PARIS — By the time Jonah Padgett was in first or second grade he was already frustrated with school.

“I remember in school, having a reading circle,” recalled Padgett in a Zoom interview last Friday. “And when it was my turn to read, the teacher would always correct me. And I could never actually finish a sentence. I think that’s the first time I realized I was different from the other children.”

He was reading the words out of order. There were key letters he says he struggled with, especially lower case “d” with “b” and lower case “p” and “q.” He didn’t realize at first that he was saying the words wrong until he kept being corrected. All the words brought grief; “because” is one that that was particularly tricky.

“I couldn’t really see the difference of what she was pointing out to me. I just couldn’t read. I think my mom just knew I had a problem, even though I didn’t.”

Padgett was enrolled in the Oxford Hills Christian Academy then. At the end of second grade his parents decided to pull him from school and work on a homeschooling plan customized to his needs. With patience and a flexible approach, Jen Padgett was able to teach him reading. He spent a lot of time sitting on the couch, just reading books. One thing that helped Padgett was reading aloud to himself. Over time he improved.

“I think I even tried reading upside down at one point,” he said. “I don’t remember how it worked, it was just one trick I tried. Looking back, now reading fluently, to when I was little it’s amazing how far I’ve gotten. I don’t think then I even realized it, but it’s something that now I can do.


“And I couldn’t spell to save my life. Not at all,” he said. “That’s one of the things about dyslexia – spelling and reading go together, like a couple. With ‘because,’ I finally learned to spell it last year. I am still learning to spell, even though I’m in 12th grade. It’ll never stop.

Learning individually at home gave Padgett the freedom to learn on his own terms. With both his educator parents teaching him he was more comfortable, could pick times that were good for to learn during and allowed him more free time. He also struggled with math, a condition known as dyscalculia.

“I’ve also struggled with math,” he said. “I’d forget the steps of the problems like long division and multiplication. I can do it, but I have to work really hard.”

Padgett’s parents brought him to a psychologist to be tested for his learning abilities. He was put through a number of tests, like building with blocks, doing math problems and reading exercises, doing comprehension, writing and spelling things. After his diagnoses he’s continued with annual screenings to help benchmark his progress and prepare for college.

“I’d love to see dyslexia as a my superpower and a part of me but that would be a lie,” he said. “Sometimes I’ve been frustrated with it. But I’m grateful for it because it’s gotten me through tough situations.”

Padgett is also grateful for technology that helps him conquer it. He often relies on audio books, which help him process information without having to use letters. He uses the “text to speech” function on his devices and the programs Quizzlet and Speechify. He has also found multi-sensory techniques useful, like with building blocks or writing in the sand with his hands or a stick.


“My parents have advocated to try anything that will work to help me learn,” Padgett shared. “I typed a lot, I learned that when I was very young. It would be very difficult to learn without technology and I wouldn’t want to learn without it.

“But because I have very supportive parents, I could do it [without], but it would have been way more difficult.”

Having been homeschooled for third, fourth and fifth grade, Padgett returned to sixth grade at Guy E. Rowe School, where he was able to have his father Jeff as his teacher. He found it reassuring to have his father’s support and the school year went pretty smoothly for him. He returned to the Christian academy for seventh and eighth grade and joined the school’s soccer team as a goalie, which he excelled at. After that he decided that he would be better off going back to homeschooling, but he stayed on the soccer team for a couple more years.

Padgett eventually dropped soccer in order to start taking college courses through University of Maine Augusta and Presque Isle his junior year, working on his core credit classes ahead of leaving home to attend Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. Taking classes online added more ways to learn at his own pace – attending virtual lectures and communicating with instructors on his own schedule.

At the end of 12 years of schooling through private, public and at home, Padgett’s grades and comprehension are right where they should be, even with dyslexia and dyscalculia.

“If something is important to you, you’ll take the time to do it,” Padgett said. “You might not like it but you’ll do it. And that’s what I’ve always done, I’ve pushed myself even if I didn’t like it or understand why I didn’t. I’ve always pushed myself to do better and do more than I’ve done before.

“It may be that some kids didn’t have to work as hard as I have to, but that’s just part of life. I am who God made me an I have to accept that and work harder. Someone will always be better than at something. You can’t look at [dyslexia] as a disability. Look at it as a super power, and something you’re going to have [to use] different ways [in order] to accomplish your goals.”

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