Getting that First “A”: DeAnna’s Story of Learning with Dyslexia and ADHD

Written by the Kurzweil Blog Team


              DeAnna Guetschow is a graduate of Adrian College in Adrian, MI, with a degree in Studio Arts and a minor in English Writing. For DeAnna, her dyslexic tendencies were a bit of a nuisance in school, but not debilitating. It was her Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) that was the larger issue. Combined with the mild dyslexia, DeAnna found it arduous to read and keep up with her studies in college. It would take hours, if not days, to read one section of her reading assignments. Turning to Kurzweil 3000 for reading help in her senior year was a pivotal point in DeAnna’s life.

Life before Kurzweil 3000

DeAnna struggled through elementary and secondary school but was never formally tested for learning disabilities. With help from her parents, she was able to limp through school.

In 9th grade, DeAnna’s parents were concerned about her academic performance because of her inability to focus. Her teachers, however, said she didn’t have attention problems, so DeAnna was never tested. In high school, according to DeAnna, “I didn’t do the greatest. I knew I was smart, but I also knew if I didn’t pass a class, it was because I didn’t pay attention and missed homework assignments.”

As she moved on to college, she recognized that intelligence was only going to go so far. “I didn’t have to study in secondary school, but in college I discovered I had to, and I didn’t know how to do that.” So, DeAnna came up with an elaborate system of organization that involved color-coding her subjects. For instance, English was blue and everything related to that class was blue, including sticky notes and pen color. It was in this way that she was able to remember homework assignments and to struggle through her first years in college.

In spite of the creative solution to her ADHD, DeAnna still struggled to read in college because of her inability to focus. She describes what reading is like for her in the following manner: “When reading something difficult, if I misread a word, it launches my train of thought into an unpredictable trajectory that takes a while to recover from. For example, I read “succor” as “soccer,” and then I think about the last time I watched soccer, and how other countries call it “football,” and how Germany has had a great football team over the last few years, and how I want to visit Germany, and so on. Hours later I’m thinking about chocolate covered crickets in Thailand and have no idea how my mind got there, and I haven’t read any further.”

DeAnna struggled with the classes that required heavy reading. It would take an inordinate amount of time to read one section of a reading assignment. She would earn barely passing grades of Cs or D+s, which frustrated her because she takes pride in doing things well.

Towards the end of her junior year, the head of the disabilities office suggested DeAnna go through a round of testing so the school would know how to help her. It was then that DeAnna was officially diagnosed as having ADHD accompanied with dyslexic tendencies.

“Kurzweil 3000 helps me read through my dyslexic mistakes and pulls me through complex text, preventing my ADHD mind from running away from me. I am better able to focus on and understand what I am reading in a timely fashion.” – DeAnna Guetschow, recent college graduate


Life after Kurzweil 3000

DeAnna struggled through elementary and secondary school but was never formally tested for learning disabilities. With help from her parents, she was able to limp through school.

The Disabilities Services office at Adrian College recommended Kurzweil 3000 for DeAnna. She started to use the software diligently to help with the fast pace at which she had to read large quantities of text. Using Kurzweil 3000, she was able to read assigned text much faster, sometimes within a couple of hours. For the first time in her college career, DeAnna was able to read her assignments as many as three times in one day, reinforcing her comprehension of the content. “Kurzweil 3000 had a significant impact,” said DeAnna. “I was taught how to speed read in high school, but in spite of mastering that method of reading, I didn’t retain the material. Using Kurzweil 3000 to read in depth was so beneficial for increasing my ability to retain what I read.”

Hearing words read to her with k3000’s text-to-speech feature allowed DeAnna to focus. She stopped misreading words and no longer spiraled into a mental vortex. DeAnna also converted content to MP3 files to reinforce her reading by listening to the text. And using firefly, she was able to read her assignments in her dorm room at 3:00 in the morning when the Disabilities Services office was closed.

In DeAnna’s art history classes, she was required to create outlines from her readings to state the thesis, list the main evidentiary points, and add some quotes to back up her opinion. Before k3000, she would have to rewrite her outlines at the request of her instructor. After turning to k3000, she received an A on every outline she submitted. “Getting an A on the initial try on an outline was a first for me,” DeAnna explained.

The combination of text-to-speech in both Kurzweil 3000 and firefly coupled with the ability to convert text to an MP3 file gave DeAnna the independence necessary to succeed with her studies. She’s excited about her future and hopes to find a job working with the arts or writing. She’s already decided that wherever she lands, Kurzweil 3000 will be an essential part of her career. “Kurzweil 3000 will help pull me through any reading and writing I need to do for a job,” says DeAnna.

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