Dyslexia: A Student's Perspective

A student's perspective on dyslexia

EPISODE 147 | October is Dyslexia Awareness Month.  Join us as we support the homeschooling community to spotlight a range of dyslexic needs, struggles, signs, while bringing awareness to the issue of dyslexia. Our host, Janna, met with Sophia D’Antonio, a diagnosed dyslexic and gifted homeschooler.  This is a rare opportunity to hear from a student what it’s like to homeschool and be dyslexic. Plus discover how Sophia has managed and excels while continuing her learning journey. You might even learn a few tips and ideas on how to help someone you know or yourself with dyslexia.

ABOUT OUR GUEST | Sophia D'Antonio is a homeschooled Sophomore who has been educated in her home since 1st grade. She has been identified as both gifted and dyslexic and appreciates the flexibility that homeschooling has provided for her individual needs. Sophia is working on raising awareness of dyslexia in her rural, isolated community and is holding an informational event as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She has also secured online dyslexia assessments for the first 50 students in her community for free. Sophia's favorite coursework includes Latin, Greek and Roman Mythology, Greek and Roman Literature, and Ancient Roman History. 




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Podcast Transcript

Janna  00:36 Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm your host Jana Koch and BookSharks Community Manager, and in today's episode, I am joined by Sophia D’Antonio. She is a homeschooled sophomore who has been identified as both dyslexic and gifted. She appreciates the flexibility that homeschooling has brought her and she is bringing awareness of dyslexia, not only to her community, but also to the homeschool community at large by being on the podcast today. And we are recording this on October 8, which is actually Dyslexia Awareness Day. So super excited to bring Sophia on. Hi, Sophia. 

Sophia Hello.

Janna  01:14 Thanks so much for being here. Are you at all nervous about being on a podcast? 

Sophia 01:17 A little, it's definitely a new experience for me. Because I've done I've done newspaper articles before. But I've never, I've never been on a podcast. It's certainly something that's kind of new trending that I've never done. 

Janna Well, I'm excited that you're here today. I'm super excited that we're recording on a day that is so meaningful to our topic, which is dyslexia. So before we get into all of that fun stuff, let's just talk a little bit about you. So when did you start homeschooling?

Sophia  I started homeschooling so, I went to kindergarten when I was about five. And then kind of close to my sixth birthday. We lived in North Carolina, and we drove across the country to Oregon, to a very rural community. So we started homeschooling when I was about six years old. And I've done it ever since, and I think I benefited from it greatly.

Janna Now were your own only homeschooling family that you knew in your community? 

Sophia No, we there's a group of homeschoolers definitely one of the few kind of secular, we're not connected to enter any bigger homeschooling group. So we're run, like my family buys the curriculum, and my parents teach me so we don't have any kind of external teacher, we also aren't religious. So many of the different groups around here, work together in a community kind of this religious community. So we kind of are loners in our own little world. But I think especially due to the internet, which kind of linked us to other homeschoolers like us. And so we're able to learn from them, and hear from them and make friends even though we live in kind of an isolated area. 

Janna 3:10 So, were you ever lonely in your homeschool years? Now I know that all kids feel lonely. We all humans feel lonely at times. But overall, did you feel like you were lonely being a homeschooler that wasn't necessarily part of the mainstream? 

Sophia 3:23 No, no at all. Actually, I never felt like I was missing out on a thing. I mostly enjoyed reading. I'm kind of being quiet. I am an extrovert and I love meeting people. But I never felt like I was missing out on a thing that the school environment had to offer. And I especially loved kind of missing out on some of the drama that I hear about from friends and my Girl Scout troop. I also, of course, have done Girl Scouts for a very long time. I started about the same time that I started homeschooling. So I've been doing that just as long as I've been homeschooling. And that was kind of my opening into having friends and hearing even about all the school drama that they were facing. And I really didn't felt like I didn't feel like I was missing out or anything. I just kind of sat in my own bubble, read books, and socialized with the Girl Scouts. For a while, I went swimming, where I met a lot of the other homeschoolers. That's how I knew they kind of existed out there. But I never really was never very lonely.

Janna 04:35 Well, it sounds like your parents kept you pretty busy if you were doing Girl Scouts and swimming. And I know that sounds like you guys created your own community when you were in the younger years of homeschooling. 

Sophia 03:58 And I've also been very busy with schoolwork as well. So that's my main, it governs my life. That's what I do with all my time and that's what I enjoy doing so.

Janna 05:00 Now speaking of the schoolwork we had I'd said in the beginning that you had been identified as both dyslexic and gifted. Let's talk a little bit first about your dyslexia. When did that start to become apparent, maybe not even for you, but for your mom or dad?

Sophia  Right from the beginning, even before I was homeschooling in kindergarten, it was apparent. And I think kind of looking back on it, we're realizing, Oh, this is probably dyslexia because we understand more about dyslexia now, and we've done the research. And we've learned about like, dyslexia isn't something that's commonly talked about. And I think that's one of the reasons why people don't get diagnosed or don't know they have dyslexia. So I think now that we know what it is, and know some of the signs, we're looking back, and we're like, oh, that was it. Oh, that was it. Oh, and that was also dyslexia. So I think right from the beginning, I was

I had signs of dyslexia. And people, I think some people were also like, Oh, she's gifted, because of these reasons. I remember there was, I was always kind of behind. I was very kind of slow. I did great work, though. So that was one of the things that they were like, Oh, she's definitely gifted. But I worked very slowly. And still, to this day, I take a week, like a week to write a paper. But it's a fantastic paper. But it took me a week, right? So I was I've always kind of been that way. And I remember, in kindergarten, I would never be able to go outside at recess to go play with the other kids because I was still there doing my work. But since it didn't bother me, because that was just my reality. Right? Like, I didn't know anything else.

And I remember, in school, they would turn off the lights when kids went out to recess to try to like save energy. So I was like, sitting there at my desk with my little lamp working on my stuff. Um, but that's always, it's always kind of been my life. And I've just kind of gotten used to it. 

Janna 7:07 That sounds very isolating for you, especially as a young child to not only not be able to go out and play, but then the lights being turned off. And here you are, you know, in a dark room and in a different situation, almost like a punishment for something that you didn't do wrong. 

Sophia 07:24 Yeah, absolutely. And I think some of that, like, I feel a lot of kids who have dyslexia, the message is to just kind of work harder. Because kids who are having trouble reading, they're just like, practice more, right? And they don't realize that your brain is built differently. This is just what it's going to be right. And Dyslexics have these amazing strengths and incredible weaknesses. And there's no kind of balance to what to what they can learn, right. And I feel like in school, a big part of school is you want a little bit of all of these skills, anyone can be proficient and all of them. And there's the exact opposite of what dyslexia is.

So I remember, like, in school, with math, I would, they'd show me these cards, and I would memorize them. But I had no idea what it meant. Like, I wasn't learning, I was just memorizing stuff. So I got through kindergarten like that. But there was also kind of this weird instances which people would be moving on, and I kind of still be there doing my stuff, even just over the course of the day, like things would take me longer, and people would move on. And then I'd be like, oh, right, like follow them. Once I was done with my work. So I kind of follow people around the classroom.

Janna 08:45  Just in your experience, what is what is being dyslexic mean to you?

Sophia 08:50  So for me, I wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia for a very long time, because I can read. And that's like, when people have dyslexia is generally diagnosed by someone is having troubles, like unusual troubles with reading, which is actually a very, very small portion of what dyslexia is. I saw I can read, but I am unable to spell. I have absolutely I don't know why I just cannot spell. And it's what I do know why it’s dyslexia. But for that, those two huge strengths, that huge strength, I was like reading college-level books by the time I was 12. But I can't spell anything. And it was kind of weird. Those two things that you think would generally go together was one of the things that alerted us to that something else was going on. Right? It wasn't just that I need to work harder at my spelling, and we knew that because of my reading ability. I've also had a lot of trouble with math, which a lot of people don't attribute to dyslexia because it's always just the reading right? Um, but I've never really been able to get past algebra one. Even though I'm reading like, the Greek historian Polybius, just fine, you know, and I mean, I can't, for some reason, the numbers don't stick in my mind. So it was also that kind of weird. Like, I'm intelligent, but I can't do this for some reason.

It was those kinds of weird differences that, uh, notified us that something was wrong.

Also, I have no concept of time, which is another thing that's related to dyslexia that people don't think about, like, I'll be sitting at a table for two hours. And I'll have no idea that two hours just went by. And I'll just be working slowly through this thing, completely oblivious to the progression of time, which I think is one of the reasons why the whole thing and kindergarten never bothered me, right? Because I'd be sitting there doing my work, and people would be going out to play, but I would have no, I would have no idea what's going on, I would have no idea how long this is taking me. I wouldn't be like, Oh, the people are doing this time. And I'm doing this time. So there's something wrong there. It just went right over my head. I had no idea. 

Janna 11:15  So how are you doing now that you are taking a bigger course load? Right. So the classes we were talking about before we started podcasting you kind of get to pick some of the classes you're taking your parents are very open to student-led interests. So now that you're taking more of a course load that requires more time? How are you managing that with your dyslexia?

Sophia 11:39 So it's, it's struggle, it's a big struggle. Like I said, it takes me like, it has took me a week to write a paper. And I think I write about four papers every semester for my current, my hardest classes right now. But it's also like the classes that I'm taking, because I'm homeschooled, I have more flexibility with what I can learn with what classes I'm taking and part of the part of being dyslexic. Is that right? I have big strengths and terrible weaknesses. So like, if I was taking a class like this, in math, I'd get pulverized.

Or in spelling, even though I don't really think that's a thing. But I'm, I'm doing it in mostly my first class was in Greek mythology, so about Greek mythology. And that's something that I've loved since I was five, right? We actually, when we moved to Oregon, when I was like close to my sixth birthday, once I'd finished kindergarten, we moved here, and we went to the public library, and I found this book. And I was like, Oh, this looks cool. And by five I could read, even though I'm dyslexic. So I got this book. And I was like reading it. And I was memorizing these myths. And it was a book about Greek myths. So I was memorizing these myths and learning these myths and these characters' names and all that before I could even remember the word Greek. For some reason, I was like, Yeah, Dad, I read the story today. It's from this thing called, was it called? He's like Greece. No, yeah, that. So I had no idea. I knew these myths long before I learned anything about the history of Greece. Um, and so I've kind of since then, I've carried this interest for Greek mythology. So by the time I came to this course, I already knew the stories pretty well, which I think kind of helped me lead into these harder classes. It's a school called Lukeion. And they mostly, they mostly stay ancient Greek and Roman culture. So pretty much anything you could think of. And the classes are very rigorous. I took a Latin class last year, and it just about killed me.

Janna 13:57 So now you're taking Latin does that do you have to do well in spelling?

Sophia 14:02 So it's like, not very often not a lot. Like I had, like they had matching questions and whatnot, they really had something that you had to type it in. So like, you had to know how to spell it like in the quizzes. But like things take me a long time. Right? So when you're taking a quiz timed quiz becomes very, very difficult. And when I got a diagnosis of dyslexia, one of the biggest, like kind of how do I, how do I word this, a bonus, like benefits that I got from that diagnosis, was double the time on quizzes. They take whatever that time was, and they double it. And that would be the time that it would take me to do that quiz. But my Latin teacher, unfortunately, would not give me that thing She would not give me more time on my quizzes. And like Lukeion is a private organization. So she technically didn't have to. And so that's, that's a good thing to know for people because even though you have like a formal diagnosis, it doesn't exactly mean that everybody's going to or has to give these accommodations to you. So it can be very hard sometimes. And I think that I eventually dropped out of the course because it was getting too difficult to me. And especially with language, in dyslexia, those two things do kind of clash sometimes. So it was just too hard. But like, my teacher, for the Greek mythology class is fantastic. She's probably dyslexic herself, and her son has dyslexia. So since dyslexia runs in the family, she does possibly have dyslexia. But she's very good about commendations, she gives me an easier time with spelling. Because when you're trying to spell Greek names, it's a little bit harder. So it's been an amazing class. And this year, I'm taking her harder ones the next one up, and I'm doing fine with it. I'm working on a paper for class right now. And I'm slowly getting faster at them. So it's just something that I kind of need to work at.

And when it comes to writing papers for this course, like, there are things like Grammarly and spell check and all these kinds of online features that are incredible, incredibly helpful when it comes to dyslexia. Because my spelling would just be horrible otherwise. 

Janna 16:49 So although I have to encourage you that yes, spelling is no sign of intelligence. There are people who are incredibly smart with high IQs that cannot spell so I am glad to be a sounding board to say that just because you don't spell well does not mean that you are not an intelligent person because that is just that. So you are currently working on your Girl Scout Gold Award project Why don't you talk a little bit about that.



Sophia 19:19 So the gold award for Girl Scout is the hardest award you can do and Girl Scouts and like I said I've been with the Girl Scouts for so long since I was five years old. And so I kind of reached the high point now like this is like the highest you can go for Girl Scouts. And there are three awards there's a Bronze award, a Silver award, and a Gold award. and I've done my bronze and my silver and now I'm working on my gold. And for my goal that's kind of it has to be a bigger project or it has to be one that you kind of do alone. You can get volunteers and a kind of leadership project. So you build a team and I've kind of been working with all these different people to get this project done. 

When I was deciding on what kind of project I wanted to do in my community, I decided that I want to do something related to dyslexia, because one in five people have dyslexia. And not that many people have a diagnosis or even know what dyslexia is. And not that many people have unusual problems with reading either. So just like myself, I wasn't diagnosed till I was like, in seventh grade, because I could read, because there's just these huge misunderstandings about what dyslexia is, and some of the signs that show you that you would have dyslexia. It's been really fun to do this project, I'm planning on having an event at our library, in which I'm showing a presentation.

And I'm hoping to get enough people and just kind of explain to people, what dyslexia is, I'm going to provide, like, a screening test at, at the presentation, for people who can sign on if they want it, um, I've gotten it at a severe discount, and I'm hoping to completely pay it off. I'm looking for, like funding for that. But it's, I've kind of advertised around schools, and I've done kind of jumped through all the hoops, I need to, by now to kind of start my presentation.

And it's been, it's just, it's been a blast this entire time, just the entire, like, I've been like just talking to people about my project and kind of what dyslexia is, and some of the signs, I've run across, maybe three or four people who are like, I think I'm dyslexic, just as I'm talking to them, and kind of explaining my project, but just kind of like that, like understanding dawns on them, right.

And it's just, that's kind of what I'm looking for. So it's been a lot of fun, even like my project advisor, I went to his house and was kind of at the beginning of it all was kind of explaining what I want to do and explained it in dyslexia, because he has two young children. So he was kind of interested in that as well to see if his children had dyslexia. And then he thinks now that he has dyslexia, and it's kind of funny, both of us like working on this project type pick up emails and whatnot, we're both misspelling stuff and trying to correct each other. So it's been, it's just been a blast.

Janna 22:40 So part of this presentation, you are offering a screening to those who want to take part in it, what, what really fueled your passion to take something that was a struggle for you, and then turn it around as kind of a community project to to help those around you like what it what about it is so exciting to you?

Sophia 23:06 Like, I think some of that, like when I was in kindergarten, and I was very much behind everyone, right? And I still feel like at certain points that I'm kind of behind everyone else, even just being slow at everything, right, like, everything takes so much more out of me, because it's so much more effort. Um, and I really don't want kids to kill themselves over this, right? Because people are just, it's already more tiring for a dyslexic person just to write an email, right just takes energy out of you. And especially when people just speak my work harder, practice at it, yada, yada that's just, let's just take even more out of a person, right? And I think especially since your brain is built this certain way, there's, it's not something that you can get rid of, right? It's not something that comes and goes, it's not something that like people will have anxiety will try, like drug it out of existence is not something you could do that right? There's no way you can get away from it. Right? And especially people in academics, and even moving into like a career life, you have to learn how you learn to learn if you get what I mean, right? Like you have to know how you work to probably Excel or even just not kill yourself over the work that you're going to be doing. And I think especially some of the kids in our school systems here, just they don't have the supplies they need. They don't have the information they need, right? Even the teachers are just especially since COVID. They're just beaten down. And they're pretty much just trying to pass people through because they're like, We just, we can't do this anymore, right? They're just so tired with life. So I kind of I also want to give some of this information to parents so that they're not driving their kids so hard to do something that they can't do. And even that's a frustration for the parents, right? They don't understand what's going on.

So I think even just giving people the information and just having people go, having the lightbulb go off, is refreshing for people, right? Because most kids, when they have troubles with things in school, they go, Oh, I'm stupid. And when you have an explanation for it, they go, Oh, I'm dyslexic. Right? Which is better than saying, Oh, I can't do this, because I have no intelligence. So I kind of felt that before. And I think that was why I wanted to do this so that other kids didn't have to know what I mean? 

Janna 25:46 Yeah, so. So besides adding more time, to a project or a paper or anything that you're doing, because you know, it's going to take you, let's just say on average twice as long, what are some of the other things that you have done, that you're wanting to encourage families about that have helped you adapt with dyslexia.

Sophia 26:08 So like the classes for me, I have always had huge difficulties doing multiple classes at once. Because my mind processes things slower. But it also processes them for longer. So if looking at my day, like like a singular work day, if I'm doing a bunch of little things, like I'm doing language arts, and I move on to math, and social studies, and science and all that, if I'm changing subjects really rapidly, I can't flow very easily. So I'd be like, moving from language arts into math, and I'd be trying to do math, but I'm still thinking about language arts. And I can't just quickly switch from one subject to another, I generally have to like, break it up over days. So I also like, I can't sit down and work on something solidly for like, an hour, right? Maybe an hour, but that's like it, so then I’ll have to take a break, and then come back to it to like refresh my mind and not stare off into space. 24/7. Um, so I think like block scheduling is the best thing to do for me.

But it's always like, right now, I'm not doing all the classes I should be doing in a given day, or week, right? I'm taking harder classes. But like when I'm in college, I'm going to have these hard classes, right? So it still isn’t something that I've perfectly mastered yet.

And I'm still kind of working on. It is I have found it nice, like syllabuses, I've discovered last year when I started other classes. And it's amazing, because it's like, oh, in two weeks, I have this paper. So I know that I can start working on now, right? And that's always been really nice, because I can plan in advance that, Oh, I better start working on this now. So that in two weeks, I'll be able to turn it in.

So that's, that's been very helpful for me to know things in advance. And even like, calendars are great. So you can just draw a line and be like, these are all the days that I have to do this. You know what I mean? 

Janna 28:32 Yeah, yeah. So just I mean, just making things more manageable, is really, it's not overwhelming. I mean, it's sometimes when you hear Dyslexia as a parent, or as a person, you go, Oh, my gosh, that sounds like a really big diagnosis. And, and I don't know what that's going to look like or what that's going to mean. But these are just some really practical ways that you can manage this. That just works and isn't overwhelming, that doesn't require a whole lot of time or planning, but just little things that help make it that obviously make a huge difference. 

Sophia 28:56 Yeah, and like most people aren't even diagnosed with it, right? Like my advisor for this has been going this whole life's doing just fine, right? He works in education. My father probably has dyslexia, or he at least has signs of dyslexia. And he's a linguistic anthropologist, he works in language, and he got a PhD from Duke, and he's never been diagnosed. Right? So it doesn't mean that you're hopeless, right? And it's mostly just about scheduling. Because like, my, like, my father was talking about all the different things you do for scheduling when he was in school.

 Janna 29:33 Yeah, well, I'm glad that seems like a really big one. And hopefully, it'll give some parents some ideas of maybe trying some different scheduling techniques with their students if they find that they are struggling. Before we get going, what is a hack you have for our homeschool families?

Sophia 29:49 Oh, um, so this test like kind of screening tests that I'm giving at, at my kind of presentation for this award. It's, it's I took it personally, when I, when we were thinking that I had dyslexia, and I'm, I'm what's called a stealth dyslexia, which means I can read, but I'm dyslexic. So we took the screening to kind of solidify it to be like, Okay, I really do think you have dyslexia. And I took it and of course, pointed out pretty much every weakness I have, which was incredible and terrifying at the same time.

But it's not a full diagnosis, but I'm giving it at this event, so people can get a good idea of where they are situated. Um, it's at neurolearning.com. And it was, I think it was kind of made by Brock in a net, I think. But it's, it's run out of medical school in Seattle, Washington. And it's very good.

Like I said, it pointed out all my weaknesses. But it's also, it's helpful because there are two different things that I use for my schoolwork. So I of course, have to read a lot for my current classes. Because, right, like my class right now is about Greek literature. So I'm obviously reading a lot of Greek literature. But since like I can read, but I can't read very quickly. And I can't process it super well, like I have to read a sentence five times to understand was trying to tell me, so audiobooks are very, very helpful for that. And this screening test, there are two different, there are two different kinds of sites for audiobooks. So there's Bookshare and Learning Ally. And if you take this screening test, you can get, you are allowed to get those two things. They are made specifically for dyslexics. Because we have such a hard time reading things quickly or processing them. So you used to have to have a formal diagnosis to get Bookshare or Learning Ally. But now, I guess this screening test is trusted enough from this from these people, that they let you have them. If the screening test says that you're, in my case, very dyslexic. So those two things have been extremely helpful. Learning Ally is incredibly helpful when it comes to schoolwork. Because they have textbooks.

They have, like my textbook for Greek literature, it's called the Oxford anthology of something I think, I can't remember. But it's on there. And there's this woman reading it. And they had, they just had volunteers to read these books, because they have so many books on there. They're just like, we can't all have professionals. We just need someone to read this to get out there to people. And I feel it's funny, because you can tell she's not a professional. And she like she'll be reading and she'll like pause, in front of a Greek name and like, consider how to pronounce it. And then she'll be like, oh, yeah, Bolivia or something, right? Like, she'll know, she'll figure out how to pronounce it. And she's very good. She knows how to do it. But you can tell she's not a professional. And I almost like it better because of that. Um, so then Bookshare is just for like novels and fun books. But those two things are both been incredibly helpful for me. And just make eating reading easier, more fun. And for some reason, when I hear an audiobook, I just lock it into my mind, and there is no way I'm ever going to be able to forget that ever again. So it's they're both very helpful tools. I think, if you're dyslexic, or even just want to read something fast for homeschooling, those two things are very, very helpful.

 Janna 34:03 I'm so excited that there are now so many books available on audio. I know that our library locally has some apps and websites where you can get the books, and it's so nice because you get it for your allotted time. And then it just goes back to the library so I don't have to remember to return it or have a late fee or anything like that. So as a homeschool mom, I really appreciate things like that. Sophia, I also really appreciate you coming on today and talking about your project with the Girl Scouts. And just that your non-typical homeschool experience being dyslexic and just sharing what has worked for you, that may work for other people. I really appreciate your time and your willingness to come on and talk about it. 

Sophia 34:51 Thank you 

Janna 34:53 All right, you guys. We will have the links to what Sophia was talking about not only the screening, but the two apps are, pardon me, the two resources that she talked about for the audiobooks. Those will all be in the show notes. So if you are looking for more recess resources, or you think maybe your child might be dyslexic, we're going to make sure that you get those things so that you can get on your journey to making your education better for your child, and continue your homeschool journey in a positive way. Thank you so much for being here today. Until next time, goodbye.