FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Now, we want to get a student perspective.
When she was a teenager, Leticia Davis contracted a viral brain infection that led to memory loss. She also had dyslexia, which can cause reading and writing problems. It went undetected until she was in college, so as a high school student, she was placed in special education.
Today, Leticia attends Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. It's a leading college for students with learning disabilities and with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Welcome, Leticia.
Ms. LETICIA DAVIS (Student, Landmark College): Hello.
CHIDEYA: So, you were in regular classes until you got encephalitis. What changed for you?
Ms. DAVIS: What changed for me? Once I got sick, you know, I had memory trouble, and it was - that was very difficult for me because there were times when I would get up and know who my mom and my family members were, and there were times when I got up and I didn't know any of them, so it was very difficult for me.
CHIDEYA: So, it sounds like you had some pretty profound changes. What was it like to go back in a classroom?
Ms. DAVIS: Oh, when they sent me to the lower school - the special education school, you know, it was difficult for me because I didn't understand why I was there. I thought that once I got sick and once I got out of the children's hospital, I thought that I could be sent back to regular ed until I arrived at the low school and saw that there were, you know, other children there with LDs and other things, and I just didn't understand why I was there. And that was because I was sick and my mom had explained to me why I was going, but again, I would - there were times when I couldn't remember what she had told me, so it was definitely a change for me.
CHIDEYA: So, other students with LDs meaning learning disorders?
Ms. DAVIS: Yes.
CHIDEYA: And you have gone on to college. You learned only in college that you had dyslexia. How do you think that that affected you - being dyslexic, but not knowing about it until later?
Ms. DAVIS: How did that affect me - you mean academically or…
CHIDEYA: Yeah. How did it affect you to only learn after you had spent many years in school that you had dyslexia?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, to be honest, deep down inside, I always knew I had it, but, of course, I'm not a doctor, so I can't just technically, you know, diagnose myself. But it wasn't until I finally started to speak out to my advisor that, listen, even though I am passing my classes, I am not learning anything. And I knew I felt like I was wasting my time because not much information was processing. Again, I couldn't really understand; I didn't really learn any much. So, it wasn't until I was about to become a college dropout that my advisor sent me to get tested again, and that's when I had learned that I was dyslexic.
CHIDEYA: By many standards, you are a tremendous success story, and in moving beyond your learning disorder, to be in a position to go to college, to have future dreams - what would you - what lesson would you give other people about dealing with special education if that's something you need?
Ms. DAVIS: Well, if there's something you need, please, please, I couldn't stress that point enough, please provide it for them. Please give them the one-on-one tutoring they need, please help them out because it wasn't until I got to Landmark, unfortunately, that I had learned how to write a grammatically correct sentence, and I think that's, you know, pretty sad that, you know, it wasn't until I arrived here that I learned how to write a grammatically correct sentence. I couldn't - I could barely speak; I didn't know anything about working with my learning difference; I didn't know that I processed information best through kinesthetic and tactile learning; I didn't know that I'm also a visual learner. So, those little things like that can really help a person build their confidence, build their self-esteem, and it will help them - it will give them courage to, you know, continue on. It's not…
CHIDEYA: Leticia, we're going to have to stop there.
Ms. DAVIS: Yes.
CHIDEYA: But thank you for sharing your story.
Ms. DAVIS: No problem.
CHIDEYA: Leticia Davis is a student at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont.
And just ahead in our Africa update, the U.N. says climate change is putting poor countries at risk.
And writer Shelby Steele says the odds are against Barack Obama in this presidential election.
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