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College Bound

The road to reading proficiency was a long and arduous journey for Dempsey L. In elementary school, she dreaded reading aloud in class, and during silent reading time, pretended to read the book in front of her.

By fourth grade, she had had enough.

“It was as if a dam had broken and all the water it was holding back was streaming down my face,” she wrote in her college essay. “High-pitched screams came from my room, as I was on my hands and knees begging my mom to let me stay home from school. It was that day a switch went off in her head [and] she knew she had to fight even harder for her fourth grader.”

Dempsey remembers the day she went with her mother, Holly, and her grandfather to request a transfer to a private school that used Wilson Reading System® (WRS). When the school administrator gave his approval, it was Holly who cried—tears of relief.

“We have always been very open about Dempsey’s dyslexia,” Holly explained. “It is a learning difference and nothing to be ashamed of. She is just as smart as her peers; she just learns differently. Wilson taught Dempsey how to break down words as well as other strategies to use to become a successful reader.”

With newfound reading and spelling skills, Dempsey progressed. She returned to public middle school to participate in sports. Once there, she continued WRS instruction within her school day with reading specialist Jill Hale, a Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner (W.D.P.).

Now, as a high school senior, Dempsey continues to excel in grade-level courses and Honors English, all while playing field hockey and basketball, serving as manager of the lacrosse team, and participating in student clubs and other organizations. As do many individuals with dyslexia, she taps into audiobooks and other technology as needed to support her academics.

“WRS has given her the skills and confidence to fly,” shared Jill. “She worked so hard with me and has tackled so many mountains. I am beyond proud of her and can’t wait to see what amazing things she will do in the future.”

Through her experiences, Dempsey said she has learned the importance of self-advocacy, and is most grateful for her mother’s persistence to ensure she had “the best reading teacher and case managers.”

As her confidence grew, she wanted to share her experiences to benefit others. Last year, she was selected to share her journey with the Connecticut Department of Education’s Student Advisory Council for Special Education.

Dempsey has been accepted at all of the colleges to which she applied and is in the process of deciding where she will go to earn a bachelor’s degree in business. She encourages other students with dyslexia to become their own advocates and seek out schools that offer strong supports.

“I have come a long way from where I once was,” she shared. “I would not have made it here if it were not for my mother, who fought for me for so long.”

Holly, who throughout Dempsey’s journey sought advice from experts and hired a dyslexia advocate, advises other families to “never settle” and “never give up.”

“As a mom, I was the biggest squeaky wheel. I did what I felt I had to do to get Dempsey the help she needed. She now has great colleges to choose from. I credit Jill and the Wilson Reading System for helping Dempsey succeed.”