Tuesday, February 24, 2009

1 Smart Student: Cassie

This is from a student who has been in CC for 6 years and is with me in Challenge B. I love working with her each week, as does Jill Dejack. Please share similar encouraging stories.

My name is Cassie Lupkas; I am 13 and have worked with Ms. Jill since I was 6 years old.

Before I say anything else I want you to ask yourself a question. Do you have any struggles in your life? Do you struggle with your weight, caffeine or cigarette addiction or even not managing your money appropriately?

What I want you to realize is that everyone has to work on something. What I was lucky enough to learn and believe from when I was little is that I can accomplish my dreams with dedication and hard work.

My struggles are dyslexia, dyspraxia and dysgraphia. All three are related but not everyone has all three. My disabilities affected my life a lot when I was younger. When all of the other kids were getting ready for school my mom was realizing that Home school would be our Best Choice for supporting me. When I was five she called the local school and said that she thought that I needed testing because I learned differently than my sisters. She was told that the North Carolina law said that I had to be one full year behind before they would test me. I am not bragging but my mom realized I was smart and that could take several years-- we were not willing to wait to get started.

I went to psychologist who agreed that I was dyslexic. So now that my mom had a diagnosis we had to figure out what to do next. I started working with a speech therapist two times each week. My mom spent a lot of time reading with me but she quickly realized that she did not know how to teach reading to someone with dyslexia. It was a lot more than memorizing sight words it was a strategy.

Once we met Ms. Jill she helped us start a plan, first she suggested occupational therapy to work on my motor skills. Now I play soccer, basketball, enjoy rock climbing and I run half marathons. Learning to ride a bike was really tough. Even if I could ride it one day I would forget and lose my balance easily. Now I ride my bike everywhere I can. I can’t imagine how my life would be if people did not encourage me to try things that were hard.

Reading was horrible when I was little, it still is not easy to read out loud but I am at grade level and according to tests my comprehension is excellent. Miss Jill has taught me so many strategies and practiced and practiced with me. My home school group supported me. These friends are now like my family. I used to be very shy but part of my school work was presenting a paper to my class each week. No one ever forced me but my class made it comfortable for me to be who I was. One day I got up and did a presentation when no one expected it. Everyone was so nice that I realized that I had nothing to fear. Even though my speech was not always clear I was understood. And it was getting better. This past year I spoke to the Board of County Commissioners about a law that I wanted them to pass. The Pilot wrote an article and highlighted how convincing I was. Me, a 13 year old girl with reading, writing and speech issues was convincing to local lawmakers. The law did pass.

What I want you to all hear from me are that if your kids struggle in school see it as a gift-- life won’t be easy, ever. My mom has told me that if someone told you that life would be easy, they lied. You have an opportunity to teach your children to believe in themselves.

The way to do that is easy-- you believe in them and circle them with people who won’t judge them but will support them. Teach them to accept themselves instead of wishing that they were some else. You could focus on their weaknesses or build them up. I know that if I want to achieve any goal I set I can do it; it is only about finding the path that will help guide me to my goal.

I am grateful that God put me in a situation where I got to have a supportive family who would not settle for just enough- they believed I could be more and found me Ms. Jill, speech therapists, and supportive friends to learn with. It isn’t easy because they keep raising the bar but I have no doubt that I will reach it.

I can’t imagine my life if I did not meet Ms. Jill. She taught me so many skills so that my dyslexia would not hold me back. My life could have been so different- what choices will you make for the struggles in your kid’s lives. Remember they are counting on you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We learn so much form the people around us. When I, as adult struggle I often think of children who have come into my life with their own limitations or illnesses and I gain srength through their determination.

I know that our kids count on us- but if we are open to it we can learn so much from them too.

Lets motivate people- how have you been motivated by a child? For me, I have Cassie but also a couple of years ago I chose to raise money for a little girl, who was diagnosed with cancer, by running a marathon- I was not an athlete by any sense and really not much of a runner at that point. After reading the story of her 3 year struggle I knew that my endeavor was a walk in the park. I am happy to say that this past year she was determined to be cancer free. Her parents sent me a letter of thanks for the donations but I explained how their daughter taught me so much more than I could ever pay for.

Please share your experiences- your words can make a difference when someone feels defeated.