San Diego, November 2014:
I arrived early to prepare Learning Ally's booth for the day's proceedings at the International Dyslexia Association Conference. Absorbed in the quietness of the exhibit hall, I looked up to see a woman approaching. "Learning Ally!" she exclaimed. "I'm so glad to find you today. You saved my son's life!"
Mildly startled, I stood up to introduce myself and shake hands with the visitor, who told me her name is Gina. "That's nice to hear," I said. "You know, many parents often say that same thing to us: 'You saved my child's life.' It's good to know we are helping so many families."
Gina looked me in the eye with a penetrating stare. "No," she said with grave emphasis. "You literally
saved my son's life."
As she began to tear up a little, I asked what she meant. And so we entered into a conversation highlighting a third grader's descent into a suicidal spiral and his subsequent happy recovery. It stunned me, and continues to serve as a reminder of why many of us are committed to the mission at Learning Ally. I didn't record the conversation, but asked Gina to get in touch by email after the Conference and share the story in her own words. Here's what she wrote:
"I hate 3rd grade. I hate school. Everybody hates me. I am going to be a bad guy. I want to die.”
Nathan is my son. He was eight years old when he uttered these words on September 30, 2011. His third grade year changed our lives.
Nathan did not pass his standardized test in reading that year. His score was 207, with 300 being “meets standards.”
Nathan's academic career had been great for him until this third grade year. The hopelessness and despair experienced by our entire family is terribly difficult to recount.
Through outside sources and after thousands of dollars, Nathan was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – inattentive. This was the beginning of a long journey through a complex web that we are still navigating.
One of the first tools we learned about through the learning specialist who diagnosed Nathan's learning disabilities was Learning Ally. The technology was not easy to use back in 2011 but nevertheless I managed to download Nathan's 3rd grade science book onto our family laptop. This allowed him to listen to the book and get through the chapters without being dependent on his parents. Becoming self-reliant with this previously painful homework task was notably something that Nathan felt proud about.
It was in fourth grade that we discovered the Orton-Gillingham method and connected with Cassandra Hafen, an amazing Barton Tutor in our area. In the two years since he started the program, Nathan has passed his standardized reading tests in both fourth and fifth grades.
Now that Nathan is a sixth grader, I’ve discovered that his in-class novels and science books are not only available to download on Leaning Ally, but there is an iOS app that allows us to easily put them onto his iPhone. Technology has made the process painless and convenient – and his IEP is written to allow use of audible text.
We are so grateful for the access to books that Learning Ally provides for Nathan and other students with similar learning disabilities in elementary school through college. Learning Ally, in combination with a superb Barton Tutor, outstanding teachers and an IEP, makes academic success, self confidence and happiness possible for my son. Thank you Learning Ally!
--Gina Venglass Kistle
Gina is pictured at right, along with Cassandra Hafen, Nathan's tutor. Picture taken in Learning Ally's booth at the 2014 International Dyslexia Conference in San Diego.