Annie Downing is showing support for children with Dyslexia. She was diagnosed in third grade and never really talked to her peers about it. She didn’t feel like it was their business.
Dyslexia, is a learning disability that causes Support for Children with Dyslexia. Dyslexia specifically affects spelling, vocabulary, pronunciation and word recognition, and can be genetic, according to the International Dyslexia Association.
“Through this project I learned I should tell people,” she said. “Because it’s OK to have a disability. You should embrace it instead of letting it control your life.”
Downing was honored for her efforts at the Nov. 19 school board meeting by John Eisenberg, assistant superintendent of the department’s division of special education and student services.
Eisenberg said she helped “put the Commonwealth on the map” in a movement in which students with disabilities are becoming more involved in their own IEPs, or individualized education programs, which outline the strategies and tools needed for them to be successful in school.
“You have made a difference in the lives of all you have met,” Eisenberg told Downing.
“We know she’s got the foundation of skills to be very successful,” he added.
As a youth leader, Downing not only talks to other students with disabilities, but she also makes presentations at conferences to teaching professionals and administrators.
She was also lauded for her work developing a separate program, an anti-bullying initiative called “Inclusion Day.”
In that project, she and two of her friends won a $100,000 grant to create a program that would teach non-disabled students how it feels to have a disability by introducing hands-on activities and experiences.
The idea, she said, is that Inclusion Day activities would lead to a decrease in situations in which disabled students were bullied.
Now in its second year of development, Downing said she and her peers expect to pilot the program next year and have formal programs in schools by 2015.