i am a registered student tutor with the state of oregon. this basically means that i've taken a course and completed testing to be approved as a tutor for students younger than me on a free-lance basis. this allows me to charge for my service and treat the sessions with my "tootees" (coined by one of them) as a job. i don't consider it work. through this, i've seen and been exposed to a lot of different types of kids and, in some instances, the challenges and learning disabilities with which they deal.
this is something of which i generally don't speak. these are private sessions where trust and anonymity is key to moving forward and helping these kids.
she has a smile of gold which shines through her long lightly browned hair. she's all of about 4'4" tall. she is kind, considerate, wondrous, curious and all the other things one would hope a nine year old would be.
what she wants most in the world is to be like every other girl her age. However, she doesn't feel as though she is.
her relatives make fun of her. her friends (if you can call them that) call her names like ‘stupid,’ ‘moron,' 'dummy’ and others.
those descriptions have absolutely nothing in common with the girl I met just a week ago, my cousin Aubrey.
ever the optimist, she volunteered to accompany my grandfather when I arrived at the airport in albuquerque for my visit there. i've since learned that she wanted to meet me, a cousin she'd only heard about and talked to a couple of times on the phone, yet never met in person.
for a week, we were like sisters. she told me all about her home state and listed intently as i spoke of mine. though we live about 1,300 miles from one another, we share a great pride in our homes.
she was there when we visited four corners, the intersection of Utah, Colorado, new mexico and Arizona (although, she insists that new mexico should be listed first!). i bought us matching necklaces there and she declared that i no longer had just three sisters; i now have four!
Aubrey struggles in school. she and her father swear she works her butt off but every time she thinks she has the right answer, it turns out to be wrong. backwards. she calls her homework "all inside out."
knowing that my mother had home schooled the majority of her children, Aubrey's father contacted her at the end of school with the dilemma of Aubrey's scholastic difficulties. my mom suggested a few things, and promised to get back to him with more.
my mom asked me for my opinion. i suggested Aubrey do some testing through the state, and that could hold some answers. on the phone with she and her dad on phone extensions in new mexico, and my mom and i on phone extensions on oregon, Aubrey said she liked the idea of getting answers, but going to the state to be tested was scary for her. she all but refused to do it. her father didn't pressure her (and for that moment, i agree with him).
i had yet to meet her at that point, but as we were all paused on the phone that june day, i came up with an idea.
"Aubrey, i need you to listen to me and let me finish before you respond, okay?"
"yes, cousin Kassandra," she said.
"well, you may know that i'm going to be in albuquerque in a month and a half. if i promise to go with you to testing, and be there, will you promise to go and be tested? i'll wait for you there and we can talk about any part of it you want to beforehand or afterward. all we have to do is schedule it for when i'm going to be there. would that be all right?"
"if you come with me, i promise to go," she said after a long pause.
i arrived in albuquerque on a thursday afternoon. that's the moment I met Aubrey. she offered to be my tour guide, which encompassed informing me about her home state. we got a chance to sit down alone together friday morning and i asked her to read part of the newspaper out loud. sound it out, i told her when she came to a pause. i then asked her to perform a few exercises based on what she had read. After about two hours, i told her to relax. her testing was scheduled for monday (august 2).
based on what i'd seen friday morning, i had a hunch. through tutoring, i had seen something very similar to this.
the weekend was recreational. we had the trip to four corners, we walked along the rio grande river, and we had lunch. other than our friendship, it was all about "doing lunch!"
the state tests came on Monday morning (they allowed her to hold the necklace that her cousin bought her, just for luck).
"it was easy," she claimed, rather triumphantly. then added "cousin Kassandra, it was just like what we did the other day." i simply smiled. my hunch had just grown into a full-blown-gut instinct!
the following day was my last full day on the albuquerque portion of my vacation. it was also the day we received an expedited analysis of Aubrey's testing. my gut turned out to be correct.
Aubrey is dyslexic.
i know, that's not necessarily something to be excited about. but I think it's cause for optimism. there are several programs where people can learn to re-train their brains into perceiving information more effectively. as i told Aubrey, a lot of people have learned to deal with dyslexia and beat it. an actor, a professional football coach, ceo's of companies. the important thing is to determine what was causing the difficulty.
i think she's encouraged.
as she did nearly a week before, she came to the airport to see me off this morning. we were all smiles until we got to the gate.
i tried to convey how special the visit was and how wonderful she made it. then, she blew me away.
"cousin Kassandra, i knew you'd help me. grandma told me so. i don't care how much those instructors help me, you'll always be my best tutor.
i spoke nothing, as i am very poor at talking through my tears.
the hug seemed to last forever, then i was on my plane, smiling because i knew Aubrey was not any of those things she had been called.
in fact, i am confident those names and that ridicule are soon to be a thing of the past.
and i can't wait to see Aubrey again!
- i'm Kassandra an oregon girl at heart. recent college graduate. heading off to law school in summer of 2014. my parents are both u.s. army veterans and continue to serve in the military in other capacities. i have four brothers (two older, two younger) and three sisters (all younger). i love each of them for both their individuality and their commitment to the example set by our parents. aside from my family, i have several friends who mean a great deal to me, one as much as my best friend from high school. she's my kindred spirit and i would do anything for her. i would also do anything for Julie, my roommate for three of my four years of college and my best friend; she's amazing and it's wonderful to have shared this experience with her. i'm extremely strong in academics and tend to think of things in analytical terms. i'm open and honest. note: i'm interested in receiving feedback on this blog, but i request that the comments pertain to the actual blog itself, and i do not approve anonymous comments.