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High School Sports Star With Dyslexia Shares How He Overcame Reading Struggles

By Melissa A. Kay on

Armoni Coppins, 18, of Derby, Kansas, is a champion on the wrestling mat and the football field. In his junior year, he won his state football championship and placed sixth at state wrestling. And as a senior this school year, he became a first-team all-league tight end, placed first at Regionals in wrestling and will be wrestling at state.

But as impressive as those athletic feats are, they’re not his greatest accomplishment, according to his mom, Nikki. From his early years in foster care through his being adopted by his aunt and uncle to his high school triumphs, Armoni has struggled with reading. But there, too, his perseverance and determination have helped him succeed.

Armoni worked hard in school. But from the beginning, he had trouble with reading. According to his mom, his teachers weren’t always sure that he could do better. But his parents and he were sure he could succeed if he could get special help with his reading issues.

In fourth grade, Armoni was diagnosed with not only , but also and . He was prescribed medication, which helped his focus. But reading was still a battle. “When I found out about dyslexia, I thought at first that I was stupid,” remembers Armoni. “Then I realized I just learn differently, sometimes think differently. But I knew I was smart in math and history, and I was a smart kid.”

Finally, in his first year of high school, Armoni began working with experts in the national Take Flight program. During two years of intense one-on-one therapy, he worked every other day with instructors on the five basic skills of effective reading and learned a new way to read. That made a huge difference.

“In the seventh grade I was at the reading level of a second grader,” Armoni remembers. “Four years later, I was at grade level. I can also decode nonsense words, which I used to be terrible at.”

Armoni’s mom was also impressed with the program. “Take Flight is when we saw the most progress for him and watched his confidence grow,” she says. “He knows more about the English language than most adults do.”

Today, Armoni feels that anything is possible for him. “I plan to attend college, and I am considering becoming a train conductor and joining the Army. But I’m keeping all options open,” he says.

And he’s got advice for other kids with learning differences: “Take every opportunity to learn what you can. It will be hard at first, but it will get easier as you go. With hard work and persistence, you will get it!”

And Armoni may be the best example of how well his advice can work. “I am most proud of Armoni for not giving up,” says Nikki. “Even though reading was a huge struggle, he was willing to work hard and kept a good attitude about doing it. His persistence certainly paid off. I am not only proud of his academic and athletic accomplishments, but also the person he has become.”

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