Tag Archives: Learning Ally

How dyslexic students can advocate for themselves

Commander Ben salutes all dyslexic students in front of Lake Travis near Austin, Texas.

Commander Ben salutes all dyslexic students in front of Lake Travis near Austin, Texas.

October is dyslexia awareness month. I want to share with you my greatest tip: advocate for yourself.

Advocating for yourself is of the utmost importance. If you do not advocate for yourself, not only will people not understand your condition, they may even consider you resistant to learning or lazy. (And dyslexic students are not lazy!)

How can you advocate for yourself through your words and actions?

  • Use your words. Go and talk to your teachers directly, explain your difficulties reading, and ask them for their help and understanding.
  • Do the best that you can in your subjects, even the small assignments. This will show that you’re a hard worker, and you don’t let your dyslexia hold you back.
  • Stay positive. Not only will this help you in coping with dyslexia, this will prove to others that you’re resilient and strong. You won’t allow the challenges of your learning difference to get you down.

As dyslexic students, we have more challenges than other young people, and I believe that helps forge us into steel. Steel is very strong, and our experiences, our efforts to overcome challenges, and even the failures that we learn from will give us the strength to achieve great success in the future.

Learning Ally and the Sound of Reading

I made the Sound of Reading documentary last year to help shed light on the struggles of having dyslexia, and how Learning Ally has helped to provide audio versions of textbooks and other printed materials to dyslexic students and those with learning difficulties. Their audiobooks give students, like myself, the opportunity to learn and be successful.

Texas Book Festival and Rawson Saunders

At last year’s book festival, I had the opportunity to interview director Luis Macias about his Embracing Dyslexia movie. Many thanks to Ms. Mandy Tucker and Rawson Saunders for giving me the chance to talk with the director and the talented students from the Rawson Saunders school.

In 2014, Rawson Saunders students will also be sharing their latest works. Be sure to visit them if you’re at the Texas State Capital this weekend for this year’s Texas Book Festival.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Learning Ally, Rawson Saunders School, Texas Book Festival

How I Learned Biology with my Textbook, iBook and Audiobook

Miller and Levine Biology book on the iPad - A must!

Miller and Levine Biology book on the iPad – A must!

I finished up my high school freshman finals yesterday with a 100 on my biology final exam. Yea! My favorite subject this year was..yes, you guessed it…biology!

I had a fantastic time learning about biology, and here are just some of the topics that we studied during the year:

  • Ecology: Plants are autotrophs, which means they produce food from solar energy. They’re primary producers and very tasty to heterotrophs like us, since we get our food from consuming plants and other living things.
  • Cells: We have eukaryotic cells, which means our DNA is enclosed in a nucleus, unlike prokaryotic cells.
  • Genetics: A round of applause to Father Gregor Mendel for founding the science of modern genetics and for his experiments with pea plants. (They were easy to grow for the study dominant and recessive genes.)
  • Evolution: Ah. What fun it would have been to be on the HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin in 1831 and be able to explore nature, so new and mysterious. (I learned about Darwin’s Finches at a Science Under the Stars activity at the UT Brackenridge Field Lab a few years ago.)
  • Plants: CO2 + H2O — sunlight –> C6H12O6 + O2 (Photosynthesis, need I say more?)
  • Animals: Who knew cladograms could be so interesting? Cnidarians, like jelly fish and sea anemones, are the simplest animals to have radial body symmetry.
  • Human body: Thanks hypothalamus for monitoring concentrations of water in my blood and releasing more antidiuretic hormone (ADH) to let me know I’m thirsty.

Miller and Levine Biology Textbook, iBook, and Audiobook

We used the Biology textbook by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine. Although the book is wonderfully written with great illustrations, it wasn’t easy for me to learn from with my dyslexia. Fortunately, I was able to to get the iBook version from iTunes and the audiobook version from Learning Ally.

I liked being able to select portions of the iBook version and have my iPad read the text out loud to me. Unfortunately, it couldn’t read the text on pictures or diagrams, and that’s why it was helpful to have real people describing the drawings and reading the text in the Learning Ally audiobook that I also listened to using the Learning Ally iPhone app.

Miller and Levine Biology iBook quiz

Miller and Levine Biology iBook quiz

I also liked being able to take the quizzes with each iBook chapter to practice for my tests. (The iPad version is a lot lighter in the backpack too!)

Try this setup to be surrounded by all things biology: Have your printed biology textbook in front of you, your iBook on the iPad on your right, and your audiobook on your Learning Ally iPhone app to your left. Oh, and your herbarium on the wall in front of your desk!

(If you want to learn more about Learning Ally and what they and their many wonderful volunteers have done to help dyslexics and those with reading challenges, watch my YouTube video, The Sound of Reading.)

The iBook version of Miller and Levine’s biology book is only $15 on iTunes. Even if you’re not in high school, but you would like to learn about Biology in a fun and easy to understand way, the iBook version is well worth it.

As much as I love my iPad and audiobooks, I’m always going to treasure my printed textbook with all my notes, highlights, and well worn pages. Thank you Miller and Levine!

An awesome summer ahead

I’d also like to thank my wonderful teachers, especially my biology teacher, and my parents for all their help and encouragement this school year. I took a lot of walks with my Dad where we talked about what I learned in class, studied upcoming quizzes and tests, and talked about new advances in science. It was a great school year!

I really love science and I’m going to miss all the fun biology labs. (But I’m looking forward to some amazing chemistry labs coming up during my sophomore year.)

I hope you’ll join me for an awesome summer as I get caught up on my blog posts and videos on science, invasive species, and dyslexia. And I also hope you’ll help me kick off the summer at the first Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Thursday, June 12. I’m bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to help train future invasive hunters and have fun with plants at the same time!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Biology, Dyslexia, High school, iBooks, Invasive Hunter Academy, iPad, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Learning Ally app, Nature Nights

KUT series on dyslexia in Austin

Ben Shrader talks about dyslexia in his Sound of Reading film about Learning Ally.

Ben Shrader talks about dyslexia in his Sound of Reading film about Learning Ally.

During National Dyslexia Awareness Month, KUT, our Austin NPR station, broadcast a series of interviews about dyslexia, and I was invited to be part of the series after they saw my Sound of Reading film about Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic).

I had a nice time talking with KUT reporter Ms. Kate McGee about my experiences with dyslexia, and how dyslexic students have to work hard and take an active role to get the right accommodations they need for learning. If they don’t get the help they need for everything that involves reading, including writing and math, students could crash.

After donning headphones, we talked for more than 30 minutes in the KUT studios, which was near the KLRU studios where I had an interview a few months ago with Central Texas Gardener about my work to help educate kids of all ages about invasive species.

One of the hardest things dyslexic students need to do is come to grips with their dyslexia. When I was younger, I didn’t want to be known of as a dyslexic, but as I found things that I liked and was good at, I felt better about myself. Once dyslexic students recognize that they have talents and challenges that other students don’t have, they’ll have great success in life.

Here’s my interview with KUT:

Additional KUT interviews about dyslexia and dysgraphia:

Thanks Ms. McGee and KUT for the chance to talk about dyslexia and help encourage dyslexic students to know that they’ll have success in life.

Your friend,

Ben

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Filed under Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Kate McGee, KLRU, KUT, Learning Ally, National Dyslexia Awareness Month, NPR, The Sound of Reading

The Sound of Reading: Austin Teen Creates Film for National Dyslexia Awareness Month

The visually impaired and dyslexic face many obstacles in life. The ability to acquire knowledge through the printed word, a skill that accomplished readers take for granted, stands out as a constant challenge.

Fortunately, the staff and volunteers of Learning Ally provide audio versions of textbooks and other printed materials to those with learning differences, giving them the opportunity to learn and be successful.

The Sound of Reading chronicles the educational challenges faced by the visually impaired and dyslexic and their journey to success as they discover and use the audiobooks provided by the Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic).

National Dyslexia Awareness Month

In celebration of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, October 2013, I want to share this movie with you. I filmed this movie earlier this year.

You face many challenges in life if you have dyslexia, like me, but there are many resources that can help you learn and be successful with the strengths that you have.

Featured blog posts about dyslexia

Learning Ally resources

Dyslexia resources around central Texas

My thanks to the wonderful students, parents, and Learning Ally staff and members who volunteered to be part of my film. Your time and help means a lot to me, and I hope The Sound of Reading will help show the challenges that dyslexic students face and how they can achieve success with audiobooks from Learning Ally.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under assistive technology, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Learning Ally, learning disabilities, National Dyslexia Awareness Month, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, The Sound of Reading

Central Texas Gardener Tackles Invasive Species

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Linda Lehmusvirta, Commander Ben, and Tom Spencer on the Central Texas Gardener TV set

Last month, I had the great honor of being invited to appear on the Central Texas Gardner show that is aired on PBS. When I arrived, I was met by Linda Lehmusvirta, the producer of the show. She took me up to the studio where the show is filmed and introduced me to Tom Spencer, the host of the show. It was so great to meet both of them and they made me feel right at home.

Before the show started filming, Mr. Spencer and I took our places on the set and talked about different things while the make-up artist prepared us for our close-ups! 😉

When the show was about to begin Ms. Lehmusvirta took my mom to the control room. (My mom said it was really cool!) Once everything was “quiet on the set”, the cameras began to roll and Mr. Spenser asked me all sorts of questions about invasive species, my blog, my videos, and my work with the University of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The 10 minute interview went by so fast! It felt more like a minute.

The whole adventure was so much fun and I am so happy I had the chance to meet both Mr. Spenser and Ms. Lehmusvirta. They’re the best! Many thanks to both of them! 🙂

The KLRU schedule for the Central Texas Gardener show with my interview is listed below:

  • Saturday, September 14 – Noon and 4 pm
  • Sunday, September 15 – 9 am

Updated: Interview air dates.

Started high school

It’s been very busy with lots of homework, but I’ve been enjoying my first few weeks as a freshman in high school at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy (SMCA). I’ve been using my Learning Ally iPad app for the audio of all my textbooks, including biology and my English books!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Central Texas Gardener, High School, Invasive Species, iPad, KLRU, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, Linda Lehmusvirta, PBS, St. Michael's Catholic Academy, Tom Spencer, Wildflower Center

The 1 in 5 Initiative: Learning Ally Creates a Site for Dyslexics by Dyslexics

As I have shared with you in the past, I have very severe dyslexia, but luckily, I also have Learning Ally. For years now, I have used Learning Ally’s audiobooks, which has made it so much easier for me to keep up with my textbooks for school, as well as being able to listen to all sorts of books just for fun.

Learning Ally has a great website with lots of audiobooks and resources, so if you haven’t checked it out, be sure to soon. (The have a great iPhone and iPad app that I use to listen to my textbooks.) But now Learning Ally has even more to offer. They’ve started a new site called The 1 in 5 Initiative.

Their site is all about dyslexia. But it’s even more than that. It’s an interactive site where you can do all sorts of things like create blog posts as well as videos about yourself and your experiences with dyslexia. My “Commander Ben’s Dyslexia Story” video is also featured on their Being the one stories page.

Oh! I almost forgot…you may be wondering…Why do they call the site “1 in 5”? That’s because it is believed that 1 out every 5 people has some form of dyslexia.

So be sure to check out the 1 in 5 site soon. I think you’ll really like it.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Dyslexia, Dyslexic, iPad, iPhone, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, The 1 in 5 Initiative

Learning Ally Features Student Adventurer Commander Ben

Commander Ben and Ms. Jenny Falke after talking with him about dyslexia for Learning Ally

Commander Ben and Ms. Jenny Falke after talking with him about dyslexia for Learning Ally

I want to share some great news with you! Today, Learning Ally featured a blog post and video about how I have worked with my dyslexia and used the wonderful selection of audio books available from Learning Ally as part of my education.

A few months ago, Ms. Jenny Falke, Senior Communications Associate with Learning Ally, asked if she could interview me for an article.  I told her that I would love to share my experiences about dyslexia and listening to novels and textbooks from Learning Ally during my elementary and middle school years.

Ms. Falke was a great interviewer! It was a wonderful night, and I was happy to tell my story so I could help other kids who have dyslexia.  Check out the Learning Ally blog, and watch a video there where I share my struggles with dyslexia and how I was able to keep up with my studies using audio books from Learning Ally.

If you have dyslexia, visit the Learning Ally site and learn more about their great audio books and learning resources for students (like me!) and other people with dyslexia.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Audio book, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Learning Ally, Ms. Jenny Falke