Rappahannock Community College student Clayton Hogge is all too familiar with the concept of dyslexia—now. But when he was a Middlesex first grader, it was just a word. He had no idea what it meant, or how it applied to him, except that his mother and teachers insisted that he had it.
“Throughout elementary school I had to go to so many speech classes,” he says, “and I had to carry this MP3-looking device that had headphones. The teacher would always have to clip on a little microphone so that I could hear clearly, and at the end of every discussion they would say, ‘Did you understand that, Clayton?’ Of course I understood that! Why am I the only one being asked that question?”
This outwardly normal and friendly boy had progressed to sixth grade before he felt any effects from his condition: “my science teacher was telling me something and my head all of a sudden felt funny, like it just computed its own glitch. The teacher was telling me one thing, and I interpreted it as a completely different sentence.” This manifestation—known as auditory dyslexia—was the first of several forms of the disorder that have complicated the learning process for Hogge all his life. With verbal dyslexia, he says, “I would tell you something, and it would come out as something totally different and inaccurate. It took me years to finally figure out what I had and how to deal with it.”
A neurological disorder that causes affected persons’ brains to process and interpret information incorrectly, dyslexia can hinder reading, writing, spelling, and sometimes even speaking. It is not a sign of poor intelligence or laziness, or of poor instruction, nor is it a result of impaired vision. It occurs among people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds, and often runs in families. Since much of what happens in a classroom is based on reading and writing, it is very important to identify children with dyslexia as early as possible, so that they can succeed by using alternate learning methods.
“Dyslexia affected the way I understood and communicated with people, and it also affected my grades,” Hogge recalls. “I could never for the life of me take in something that was told to me for the very first time, apply it to a test, and get a perfect score, or even a solid ‘B.’ My mind was against me, my grades were against me, and at times my friends were against me, because they knew I was different.”
As “the kid with dyslexia” who, everyone knew, had to repeat first grade, Hogge appeared a failure to many of his friends — “and on top of that, school was extremely tough. My confidence level was not the best at this time.” However, when he reached high school, “I was ready for anything, and I was going to do everything possible to get the education that I rightfully deserved. I applied myself with discipline and commitment, and I’ll never forget the people who helped me to succeed. I studied harder than ever before. I became an honor student, I got accepted into the National Honor Society, I took college level classes, and I even got accepted to many colleges and universities!” Scholarships awarded by more than ten organizations at this time showed how impressive his high school work was.
In addition to joining the National Honor Society, Hogge was a member of Middlesex High School’s Academic, Weight-lifting, and Chess Clubs, and spent four years as a drum line captain in the band. He was president of the Rappahannock District Youth Choir, and took part in that organization’s Katrina relief effort in 2011, as well as participating in several World Hunger events. He also served as district youth group president over 64 Methodist churches. His community involvement has included membership in the Rotary Club and the Hartfield Volunteer Fire Department, and he has already held down several jobs: with Wilton Cottage, Tortuga Charters, and—as a lifeguard—with Bethpage Park and the Ricky Taylor Memorial Community Swimming Pool in Deltaville.
“Now, don’t think that my dyslexia went ‘poof!’ and was gone forever,” cautions Hogge. “No, it is still with me, and sometimes slaps me in the face when I am not looking.” But, he adds, “Today dyslexia is not as big of a challenge as it was when I was starting school.” The adjustment that most helped him to succeed was one of attitude. Previously, “I absolutely hated school because it was so hard for me to understand the curriculum,” and he never realized how it would apply to his adult life. “It wasn’t until I got into high school that I took my studies seriously”—doing his best with every subject, no matter how difficult — “because I realized then that whatever grades I received were going to reflect on my career. I took in what other people had to say about me, and I used it as a morale booster to prove that I had what it took. I wasn’t going to use my dyslexia as a crutch” to beg off from every difficult situation he faced. “I embraced whatever life threw at me. I graduated from high school with honors, and now I am attending RCC as a stepping-stone” to the challenge of a four-year university.
In addition to a full schedule of classes, Hogge participates in RCC’s work-study program as an assistant to public relations and marketing manager, Tom Martin, who commends Hogge as “quite helpful in doing research and in organizing groups of students to advise the college on serving their needs better.”
Hogge enrolled at RCC, he says, because the tuition was affordable, he knew he was not ready for a four-year school, and “I had no idea what I wanted to be.” Though nervous at first, he soon made friends and became accustomed to college life. Now, at the end of his first semester, “I can say that I am glad I chose RCC. Without it, I do not know where I would be today.”
“RCC is a great choice, and can help anyone in the long run,” he concludes.