WHS sophomore shares academic success with dyslexia

“It’s part of who I am; I have to adapt to it every day,” said Waxahachie High School sophomore Noah Polk when explaining what dyslexia meant to him.


Polk is a typical busy high school student. He is on the tennis team, plays the French horn and mellophone in the Spirit of Waxahachie Indian Band, and is a media volunteer at his church. He enjoys studying history, learning about meteorology, and playing video games in his free time.


When Polk was diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade, he completed the two-year Take Flight program while still in elementary school. Take Flight is the comprehensive dyslexia intervention program used in WISD to address the specific literacy needs of students with reading difficulties.


“Dyslexia is often called an invisible disability,” explained WISD Dyslexia Therapist Erin Wharton. “You can’t tell that Noah has dyslexia, or that it still affects him when you look at all he’s accomplished. There is no cure for dyslexia, and even after completing the Take Flight program, students like Noah continue to find ways to cope and compensate for their dyslexia in and out of the classroom.”


Wharton said that Polk and many students embrace their dyslexia and have the confidence to know it does not have to be a barrier to success but can be a gift.


“Reading was a challenge for me in third grade,” Polk said. “It was hard to do my reading assignments when I was reading at home, and often I would be in tears because it took so long to get through my reading, and I was tired. Spelling was especially difficult, and I am glad I do not have those spelling tests anymore.”


Students with dyslexia are often gifted in areas of critical thinking, problem-solving, and spatial reasoning. Polk said his strengths are working with technology, memorization skills, and an excellent ear for music.


Polk has several academic achievements to be proud of such as receiving first place at the district science fair in seventh grade, earning “Meets” on his English I end-of-course exam (a first-time for him on any English Language Arts STAAR exam). He also enrolled in Pre-AP and AP courses his freshman and sophomore years. His greatest accomplishment is being in the top five percent of his class at the end of his freshman year.


WISD Dyslexia Coordinator Jayme Winters shared that Polk, “…gives great insight into the daily perspective of living with dyslexia and what excellent work ethic and determination can accomplish. We are so proud to get to highlight Noah and share his accomplishments.”


One goal of the WISD dyslexia department is to help spread the word on the characteristics of dyslexia and the importance of identification.


One in five students will show the characteristics of dyslexia (poor decoding/word identification, difficulty with oral reading, and weak spelling). WISD dyslexia therapists kicked off the school year by presenting to campuses and sharing information on what dyslexia looks like in the classroom and how to support students.


“The more equipped people are with the background of dyslexia, the better they can spot the one in five who need our help,” Winters said. “Together, we can change literacy outcomes and lives for students here in WISD.”


WISD is recognizing Dyslexia Awareness Month in October.