Children who are diagnosed with dyslexia may feel conflicting emotions about their new diagnosis. On the one hand, there may be relief in having an answer. On the other, they may be scared of the stereotypes of dyslexia and how learning differently may impact life inside and outside of the  classroom.

Kahmara Landrum, part of the inaugural International Dyslexia Association of Georgia’s Teen Board in 2022, spent her senior year of high school creating “Thinking Differently.” The project is based on the questions and knowledge she wishes had been available to her and her family when she was first diagnosed with dyslexia as an 11-year-old. The video series contains interviews with students, parents and specialists to help spread the knowledge about what living with dyslexia is like. You can find the videos here.

Atlanta Parent spoke with Landrum about her project and life with dyslexia.

What was a typical school day like for you?

I was excited to go to school every day and learn new things, make new friends, and take part in art, music and P.E. classes. But I was never eager to answer questions in class, and I hated “popcorn reading” or any class interaction that involved reading out loud or in small groups. I didn’t know it then, but simple homework assignments that should have taken an hour at most took me three or four hours with my parents trying to help me through it. I can look back now and see the signs of dyslexia. For instance, I was horrible at spelling — spelling tests were the worst. I often had to give up recess, because I still needed to finish work that was meant to be completed during class. Reading was very difficult, and I never seemed to finish any of the books. I would jump around to the words I knew and then make inferences. In fourth grade, my parents recognized the signs of dyslexia and enrolled me in private tutoring, which I attended after school through seventh grade.

What accommodations are the most helpful for you regarding schoolwork?

The accommodations I have found most helpful for me are additional time on exams, paper copies of tests and small group testing to minimize distractions.

What inspired the “Thinking  Differently” project?

I created “Thinking Differently” because when I was first diagnosed with dyslexia, I would have loved to learn about it from different perspectives and listen to others’ stories. I also created “Thinking Differently” for educators, so they can learn more about dyslexia and the importance of finding ways to help dyslexic students in the classroom. Parents can gain valuable insights from others who have gone through the struggles and experiences of raising a dyslexic student.

What did you learn from the project?

I learned how to lead and manage a large project with many different people involved. I also learned the importance of being an advocate for change in my community and connecting with others. I was very grateful to have the opportunity to meet many different people and learn from their experiences. I learned more about the psychological effects of dyslexia and how it can impact things like self-esteem and confidence.

What are your tips for advocating for yourself as a student?

Advocating as a student is really important in general, but especially for students with a learning difference, such as dyslexia. It is important to get an idea of what would help you to learn and get comfortable speaking to your parents, teachers, counselors about it. Most adults want to help, so speaking up helps them to do that. This is a very important skill to have and will be necessary in the future as you go to high school, college and beyond.

What are the challenges that come with dyslexia? What are the strengths?

Some challenges that come with dyslexia are staying positive and patient. It can be difficult when  comparing yourself to others and feeling like you’re not measuring up. People with dyslexia have amazing strengths, like great problem-solving skills, grit and creativity. Personally, I consider myself to be a hard worker who is persistent, empathetic and a creative thinker.

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