“Embrace dyslexia. Try to learn more about it.”

A pediatric nurse with dyslexia shares her advice.

Kira, a Pediatric Nurse

Kira Ziolkowski is a registered nurse in downtown Chicago, IL. “I love living in the city, and I love the people I work with,” she says.

When Kira works with her patient’s families, she’s big on educating them about whatever is going on with their child.

It’s wisdom she’s picked up along her own journey with dyslexia and ADHD. From a middle schooler who was embarrassed to talk about her disability to thriving college student and self-advocate, Kira has learned that knowledge about oneself is power.

It helped that Kira’s mother is an occupational therapist, and was able to spot her daughter’s dyslexia early and support her along the way.

Ruth is the former president of Don Johnston Incorporated, now a division of Texthelp. She says accommodations, like Snap&Read, were a big part of her daughter’s success.

Snap&Read is an assistive technology that helps students with dyslexia work independently, understand what they’re reading, and

See how in this short, free webinar about assistive technology for dyslexia, or read this article about it. 

Want to see how Assistive Technology can help your students with dyslexia?

We recently sat down with Kira to ask her about her journey, and this is what she had to say:

How do you describe your dyslexia to somebody new?

In short terms, I say that I always get my p’s and B’s mixed up.

When I’m trying to think of a word that starts with a P, I’ll always want to put a B.

macro photography of the word dyslexia from the newspaper underlined in red marker

I’ll also tell them that it’s hard for me to spell, read, and write.

Nowadays, a lot of people know what dyslexia is. They already know when I say, you know, I have dyslexia, I’m dyslexic. They’re like, Oh, okay.

Do you feel like dyslexia has given you any specific strengths?

I would definitely say problem solving. I also think it’s helped my critical thinking and it allowed me to be more independent.

I can deal with things on my own and not rely on other people. I find my own strategies education-wise, through work, through every aspect of my life.

Through my experience, I’ve also definitely learned how to advocate for myself.

What was school like for you?

In elementary school, I loved my speech teacher, Miss Rose.

I got to leave class to go do something special- she gave me prizes and all that fun stuff. I was never embarrassed  about it because I was so pumped to see her.

Middle school was probably the hardest for me.

They put me in some really intense reading interventions [separate from my regular classes] and I was afraid other people would see me and think I was dumb.

I also never asked for help because I was too embarrassed.

I had a really bad concussion in high school, so I got a lot of accommodations on top of what I had already. But high school was a lot better than middle school because I started to realize that if I ask for what works for me, it actually helps.

I think that boosted my confidence.

Before I picked my college I talked to all of the accommodation centers. I went to Valparaiso University and they had a really good accommodation program.

At first I was awful at processing, writing and typing in my lectures. They would talk so fast I could never keep up, and once I start spelling the word wrong, l would just freeze. And then I’d forget the whole sentence and be behind in the lecture.

So I started recording my lectures with a program that recorded in chunks, and it was a lot easier to just go back, listen, and write my notes.

I had way better grades in college than high school. After learning how to stand up for myself and ask for what I want, I think it made me more successful.

I was more aware of my disability and what I needed to make me successful. I learned that it’s not something to hide, but something to embrace.

What advice would you give to a child or a family of a child who had just been diagnosed with dyslexia?

I’m always a big advocate for advocating for what you need and embracing who you are.

So my advice would be to try to learn more about it. The more you learn about it, the more you can relate to it, the more you can advocate for yourself.

I have ADHD too. So I’ve been starting to learn more about that. And I’ve been realizing that parts of myself that I just thought were who I was, are actually related to my ADHD.

But the more you learn about it, the more you can find ways to give yourself tools to help yourself in different situations.

That’s the advice I would give to parents too: educate yourselves on your child’s disability.

Learn how their brain works, and start to work on strategies to help them at home. Advocate for them outside of the home.

When you understand what your kid is going through, then you can work together on solving it and ultimately their kids won’t feel like they’re going through it alone.

Learn how to support students with dyslexia and ADHD like Kira

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