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Gemm Learning is proud to announce that the winner of its 2023 APD Dyslexia Scholarship is Kathleen Arnett.  Kathleen is studying at Bob Jones University, SC.

Gemm Learning has been providing a college scholarship for a student who has overcome APD or Dyslexia (or both) on the journey to college every year since 2013.

Here is the winning essay:

Living with Auditory Processing Disorder

Ever since I was an infant, my parents knew that there was something unusual about me on a number of levels—one of them being my hearing. How could I remember every movie I had ever seen—even if only a singular scene—yet it took me a minute or more to respond to the simplest command? How could I possess a third-grade-level vocabulary and reading skills in kindergarten, yet couldn’t pronounce my th sounds properly and struggled profusely with reading comprehension? How could I be a memorization machine when it came to songs and movie dialogue, yet struggle with remembering to do a specific task mere minutes after receiving it?

All of these questions and no answers—except for the family doctor’s perpetual response of “She’ll grow out of it.” Needless to say, I didn’t grow out of it; the problems simply multiplied. It was not until my senior year of high school that we finally got some answers.

In 2021, I was tested by an audiologist and found to have the Integration variant of CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder). Because of this, I struggle to filter out various sounds when both my left ear and my right ear are engaged. This finding explained why my responses to spoken dialogue are delayed and my comprehension of the written word is hindered. A few months after being diagnosed with CAPD, I was also diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and ADHD—two conditions that further compounded my misunderstanding of both the spoken and written word. At the time of diagnosis for all three conditions, it seemed to me as if I finally understood why I acted and responded the way I did—and why I had never been able to fully explain how it felt to not understand things the way everyone else did.

Since being diagnosed with CAPD, ADHD, and ASD, I have realized that while I will never be “normal”, I can learn how to develop my strengths and cope with my weaknesses.

I have gained access to a whole new world of interventions. Months before being diagnosed, my parents placed me in occupational and physical therapy. During that time, my parents and I had many battles with medical insurance over fee coverage. Before I was diagnosed, the constant argument our insurance company made was something along the lines of, “She can overcome X struggle without further intervention.” After I was diagnosed, however, we began winning some (though not all) of those battles. In addition, I successfully graduated from physical therapy, pediatric occupational therapy, and speech therapy and am looking forward to graduating adult occupational therapy in the near future.

I still have trouble with certain social skills and reading comprehension, but I am seeing daily improvement in these areas. Because of intervention, I am now able to pronounce my th sounds correctly (90% of the time), read both the treble and alto clefs in music (with minimal difficulty), better comprehend information in most literary works and my textbooks, and either shut out or cope with most unavoidable noise. I also have obtained the accommodations I will need to succeed in college, including extended testing times, audio textbooks, and lecture note handouts.

This fall, I plan to attend Bob Jones University to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders. After college I hope to obtain a Master’s in either Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology. I desire to study one of these specialties because I want to assist others with similar struggles to my own. I look forward to the future with anticipation and the hope that I can succeed in spite of my struggles as I seek to help others do the same.