Rising above: NIC student overcomes learning disability to succeed in both school and life

Cindy Taylor, 36, of Wallace was working as a certified nurse’s assistant when someone said to her she had a knack for nursing and encouraged her to return to school in pursuit of a nursing degree.
Her confidence high, Taylor enrolled at North Idaho College in 2003, leaping from an 11-year career as a nurse’s assistant to a fresh start. But the cloud she was floating on crashed when an experience in one of her classes made her flash back to the second grade.
Difficulty understanding an assignment sent her spiraling back to a time when she was called lazy, stupid, retarded—all words people used throughout her life to explain why learning was so difficult for her.
But with help from an NIC instructor, Taylor discovered the root of what had been a lifelong frustration.
She is dyslexic.
According to the International Dyslexia Institute, dyslexia is a neurological learning disability, characterized by difficulties with word recognition, spelling, decoding and reading. The institute claims that language-based learning disabilities affect 15-20 percent of the population.
Taylor was finally forced to face issues she hadn’t dealt with in years and the stress reached its peak. While being tutored, a staff member in NIC’s Center for Educational Access, which deals with disabilities and student access issues, advised Taylor to see one of the college counselors.
“After three weeks with no sleep, I broke down,” Taylor said. “I walked in to school and Julie Taylor of the Center for Educational Access really just picked up the Cindy pieces and took them to Katie.”
NIC Counselor Katie Kelso began seeing Taylor weekly and with help from the Center for Educational Access, Taylor received the proper documentation for her learning disability so she could receive adequate accommodations in class. Tools such as books on tape, computer programs and tape recorders now assist her with her coursework.
“I was mad at the world and didn’t understand why things were so hard for me,” Taylor said. “It was a huge relief to just understand what it was. Even though it’s still a struggle, I keep fighting.”
Even with assistance for her dyslexia, Taylor still says she studies and does homework 50 to 60 hours each week. She’s taking a full-time load of 13-credits while commuting to NIC’s Coeur d’Alene campus daily from Wallace, more than 100 miles roundtrip. She has seen her grades improve and now serves as a tutor, helping other students with math in NIC’s Student Support Services peer tutoring program.
The changes in Taylor’s life aren’t only apparent in her grades though. Through continued counseling with Kelso, she’s noticed her self-esteem skyrocket, and Taylor has changed her behavior and even the way she dresses to reflect her new outlook on life.
She credits the changes in her life to her eight “NIC moms” that helped her along the way. Kelso is one of them in addition to a handful of advisers, instructors and NIC staff members that encouraged her to overcome the challenges in her life, including Lisa Dobson, Linda Lemkau, Julie Taylor, Beverly Hatrock, Ava Pedersen, Donna Runge and Cynthia Sielaff.
“I believe that Katie saved my life,” Taylor said.
“She saved her own life,” Kelso rebutted. “I was just there to help guide her along the way. She did it on her own.”
Perhaps the most significant change in Taylor is evident through the eyes of a 9-year-old boy, Taylor’s son Phillip.
Taylor is a single mother and said that her relationship with her son has improved dramatically since she began receiving counseling. She said he’s very proud of his mom and can’t wait until he is old enough to attend NIC and learn from his “NIC grandmas.”
“Thank you Katie for helping my mom to be a better mom,” Phillip said when presenting Katie with a rock that he found at a park as a way of showing his appreciation.
Taylor no longer wants to be a nurse, she is working toward an associate’s degree at NIC in education to become a teacher in hopes that someday she can touch the lives of students in the same way that hers was touched by the people at NIC.
“My life is an open book,” Taylor said. “They’re just helping me fill the pages.” 

For More Information
NIC Student Services Counselor Katie Kelso, (208) 769-3362

Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2005

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