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Officer Helps Teen With Dyslexia Triumph Over Driver’s Test

By Geri Coleman Tucker on

Gabby Edison, a teen driver with dyslexia, is thrilled that she can finally use horsepower, instead of her horse, to get around her rural community in Arkansas. And it’s all thanks to a Good Samaritan driver’s license examiner named Scotty Dail, and his willingness to give test .

Gabby is an honor roll student who knows the Arkansas driver’s manual from cover to cover. She studied the handbook for weeks in her spare time.

Yet Gabby failed three times to pass the written test for her learner’s permit. Each time she took the test, she missed a few too many questions.

“Some of the questions—the way they were worded—confused me,” says Gabby.

Because of her dyslexia, Gabby sometimes struggles with and writing. At school, she has an and receives Orton–Gillingham instruction. She also gets accommodations, like audiobooks and having questions read aloud to her when it’s helpful.

She and her mother, Kim Huffman, wondered if Gabby could get similar accommodations for the driver’s test. They asked at the DMV in her hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas. But the DMV said no.

“I gave up,” says Gabby. “I told my mom I wasn’t going to take the test anymore, and I’d just ride my horse wherever I needed to go.”

Gabby wasn’t kidding. She’s a member of 4-H and the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization, which promote agricultural education for youth. Gabby raises goats to show at competitions. She hopes to have a career in agriculture. Her mom and stepdad Mark Huffman have day jobs, however, and aren’t always available to drive her to events.

“Riding her horse everywhere wasn’t a real option, although she thought it was,” her mom chuckles. So Kim called Gabby’s father, Jerry Edison, to discuss what to do next.

Jerry took to Facebook and asked if any friends knew someone in law enforcement who could help. Thanks to the power of social media, the family learned about officer Scotty Dail. He’s spent nearly 21 years administering the written and driving skills tests for the Arkansas State Police at the DMV in Walnut Ridge, a nearby town. Dail has been providing accommodations to people who need them.

“If I see someone who looks like they don’t understand something on the test, I tell them not to be afraid to ask me a question,” Dail says. He won’t give test-takers the answers. He only makes sure they understand the question.

“Sometimes, they will let me know up front that they have special needs or that they receive support in school. I just want to make them feel real comfortable,” he says.

Dail adds that a driver’s license is very important in the rural area where Gabby’s family lives. “There isn’t any public transportation here.”

Kim and Gabby headed over to Walnut Ridge. With Dail’s support, Gabby passed the test in about 10 minutes. How did he help?

“He would give me an image or help me visualize the scenario in a question,” Gabby says.

“We were just ecstatic that there was someone willing to do that, to give her a fair chance,” her mother adds.

“She was very outstanding,” Dail observes. “She knew the material back-and-forth.”

Now, Gabby has her learner’s permit. That means she can drive the family pickup if there’s an adult with her. She can’t drive by herself until she turns 17 in April, however. Coincidentally, April is also when the next round of FFA and 4-H shows will start up.

Kim has three other children who are showing signs of dyslexia. The whole process has made Kim reflect on the barriers that people with dyslexia face in society. She’s also learned more about the Americans with Disabilities Act and the rights of people with dyslexia to receive accommodations.

Kim thinks Gabby’s story is important because people with dyslexia should be able to get accommodations at all driver’s testing sites in Arkansas. She also wants an audio version of the Arkansas driver’s manual to be available on the state website. And she’s now working on organizing people in the state to help make that happen.

“I think if parents got together, we could make a real difference here,” says Kim.


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