Apr 042005
 
Authors: Nicole Barrett

Eddie Lee is 43 years old, but he reads like a 7-year-old.

After high school it was easier for Lee to read with pictures rather than stumbling through the words.

Lee struggled through school in the '60s and '70s because no one would teach him how to read.

During that time no one knew about a learning disability called dyslexia. They did not understand why Lee could not read like the other students.

"They wanted to put me in mental retardation school," Lee said.

Now, Lee takes classes at Front Range Community College, 4616 S. Shields St., so he can meet CSU requirements in math and English to enroll at CSU for a theater degree.

In the past he was not so fortunate to have such a direction spread out for him.

Every day in high school, teachers handed Lee the same curriculum he did in past terms. When he was done he helped the other students, the ones who could read, with the curriculum that he did the previous semester.

Lee never actually learned the curriculum. He just memorized it.

When he was done filling in the blanks that he memorized a long time ago, teachers would put him to work running errands or grading papers.

He told teachers about his reading problem so they would avoid putting him on the spot. This method of coping worked until one day in math class.

The math teacher made him stand in front of the class the day after hearing about Lee's reading problem. The teacher told Lee to read a page from the textbook for the class; he could not do it.

"It was dumb of him to do that," Lee said. "He took my self-esteem and threw it away."

Lee graduated high school in 1979, but his transcripts show classes he never took.

"They gave me a bunch of credits to graduate, even some college classes," Lee said.

Lee also had a say in what grades he received from his teachers.

"My teachers asked me what kind of grades I wanted," Lee said.

Lee believes he graduated high school because he was "helpful and kind."

When Lee tried to pursue extracurricular activities administrators repeatedly stopped him from doing things he enjoyed, such as theater.

Lee participated in theater as a child, and he memorized his characters' lines by having teachers, friends and family read them to him.

"I walked away from (theater) because my counselor told me that I couldn't do it," Lee said.

Later in life he rediscovered his love for theater when his professor at Cypress College in Cypress, Calif., told him that he could do theater despite his dyslexia.

"When I am onstage I am a whole other person. I can read – I can do anything. I am not Eddie who is dyslexic, I am Eddie that's very intelligent," Lee said.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that hinders the recognition, spelling and decoding of words, according to the International Dyslexia Association.

CSU Resources for Disabled Students helps dyslexic people with their professors.

"It normally means having extra time on an exam," said Kathleen Ivy, counselor for the office.

Students can contact RDS at 491-6385 if they need assistance because of a disability.

Disabilities affect more than 400 students at CSU, representing more than 700 disabilities, Ivy said.

Nationally, dyslexia affects 10 percent of the population to some degree, according to IDA statistics; Lee has a severe form of dyslexia.

Dyslexia is commonly thought of as mixing up letters of words. For example 'dyslexia' might appear to look like 'dsylxeia.' However, that is not the case.

"It is important to understand that dyslexia is not simply mixing words up," said Tom J. Viall, executive director of the IDA. "Recognition of letters means that (a dyslexic person) just can't make the word connect with the sound."

Lee owns a computer program called Wizard that helps him read. The program allows people to scan or copy and paste text and Wizard will read it out loud, highlighting the words as it goes along.

"We are lucky in that there are technological aids available," Viall said.

Now that Lee has a direction to go in, he wants to get all his struggles and ideas on paper, hoping one day to put out an autobiography.

"I got all these stories in my head and I want to learn to write and read so that I can put them down on paper," Lee said.

Lee encourages other students with disabilities to persevere through tough times.

"It's there, you just have to find it. Don't give up and keep on trying," Lee said.

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