Teen Overcomes Obstacles to Graduate at Top of His Class

Reagan Berry_LAVCA
Originally published in American Press – March 28, 2018

Lake Charles teen Reagan Berry hasn’t let dyslexia and dysgraphia, disabilities that impact writing and reading skills, stop him from graduating at the top of his class at Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, an online public school based out of Baton Rouge.

Berry is on track to be the school’s valedictorian, with a 4.12 GPA and an ACT score of 28. McNeese State University awarded him with a $27,000 academic scholarship. He plans to major in chemical engineering.

Berry’s mother, Nikki, credits the academy’s individualized learning plan as the “turning point” where he began to improve. He received one-on-one assistance in fluency and had individualized language goals to aid with his dyslexia.

“Little by little, he improved,” she said.

Signs of Berry’s disabilities began to show at an early age. As a preschooler, a speech therapist instantly recognized signs of impairment.

“I used to introduce him by saying, ‘You should meet my son. He speaks Klingon,’ ” Nikki recounted.

Speech impairment wasn’t his only obstacle, Nikki said.

“Even though I worked with him every night, he couldn’t write his name,” she said.

Upon entering school, Berry received regular group speech services. Even with school and home interventions, he “barely passed” kindergarten, she said.

Nikki knew her son’s struggles weren’t limited to speech and began considering a dyslexia diagnosis. Yet, after spending a considerable amount of money on testing, he was only diagnosed with dysgraphia, the inability to write coherently.

While continuing dysgraphia therapy, Nikki consulted with his second-grade teacher on the possibility of a dyslexia diagnosis. She said his teacher agreed because he “was unable to sound out basic sounds.”

“He would even stumble over the word ‘and,’” she said. “He would often read and put a logical word in place of the actual word.”

After another round of costly testing, Reagan was diagnosed with dyslexia in addition to his dysgraphia and speech impairment. But red tape related to special education coding limited his eligibility to only speech services.

With no other options, Nikki said Berry’s speech teacher at St. John Elementary School made it her mission to help him. He had an Individualized Education Program with 35 different accommodations necessary for his success in the classroom. But the size of local public schools posed challenges.

“In a classroom of over 20 students, it’s almost impossible for all of those accommodations to be met,” Nikki said.

While considering private and home school options, Nikki said she learned of Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, which specializes in individualized learning.

Like traditional public schools, Reagan also earned high school credit while in the eighth grade and college credit through dual-enrollment in high school.

To learn more about Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, visit http://lavca.k12.com

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