Teen Tech Whiz With Dyslexia Shares His Expertise to Help Others
Geri Coleman Tucker
When you have
dyslexia, it’s important to find the tools that can help you. That’s a lesson teenager Jack Owens of Arlington, Virginia, has taken to heart.
He’s learned a lot from managing his dyslexia. And now he’s working to share his knowledge with other kids, too.
Jack, a 17-year-old senior at Yorktown High School, is a techie. He enjoys showing other kids with dyslexia how to use
(AT) to help them learn. And he likes teaching their teachers how to use it, too.
Jack wants to make it easier for other families who have kids with dyslexia to get the support they need. When his dyslexia was identified at the end of third grade, his parents, Donna and Jeff Owens, had trouble getting him the help he needed at school.
They homeschooled him for a year. Then they enrolled him in a small private school for fifth and sixth grade. After that, the family moved to Arlington County. Jack and his two sisters have attended school there ever since.
When he was struggling, his mother introduced him to audiobooks. Soon Jack discovered that technology could help him work around his dyslexia. The more he used it, the easier it was for him to do his schoolwork.
Soon he was showing his teachers how to use tools like Smart Boards,
text-to-speech software and other types of AT that can help kids with dyslexia.
Word spread about Jack’s talents. He’s advised many people on ways to use technology to help kids with dyslexia. He’s counseled principals, IT coordinators and other educators in his local school district. And for the past three years, he’s given annual presentations at the local
Parent Resource Center. He talks about his experience with dyslexia and how AT can help kids like him.
Jack has even been hired by families to show their children with dyslexia how to use some of his favorite technology tools. (He favors Apple products.)
“I’m just happy they recognized that I had a knack for this and that they are willing to use me as a resource,” Jack says.
By 2017, the Arlington County school board wants to give a tablet or computing device to every student—those in general education and those in
. The school district says it will train teachers on the devices. And it wants to develop a curriculum to make the best use of them.
In May, Jack made a presentation to the committee working on this project. He spoke about how all kids could benefit—that it could help them with organization, reading and writing. And he of course talked about how helpful it would be for kids with learning and thinking differences.
Jack is interested in other ways to help kids, too. Last year he teamed up with his sister, 16-year-old Sara Jane, who also has dyslexia, to create a support group for other teens with dyslexia.
The group, called More Than Dyslexics, brings together middle-schoolers and high-schoolers to socialize. They talk about how to advocate for themselves, and they share personal experiences.
So far the group has held four social events, and more than 100 students have signed up for their email newsletter.
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