Five years ago, I would’ve never thought of myself as a “smart kid.” Since first grade, I’ve struggled with reading. Throughout elementary and middle school, I worked with resource teachers and private tutors. At first it wasn’t that bad because I was also pulled out for enriched math which boosted my self-esteem. But that changed in third grade. While I still struggled with reading, suddenly I wasn’t excelling in math either. And by fourth grade, I had moved down to the low math group. My self-esteem nose-dived.
Thankfully, I had sports. On the basketball court, soccer field, and diving board, I was rewarded for my hard work and determination. Sports helped build my self-confidence that school tore down.
When I was finally diagnosed with dyslexia in eighth grade, I felt a huge sense of relief to know that there had been something holding me back from being successful in school. I had been tested twice before by the County but the testing just showed “reading weakness.” My parents persisted and had me tested by a private educational psychologist. Not only did the testing reveal that I have dyslexia, the psychologist told me that the evaluation showed I was very bright and that’s why the school system never diagnosed it.
Although I was working extra hard at staying afloat, I wasn’t sinking. I wasn’t failing. Essentially, I had become very good at compensating by paying attention in class, asking questions and turning to the internet, like finding an audio book on YouTube or an online tutorial to go over a textbook chapter. These are tools I continue to use.
Strengths and Talents
Having dyslexia has taught me to focus on my strengths, to advocate for myself and to seek out and take advantage of outside resources.
I have learned that grades do not define me. They are not a reflection of my intelligence, and they don’t determine my future success.
I am a competitive diver and compete at the National level. I practice 4-to-5 hours every day after school. Yes, it’s a long day. I come home tired and still have homework. But I push through it because I’m motivated by diving. And when you have something you love and look forward to doing, it makes it easier to do those things that are more difficult.
I’ve been asked which is harder: diving or reading. You’d think diving, especially when you’re staring down at the water from 10-meters above. But not for me because when you enjoy something, it’s not work. When you see the results of your efforts, it’s rewarding. I don’t get that feeling of accomplishment from reading. For me, it’s hard work. No matter how much I practice, it never gets any easier. It’s exhausting working so hard without any improvement.
But I believe all kids have strengths and the key is to find that strength, nurture it, and pursue it. Not every student succeeds at school. But every student has a special talent and can be successful, whether it’s music, art, or diving as in my case.
In the fall, Gould will attend diving powerhouse Indiana University where he was accepted into the Honors College and plans to study biology.
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