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  • [APPLAUSE]

  • BRIAN THOMAS: Really grateful for Debbie for offering us

  • this platform in some ways, but also just to have the

  • opportunity for kids to talk about themselves and about

  • what we do.

  • Just a little background--

  • in 2006, 2007, we started as a group.

  • And we were launched in someone's house, one of our

  • board member's house on Clipper

  • Street in San Francisco.

  • And it was basically in her kitchen and living room for a

  • number of years.

  • And we've now moved to the San Francisco Friends School.

  • But it starts usually at the beginning of the school year.

  • And it's once a month.

  • And these kids have-- many of them have been coming over and

  • over and over again during that time.

  • And just a little bit of a background from there, that

  • very first meeting, there were maybe about 15 kids in a room.

  • And Jonathan Mooney, who is a LD advocate extraordinaire,

  • went to Brown, has an incredible story of not just

  • overcoming, but using his strengths, and as someone who

  • probably reads at a third or fourth grade level right now.

  • So he talks a lot about that.

  • But he turned to the kids, and said so what

  • do you want to do?

  • And there was a little bit of a hubbub in the room.

  • And they said we want to speak on panels.

  • We want to make a film.

  • And we want to write a book.

  • And at the end, he turned to the woman whose house it was,

  • Julie Tran, and myself, and said mm, I don't think that's

  • going to happen.

  • Not that he was doubtful, but it was a lot to bite off.

  • And these kids have over time and time again shown great

  • resilience, great fortitude, and

  • they're very, very ambitious.

  • So I'm going to turn it over to-- we're going to start all

  • the way down at the end.

  • I want you to introduce yourselves.

  • Tell us what grade you are in, what school you go to.

  • Tell us a little bit about when you were first diagnosed

  • with your LD.

  • TAMARA: Hi, I'm Tamara.

  • And I'm a senior at the Bay School,

  • which is in San Francisco.

  • I was first diagnosed in seventh grade.

  • And it actually wasn't really that revolutionary, I guess,

  • when I was diagnosed, because I didn't really understand

  • what learning differences were at the time.

  • And I didn't really understand until around ninth grade.

  • So maybe I'll talk about that later.

  • Yeah, thank you.

  • FRANKIE: Hi, I'm Frankie.

  • I am a junior at Gateway High School in San Francisco.

  • I was diagnosed in first grade.

  • That was a long time ago.

  • I don't really remember.

  • But what my mom has told me is that when I was first

  • diagnosed, I went around walking down the street

  • telling everyone I was dyslexic.

  • And I didn't know what that meant.

  • I just thought was a good thing.

  • But other than that, I don't really remember.

  • SEAN: I'm Sean.

  • I go to Riordan High School in the city.

  • I was diagnosed in third grade, but it wasn't really

  • that big a deal because learning disabilities were

  • like diseases so, yeah.

  • ANNIE: I'm Annie.

  • I go to school in Marin County.

  • I technically go to three schools right now.

  • I have four independent study classes, a class at Redwood

  • High School, and a class at College of Marin.

  • I have dyslexia and something called Scotopic Sensitivity

  • Syndrome, which is kind of a reading disability.

  • It's basically like-- you know the salt and pepper on a TV

  • when the cable box is unplugged.

  • It's kind of like that, only everywhere.

  • And so on pages, it makes it a little hard to read.

  • I was identified in the end of sixth grade.

  • And prior to that, I really thought I was stupid, thought

  • I was going nowhere.

  • I was failing classes.

  • I could not read.

  • I didn't know my math facts, couldn't spell.

  • And school was my least favorite thing in the world.

  • And so when I was identified, it was definitely a relief to

  • know the cause to all of my school struggles.

  • But it was also a little bit scary because I thought

  • dyslexia just meant oh, you're kind of not as good as

  • everyone else.

  • But it turns out that wasn't right.

  • MIA: Hi, I'm Mia.

  • I'm a freshman year at Redwood High School, and I have ADHD

  • and dyslexia.

  • And when I was first diagnosed in the end of fourth grade,

  • beginning of fifth grade, it was kind of a relief because I

  • always had a lot of trouble with spelling and math facts.

  • And I could not memorize anything.

  • But I also thought it was kind of this really cool special

  • club, because like my sister Annie, she had gotten

  • diagnosed, and I figured anything that Annie had, that

  • was awesome, so--

  • dyslexia, oh my gosh, that's so cool.

  • FIONA: Hi, I'm Fiona.

  • I have quite a few learning disabilities, ADHD, dysgraphia

  • probably, and sensory integration disorder and some

  • processing disorders with my memory and stuff.

  • Oh, and I'm a senior at the Bay School with Tamara.

  • Hi, Tamara.

  • TAMARA: Hi, Fiona.

  • FIONA: And I was diagnosed, I think, when I

  • was in fourth grade?

  • Is that right, mom?

  • She nodded.

  • So that means that I'm good.

  • I mean, I was in fourth grade at the time, so I don't really

  • remember it.

  • But I do remember it really kind of changing when I went

  • to sixth grade, and then I started taking ADHD

  • medication, and that really helped.

  • But I've really gotten improved with my learning in

  • terms of my learning disability by going to SAFE.

  • BRIAN THOMAS: I want everybody to answer this one as well.

  • Talk a little bit about school challenges, sort of when you

  • first noticed--

  • if you did, because maybe some of you have not-- but when you

  • first noticed through your learning difference, learning

  • disability, how school was challenged for you.

  • TAMARA: So I think for me the main thing is just taking a

  • lot longer to do work than other people.

  • And I notice that already in--

  • I guess when I was in middle school, because we always had

  • classwork to do.

  • And I always had to finish during lunch or

  • finish after school.

  • So that was kind of frustrating.

  • Another thing is that I have a hard time

  • memorizing math formulas.

  • So even though I would say it to myself again and again or

  • write it out again and again, it just wouldn't stick.

  • I think those are the two main things.

  • FRANKIE: Well, I was first diagnosed in first grade, so I

  • don't really remember, but what I do remember from that

  • time it is I remember I couldn't really

  • read in first grade.

  • So people, even my parents, and I think even my nanny,

  • came to school to help me read, because

  • I couldn't do it.

  • So someone had to sit next to me and help me read.

  • Also, people would take me out of class and do these certain

  • exercises, things like that.

  • And I didn't really know why.

  • I just thought--

  • I was like oh, time out of class.

  • That's OK with me.

  • Anything to get out of class.

  • And then I started taking ADHD medication when I was in maybe

  • second grade, maybe first.

  • And I've been taking it ever since then.

  • So I do definitely notice when I haven't taken my medication

  • and when I have taken it, because I just--

  • I'm a lot more--

  • when I do take my medication, I'm a lot calmer, and I can

  • concentrate.

  • But if I don't, I'm off the walls.

  • And I don't even usually recognize myself, because I'm

  • just so used to myself on this medication.

  • And then also I start to notice when I started to get

  • into higher and higher levels of math, I started having more

  • and more problems.

  • Math is probably my worst subject.

  • I get OK grades, but I have test anxiety,

  • especially in math.

  • So when I'm at a test, and I look at the test, I forget

  • everything.

  • Or that's not always usually the case, but sometimes, I

  • will forget everything and will completely fail a test.

  • SEAN: My learning disability is where the most trouble

  • would come for me was basically in grammar school.

  • I have a hard time remembering.

  • And the difference for me is that I didn't really get any

  • help from teachers.

  • The playing field wasn't leveled.

  • So I had to basically do the subjects like everyone else

  • had to, but they were like at a different level, so it was

  • difficult for me.

  • ANNIE: Let's see.

  • Well, I first remember struggling in first grade,

  • where I would just sit in the corner with a book, looking at

  • the pictures, scared, on the verge of crying, because I

  • just couldn't understand the words.

  • I used to pretend I was sick to the point where my mom took

  • me to get blood tests because she thought something was

  • medically seriously wrong with me.

  • And school was just--

  • it was horrible.

  • It was probably one of the worst experiences I've had was

  • having to go to school without knowing that I was dyslexic

  • and without knowing that there were strategies

  • to help with it.

  • MIA: My main struggles have definitely been through

  • spelling and math.

  • I remember in second grade, Antarctica was

  • the bane of my existence.

  • I remember in first grade, we had this game where everybody

  • would start on the line at the edge of the classroom, and

  • then they would ask you an addition fact.

  • And you would hop forward if you got it right.

  • And I just remember being stuck back at

  • the starting line.

  • And it was just horrible.

  • I did not understand what was going on.

  • And it was the same thing when we started multiplication in

  • third grade.

  • I wasn't able to figure out multiplication until around

  • fifth or sixth grade.

  • And I'm still not good at it at all.

  • And I still can't spell at all, although with spell

  • check, it's helped out.

  • But I remember, in sixth grade, we had a lot of

  • spelling tests.

  • And our teacher would go around and you would get-- she

  • would draw you a special picture if you got 100%.

  • And I remember being the only person in the class who had

  • never gotten that.

  • And she thought it was funny.

  • She'd be like oh, you're so bad at spelling.

  • I'll have to throw you out the window.

  • But that was not very funny from my perspective.

  • FIONA: Well, I kind of had a similar experience.

  • Spelling is basically a lost cause with me.

  • And math facts are just-- no, don't even try.

  • But I really didn't--

  • I don't remember really hating school that much when I was

  • younger or even when I--

  • I mean, I just really didn't like the people at my school.

  • Because I was really weird.

  • I mean, we kind of already knew that there was something

  • not quite right.

  • I couldn't not hit people and stuff.

  • So there was something wrong, but we didn't know exactly

  • what it was.

  • But I don't know why, it just didn't--

  • I mean, I just was happy.

  • I didn't feel like I had a terribly negative experience.

  • But yes.