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Brothers in Georgia Beat Dyslexia
2017-07-19 16:23:42
Oliver Smith

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“What if I never learn how to read?”

Stacey Harvey was stunned when she heard her 6-year-old son Cole ask that question while taking a nice Sunday drive.  Harvey said "He was really fearful, thinking he might not ever read."  At that moment she realized that Cole and his younger brother Stephen were acutely aware of their dyslexia and it frightened her to death.   

Stacey said "He was only 6 and hadn't been exposed to a public school setting where lots of people were easily reading and writing." in reference to Cole.  She added, "I explained to him that people learn many different ways, and if this way is not the right way, then we'll find another one, and if that's not the right way, then we'll find another one."

That was eight years ago.

Cole is now 14-years old and Stephen is 12.  

Now, Cole, 14, and Stephen, 12, have found a way.  Cole says "I struggled a lot, and I didn't get why I struggled a lot.I felt like everybody was smarter than me."

Cole and Stephen explain how new cutting-edge assistive technology has played a huge role in their battle to overcome dyslexia.  Technology has given them a renewed desire to learn and the confidence needed to grow with their reading and writing skills.They use several systems, equipment, and devices together for the best possible learning experience they can get.  

Cole explained "When technology came in, I was able to compensate for what I didn't understand, why I couldn't do things like other kids did, and it helped me work it out," saying  "I think I wouldn't be able to do a lot of things without me advocating for myself.Or asking somebody for help, like a student or a teacher or even a dean or counselor."

Now, if your scan the grade sheets at Saint Francis Middle School in Roswell, Ga.You will find Cole and Stephen on the headmaster and honor roll lists, and they’ll be enrolled in several subjects in next year’s honors program.  Rob Harvey, Cole and Stephen’s father had this to say

"I attribute it to the technology they use and their self-advocacy.They don't mind going up to a teacher and asking for help, which I think is just incredible.  They're able to speak for themselves.They're able to own what they've got, and they're making the best out of it," he said. "That's what brings tears to my eyes."

Recording Pens and Friendly Fonts

Dyslexia is a neurological condition which impairs a person's ability to read, is estimated to affect between 5% and 10% of people around the world.

Traditionally with students, dyslexia is tackled by modifying teaching methods and schooling environment.  However, field experts are now turning their sights to new technologies and Cole and Stephen are a prime example.  

Audiobook and word-reading apps like Learning Ally a text-to-speech software and Audible help students just like Cole and Stephen with reading and can be used on smartphones, laptops, and tablets.  The software reads whatever book they choose out loud for them and the students read along.  

According to Stephen, when he had trouble with books, he started to read a few pages and then would listen to those pages using audiobook software to make sure he would understand the words.This a simple solution that works well for him.  He said "It's helped me succeed.It's helped me read things and understand it more than I would have just reading it or listening to it," also explaining "So if it's working, you don't have to go to the newest and best thing out there.Keep what is working."

Another common program used in the dyslexia community is Bookshare which is described as "the world's largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities."  

OpenDyslexic, Dyslexia Unscrambled, and Dyslexie Font are fonts designed for people with dyslexia.  They apply unique letter shapes to transform any digital text into a typeface that is more easily readable.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, extra-large spacing between letters might help make reading material more easily accessible for people with dyslexia.


For writing help there is the Livescribe Echo Pen, the Echo Pen records audio while you write.  All you have to do is tap on your notes to play back what was recorded.Some experts say the device helps reduce the anxiety students might feel while taking notes in class and making sure that the information they are learning is written down.  Additionally, Grammarly is a great tool for writing and grammar help-it automatically highlights spelling and grammar mistakes, it explains the reasoning behind each correction.  

Stephen and Cole both enjoy using Grammarly to their benefit.  

Growing Up

Rob and Stacey noticed very early how Cole was having difficulties learning letter and the alphabet and pronouncing familiar words.  Later they noticed the same thing with Stephen.  

Rob said in reference to IEPs (Individual Education Plans) "When we started recognizing the signs of reading struggles and recall and enunciation and stuff that should be coming along early on, we just immediately jumped towards it," He also explained that there is a history of dyslexia in their family. "That's kind of how we got started on this journey.It's a journey of life all the way through."

The Harvey’s pushed for both their sons to have the IEPs which indicate to their school and the government that Cole and Stephen are eligible for special education services.

During first and second grades, Stacey decided home schooling was best for the boys through the Georgia Cyber Academy.  "Because I've taught in public school for so long, I knew that as a dyslexic kid, you have to fail in order to get the help you need."  She stated "By then, you've lost valuable time, as well as their confidence.  I just didn't want to do that for my kiddos," she said. "And it makes me so sad for all the other kids out there.There has to be a better way to give every child the specific help they need."

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