AUSTIN (KXAN) — This Friday, Austin Independent School District brought together education leaders, teachers and researchers for a dyslexia conference focused on helping children. While Texas has done a lot in recent years to better help students with learning disabilities, some adults who never got the right help continue to struggle.
“When I was in fourth grade, my parents were told I wouldn’t get pass a second-grade reading level,” remembers Jerilyn Estelle Webre-Heredia, who’s now 27. “People look at me and they think I’m normal, and I’m not. I’d love to be normal.”
Diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD, Webre-Heredia got some accommodations throughout school, but after graduating high school, things got harder. She enrolled in community college but continued to fail her courses.
“Three chapters would take me 16 hours—and that’s just to read it, doesn’t mean I understand any of it.”
She hasn’t been able to hold a job for more than a few months, and now works for her father. Webre-Heredia says she’s frustrated and believes there aren’t enough resources for adults with learning disabilities like dyslexia.
“If you’re dyslexic in a job where you have a lot of reading to do, and you need text-to-speech software, by law your employee needs to provide that for you,” said Jamie Martin, an Assistive Technology Consultant & Trainer.
Martin works with dyslexic students and adults, teaching them how to utilize assistive technology. He says adults with learning disabilities need to be their own advocates in college and the workplace.
“The heartbreaking thing for adults is if they haven’t received those services in school or accommodations, they never learn how to be self-advocates,” said Martin. “Whatever accommodations you need to do the job to the best of your ability —you’re protected under the ADA.”
But Martin believes more needs to be done to accommodate people with hidden disabilities at places like at restaurants.
“I think it’s going to take time, it’s going to take people being more vocal about it; so that when you go to a restaurant, maybe you have it [the menu] in braille if you have a vision disability. Maybe there’s an app for that restaurant that you can find in your phone, that will have an audio version of the menu. We’re not quite there yet everywhere.”
Webre-Heredia says despite being frustrated, she doesn’t plan on giving up – and will continue searching and waiting for resources.