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Ainsley’s Advantage

If you asked Ainsley Proctor when she was in elementary school what she thought about her dyslexia, she likely would have responded with a resounding “Ugh!” Today, however, the question elicits a passionate response from the poised dyslexia advocate, now entering her junior year in high school.

“Growing up, I viewed dyslexia as a disadvantage. Every day I would say, ‘I wish I never had this stupid thing.’ Now I wouldn’t change my dyslexia for the world,” Ainsley shared last fall during the International Dyslexia Association’s (IDA) annual conference, where she was awarded the organization’s 2018 Remy Johnston Certificate of Merit. “Without dyslexia, I never would have developed the grit to get through tasks that don’t come easily, or the determination that drives me to succeed. At this point in my life, my dyslexia works as a strength for me.”

The Virginia Beach teen said she was honored to be recognized for her efforts. Presented by the IDA in memory of college student Remy Johnston, the award recognizes a young role model with dyslexia who demonstrates perseverance, resilience, excellence, and community contribution.

Diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade, Ainsley began after-school tutoring in the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) with certified Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner (W.D.P.) Christine Fagan.

“I remember the day I met Mrs. Fagan so distinctly,” Ainsley recalled. “Our first lesson started with very basic letters and picture clues to help me learn the sounds. I remember leaving this lesson thinking that it wasn’t that terrible. As the days and weeks and months went by, I learned more and more. My reading fluency improved, and I got better at comprehending as I read. My lessons were fun and interactive. I learned reading strategies I had never used before, like sound tapping and dividing syllables. I was so happy I finally learned to read, and it was finally all making sense.”

Prior to WRS instruction, Ainsley struggled with self-esteem, shared Christine. “Through many years of hard work and self-discovery, she completed all 12 Steps and blossomed into a self-confident teenager, and a reader!”

Among numerous activities, Ainsley has advocated for dyslexia awareness before her school district’s board of education and as her platform topic while participating in regional scholarship pageants. She lobbied the Virginia General Assembly for better dyslexia laws, and went on to serve as a Virginia Senate State Page. She currently serves on the Virginia Beach School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and attends Decoding Dyslexia meetings. Ainsley co-taught a half-day seminar on dyslexia in 2017 for faculty at the school where Christine teaches.

“Not only did Christine Fagan teach me to overcome my dyslexia, but she also taught me to see my dyslexia as a gift,” Ainsley said. “With her constant support and my hard work, I was able to embrace it and be proud of something that used to hold me back.”

Christine, who earned her WRS certification in 1995 with Wilson® Trainers and mentors Kimberly Gillingham and Linda Felle, is also a member of the Virginia Branch IDA. Most recently, she and Ainsley participated in a panel presentation about dyslexia at the branch conference, “Navigating Dyslexia,” in March.

“With the support of her amazing family, friends, and many supportive teachers along the way, Ainsley found her gifts,” Christine shared in nominating Ainsley for the national IDA award. “She never let dyslexia limit what she could accomplish. Ainsley has worked through the challenges of dyslexia to not only achieve her own personal goals, but also to serve and help others who face similar challenges.”

Pictured: Ainsley Proctor with Barbara and Ed Wilson and Christine Fagan during the 2018 IDA Conference.

(This article was originally published in the spring/summer 2019 issue of The Decoder).