Dyslexia: Discovering, overcoming, accomplishing... working my way to the top

I grew up a very busy kid. My alarm went off at 4 AM. I was at the ice rink practicing with my pair partner hours before most kids even woke up for school. After four hours of practice, my mom would drive the forty five minute commute it took to get me to school. My academic day began at 10 AM. 

 

Every other month, and sometimes every month, I was taken out of school for a week to compete around the country (and sometimes two weeks when we competed internationally). My hard work paid off for many years when my partner and I placed at national competitions and competed against the best in the world. I didn't have much of a social life outside of ice skating but I had a really big support system. 

 

One time in middle school, my homeroom teacher had the class make a banner welcoming me home after a successful competition. Sometimes my teachers would get more worked up and excited about my accomplishments than I did. You see, I never really dreamt of winning Olympic gold. That was something my mother and other adults cared a lot more about than I did. My dreams revolved more around college. I didn't know where I wanted to go. I just knew I was destined for higher education.

 

I didn't take P.E. like most other kids. In fact, I've never set foot in a school locker room. I never took a foreign language or an elective course in middle school or high school. All of those extra credits were made up through our local community college home courses. So, basically, my mom says "She's an ice skater -- there's your P.E. Foreign language? She's traveling to Germany next month and she'll do a report." I never saw any of those courses, nor did I do any work for them. My mom felt I was doing so much as it was, she basically took care of it for me. What kid would argue with that? I didn't. 

 

As for the few courses I took at my high school, I was behind on the material but nobody seemed to care. My parents, my teachers, they all thought I was so busy working hard with training, they didn't notice that I never read The Scarlet Letter... or any other assigned book. And why would they notice? I was a B student. 

 

But really, academically, I wasn't a B student. I was intuitive and manipulative. That's what earned me B average grades. I would stay an extra five minutes after class and talk to my teachers about upcoming tests. I could get a feel for the questions that might come up and what kind of answer they're expecting. I participated in class discussions even when I didn't know what I was talking about. 

 

Don't get me wrong, I did homework. I at least attempted to read the novels assigned, but nothing seemed to absorb for me. Math was my favorite subject. It felt so much easier than all my other classes. 

 

I finally got the courage to tell my mom and coaches I wanted to quit ice skating when I was a senior in high school. I couldn't wait to be a normal kid before going off to college. I had a rhythm with my teachers already so nothing changed for me when it came to studying and testing. It wasn't until I started my freshman year at the University of Oregon when it really hit me... and hard.

 

An F! I was failing one of my courses and getting poor grades in the others. The lectures were too big for me to manipulate my way through the material. I couldn't get to know my professors well enough to to gauge what kind of answers they're looking for on a test. It was a rude awakening. I stayed up hours trying to read my textbooks but I couldn't process any of the material. It was beyond frustrating. 

 

I knew I was smarter than that. I knew I was where I was suppose to be but something was wrong. My parents listened to my cries and they helped me get tested for learning disabilities. My result: Extreme Processing Deficit. Otherwise, known as dyslexia. Oh ya, that's what this is

 

Having a learning disability awarded me some perks, or extra help. I got a note taker and extra time for tests. Honestly, I only used a note taker once. I quickly learned it was just as hard to process someone else's rushed handwriting as it was a text book. But just knowing made a difference. I thought about what I was good at and how those skills can compensate for other areas where I wasn't as strong. I'm extremely organized, I'm very social and I'm very intuitive. I joined study groups and discussion groups and used what I learned from them and put the information on flashcards. I used highlighters and wrote side notes in my text books - I didn't care that I couldn't sell them for much after my course was over. I went with my gut. I learned to trust myself when taking tests. I re-read and re-read until I could process the questions but stopped over analyzing. 

 

I ended my freshman year on the Dean's List. I didn't just make my parents proud -- I made myself proud. And best of all, I learned a lot about myself. I developed skills, born from a disability. I was absorbing information in this world a different way, but just as efficiently. 

 

I went on to graduate from the School of Journalism with many semesters of being on the Dean's List under my belt. I was a legitimate A/B student. 

 

It took me several years to find my passion. I spent many years being a housewife and stay-at-home mom, but eventually my passion found me. My tireless mind needed to put pen to paper, or nowadays, fingers to keyboard. I wrote Angles - Part I of the trilogy and I plan to write in three different perspectives (9 books total). It has been an incredible journey to get to where I am today. I wouldn't change a single thing about my personal story.

Erin Lockwood