents. Owen also enjoys innovation studio, where he learns to apply the skills he’s gained in school.
“Innovation Studio can be stressful, but I look forward to that class,” said Owen. “I got to laser cut my product today and am looking to improve the design before we go into production. There’s no other place where you get a real world opportunity like this.”