Kiera O.’s Story

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The RILEY Project is honored to receive and share our first story. Learn more about Kiera O.’s journey as a student with a learning difference and what she is up to today! 

Please consider sharing your story with us so we can highlight more students with learning differences!

young woman, Kiera H., smiling. Behind her is a garden bed and trees.
Kiera O.

When were you first diagnosed with an LD? Do you remember what you felt when your family received the news? 

I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was in the first grade. I don’t really remember getting the news because I was so young. Because of this, pretty much my whole school experience I have known I have dyslexia.

Did you or do you attend private or public schools? If you’ve attended both, please share about your transition from one to the other.

I attended public schools throughout high school, but I now attend a private college. There has not been a very dramatic change from one to the other because class sizes remained relatively the same. I’d chalk up all the other changes to just general differences between high school and college.

 Please share some of the accommodations you have received in the past or that you currently use.

I currently don’t have any accommodations, but when I was younger, I had frequent pullouts from mainstream classes during lessons to get more support in a special education resource class. 

Was there any difficulty with getting the support you needed?

I am incredibly lucky that my mother is an Occupational Therapist and recognized the signs that I had dyslexia when I was very young. She was very proactive about getting me tested and was a huge advocate for getting me the support I needed to succeed in school. There is no way I would be where I am now without her support. 

 In your opinion, do you think that the school system has provided enough support for students with LD? What would you recommend that would be useful as support?

I think that a lot of focus has been put on making sure that school systems provide enough support for students with learning differences. Still, an equally important issue is ensuring that the academic and social climates are welcoming and inclusive of students with learning differences.

Support doesn’t look the same for everyone, and fostering a community amongst students with learning differences is important. It can feel isolating to have a learning difference in academic spaces because of a fear of judgment from professors and peers. Most people are not very open about their learning differences, and it is easy to feel alone. 

Are there any tools or websites you recommend to other students with LD? 

I’m a big fan of google speech to text, speechify, otter.ai, and other apps and websites that turn text to speech and vice versa. I find it helpful to listen to what I write on text to speech apps to check for mistakes that I would not have noticed if I were reading it. 

 How has your LD strengthened you as a person? 

My dyslexia has definitely strengthened me as a person, and I think it makes me more empathetic, creative, and hardworking. I have learned to work around challenges and find more efficient and effective ways of doing things. When I read, I often skip letters or words, and a lot of what I actually read is based on guessing context clues, this means I’m really good at understanding the ways in which things fit together and reading between the lines. 

I am an avid reader and writer, which I struggled a lot with when I was younger. All the years working on them contributed to my interest and now I am pursuing a career in writing, which is something I never imagined previously. I think I’ve also become a pretty good problem solver. You know what they say, necessity is the mother of invention! My learning differences are really an asset in my academic and personal life.