Taking on dyslexia: Jodi Stanton saw a sign that changed her life forever

Jodi Stanton will be the first to tell you that she has lived most of her life lost and confused.

She had become an expert at sliding under the radar.

Throughout school, Stanton, now 26, was lost in the classroom. She didn’t lack smarts; as a matter of fact, she was a very intellectual girl.

She just couldn’t read or process information.

Stanton’s self-esteem suffered. She saw herself as “stupid.”

That all changed about 1 1/2 years ago when Stanton was stopped in traffic at a busy Twin Cities intersection.

You could say that Stanton saw a sign that her future was about to change.

Stanton, originally from Minnetonka, a senior at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, was a block from her home when she looked up and noticed a billboard.

The billboard simply read, “Learn to Learn: Solutions for Dyslexia.” It was an advertisement for a private tutoring program in St. Paul run by Jane Conlin, the parent of a child with dyslexia.

Stanton sent Conlin an email and the two soon had a meeting.

“She was my saving grace,” Stanton said.

School struggles

Jodi Stanton struggled in school at an early age.

In first grade, she remembers being lost and confused in the classroom.

“By second and third grade, reading had become a nightmare,” she said.

Stanton’s parents weren’t noticing her situation and she continued to struggle.

“By the time I hit fourth grade, I was a lost cause in school,” Stanton said.

Stanton couldn’t read a simple paragraph.

“It was taking a toll on my self esteem,” she said.

By high school, Stanton was terrified to go to school.

“School was a scary place. I was terrified that I would get called on to read in class. I just couldn’t do it,” Stanton said.

As her struggles escalated and stretched over into math, science and Spanish, teachers responded not by seeking help for Stanton, but by removing her from their classrooms.

“They thought I couldn’t handle it,” Stanton said.

Under the radar

Stanton was shy in school, she said, and that worked in her favor.

“It was my coping mechanism,” she said.

“I thought I was stupid. I tried to hide in school because I didn’t want other people to find out that I was stupid,” she said.

As Stanton grew older through her high school days, she began believing she had a learning disorder. She wanted to be diagnosed with something because she strongly believed that she was a completely different person than what her school performance led others to believe.

“It was not in me to be who I was,” Stanton said.

But she remained quiet and worked to purposely be ignored, she said.

“It had worked so well. I had been sliding under the radar,” she said.

Hoping to be noticed

Stanton said she tried not to be noticed. But in all honesty, she was hoping that someone would catch on that she had a learning disorder.

She got mostly D’s in school.

“I was thrilled to get a C,” she said.

“I knew I was different, and thinking I was stupid was the easy way out,” Stanton said.

“But in reality, I was waiting for someone else to notice and someone else to say I needed help,” she said.

But no one ever did, Stanton said.

Rock bottom

She never dreamed she would be able to attend college, Stanton said.

“I wanted to go to college but thought it was way out of my league,” she said.

So in high school, she never took any ACT tests. She didn’t take SATs, either.

“My senior year, I hit rock bottom,” she said.

“I had to listen to my friends talk about their test scores and their college plans — and I had nothing,” Stanton said.

Her self esteem, she said, continued to take a beating.

So after sliding by and getting through high school with a diploma, she started looking at her future.

“I got a job so I could get on with my life.”

Stanton found work as a teller at Wells Fargo and later at a credit union.

She understood the importance of dealing with people’s money and the challenges her learning disability presented in balancing her drawer at the end of the day.

She hated her job because of it. She also hated the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again, day in and day out.

Having spent two years as a teller was rough, Stanton said. She felt trapped and didn’t know how to leave her job because she needed a good income.

“I was out of high school and feeling like a failure in the real world, too,” Stanton said.

“I felt trapped. I knew that if I wanted to get a job I could enjoy, it meant I had to go to college,” Stanton said.

Taking matters into her own hands

For nearly a quarter century, Stanton’s learning disability went mostly unnoticed.

So at age 23, she took matters into her own hands.

She realized a long-time dream of hers by enrolling at Normandale Community College in Bloomington.

It was an eye-opening experience.

“I took Intro to Education and learned about learning disabilities. I became convinced that I had a learning disability,” she said.

A sign that things were to change

Not long afterwards, Stanton sat at that busy intersection and read the billboard for “Learn to Learn.”

“I decided right there and then that I had suffered long enough,” Stanton said.

Learn to Learn’s Conlin helped Stanton get tested. The results showed that Stanton did, in fact, have dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.

“The test results didn’t surprise me. I would have been more shocked, and even terrified, if they had not come back with the results they did,” she said.

Conlin introduced Stanton to an Orton-Gillingham-influenced curriculum created by Susan Barton that used a one-on-one tutoring system to improve Stanton’s spelling and reading.

“She was literally teaching me how to read,” Stanton said. “I had to start with the sounds of the alphabet, much like a pre-schooler, because I didn’t know them,” she said.

A bright future

With a diagnosis of dyslexia in hand, Stanton was able to move ahead with her future.

She was able to obtain a tutor in college and special accommodations such as textbooks on DVD and MP3s.

“It allowed me to read with my ears, not with my eyes,” Stanton said.

Accommodations were also made for extra time on tests. She was allowed to test in a special room and was allowed to have a note-taker for classroom lectures.

“I got a lot better. Every semester there I made the dean’s list and was even able to take honors classes,” she said.

With a two-year degree in hand from Normandale, Stanton realized a second dream when she was accepted into Augsburg College, where she is currently finishing up her education degree and is looking forward to graduating next spring.


Becoming                                 an advocate

When it comes to dyslexia, Stanton didn’t have a voice for most of her life.

She is now using her experience and education to be that voice for others.

“Throughout my life — especially when I was in school — I was missing something,” Stanton said.

That’s not uncommon, Stanton said. There are many people out there just like her.

“And I’m going to fight for them,” she said.

Stanton has spent time at the Minnesota Capitol fighting for the rights of people with learning disabilities. She also serves as a mentor for people with learning disabilities. She is working toward a degree in special education and has taken work as a paraprofessional at an elementary school in Bloomington.

“I see me in these kids,” Stanton said of the young students she comes in contact with each day.

They are smart, hardworking and need nothing more than a break, she said.

“I’m here to see that dyslexia takes over their lives in a positive way,” she said.

  • DHerring

    Thank you so much for this inspiring story! My husband is dyslexic, as well as my two oldest boys. We are currently using the Barton program with my 9th grader. Thankfully our online public school (State charter school) makes this available to us families that need it. It’s really wonderful to know that there are people that have succeeded with their future and increased their self esteem by realizing that their disability doesn’t have to define them. Thank you!