Ann Andrew P’24, Advocate for Students with Dyslexia
by Liz George
After spending a few minutes with Ann Andrew P’24, one thing becomes instantly clear: don’t let her size fool you. Small in stature but mighty in determination, Ann packs more emotion and purpose with her words than most people, and she has made it a personal mission to help the needs of her three sons, each of whom has dyslexia.
Dyslexia wasn’t a word in her vocabulary prior to November 23, 2011, when her oldest son, Johnny, was diagnosed. As Johnny—and then his brothers Will and Ben—struggled in school, Ann decided that she would devote herself to helping students with language-based learning differences. She dove head-first into trainings and workshops to familiarize herself with dyslexia, eventually becoming an Orton-Gillingham tutor and a learning disability advocate.
In her pro bono advocacy work, she enjoys remaining behind the scenes to empower parents to navigate the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process, create goals, and understand terminology and evaluations. Connecting with other parents comes easily to Ann, and she is overwhelmed by the friendships she has made through her advocacy work. “My very best friends today are those I’ve met while on this journey.”
When she is not helping her own children or other parents, she is passionate about her volunteer work on behalf of the learning disability community. She chairs the Rockport, Mass., Parents Advisory Committee, is a member of the Leadership Team of Decoding Dyslexia-MA, and a member of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Disability Rights Committee.
Next on her agenda is working to pass state legislation to support early dyslexia screening, and she hopes to see more training for public school teachers. “I admire the work of the Landmark Outreach program (pg. 37) and wish every teacher across the state could take advantage of the trainings and courses they offer.”
A Pinch-Worthy Reality
One might wonder how Ann has time for all that she does or what drives this mission? For her, it’s personal. Her voice fills with emotion when she reflects on how Landmark has helped her youngest son, Ben, a rising seventh grader at the Elementary•Middle School (EMS). “When I drive up the hill to EMS, I pinch myself. The teachers are incredible. Ben is a different kid now that he’s here. He’s confident, independent, and he’s proud. Aside from the academics, he’s supported in a way that could never happen anywhere else.”
Landmark, according to Ann, “not only saves students but it also saves parents.”
Throughout her journey, Ann has maintained a hopeful, optimistic outlook. “Rather than feeling sadness or despair, I have watched with wonder as my sons learn and grow in ways few parents can ever really appreciate. They are amazing boys, with an abundance of empathy, perseverance, and spirit.” All characteristics, one can observe, that are also reflected in their mother.
Article originally published in The Lantern, Spring/Summer 2018