TRAVERSE CITY — Owen Walters is one of the lucky ones.
“It was hard for me to do things,” he said, as his mom, Terra, reached over to squeeze his hand. “It’s really hard still.”
The 12-year-old sixth-grader struggles in school. He often follows the lead of his classmates when working in groups. And he quickly stashes papers bearing grades in his backpack before anybody catches a glimpse.
It’s something he’s been doing since his first year in school, something he’ll live with for the rest of his life.
“It’s agonizing to see your child struggle so hard,” Terra said.
“It just makes me feel like I’m left behind,” Owen added. “It makes me feel dumb.”
The conversation is one Terra repeated dozens of times before anybody identified why her son had trouble learning.
Owen is dyslexic.
Picking a fight
Terra Walters and Marian Brady are no strangers to fighting for their children’s education.
The women have struggled alongside their sons while the boys fought lifelong battles with dyslexia. They struggled against a system that, they say, does little to identify students afflicted with the disorder. And it has few resources to help them succeed.
They know firsthand the heartache a parent goes through while watching his or her child flounder in school. They’ve been in all the same meetings. They’ve been handed disappointing report cards. They’ve helped their sons limp through hours of homework.
But the duo never expected to be drawn into a statewide fight for the good of all students who struggle with the common learning disability. It is a fight that landed the women in front of a small group of state legislators Monday afternoon in Traverse City.
Brady’s son, Tom, graduated from high school last year and enrolled in the DRONE program at Northwestern Michigan College this year. His dyslexia wasn’t identified until he was Owen’s age.