Thu | Mar 4, 2021

Denbigh High student triumphs over dyslexia

Published:Friday | January 15, 2021 | 12:06 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer
Denbigh High School sixth-former Jhada Cohen.
Denbigh High School sixth-former Jhada Cohen.

DENBIGH HIGH School sixth-form student Jhada Cohen has had a long struggle with dyslexia. She was diagnosed when she was in grade three.

Today, she has come a far way from the third-grader who struggled to read. Dyslexia is a learning disorder which involves difficulty reading as a result of challenges identifying speech sounds.

Cohen said her condition caused her to feel left out and not smart enough.

“Low self-esteem started to creep in and I started to feel like I wasn’t capable of learning, so I used to beat up myself and say there is definitely something wrong with me,” she said, sharing that she would sit in her room and stare out the window as she tried to figure out what was wrong with her.

Finally, Cohen said her mother, after having her assessed, could put a name to why she was not performing the way she should. Although she confessed that when she heard the term ‘dyslexia’ she had no idea what it meant as she had got better at reading because her teacher nurtured her.

“This teacher spent the time to nurture me in such a way that learning became easier, she created jingles to help me grasp the information,” she shared.

However, Cohen said she finally embraced the term ‘dyslexia’ when she was in fourth form, and it was also the year she started to blossom and become more involved in school.

“I mix up words and letters, I might not be like the average student, but I know I can work through it and it is no longer a problem for me. Instead of using it as a crutch, I now use it as a stepping stone,” she shared with The Gleaner.

With that thought Cohen’s grades also started improving. Sharing that she was used to scoring in the 70s and 80s but blossomed to higher grades with the help of teachers at Foga Road High School, who were willing to push her and aid her in coming to terms with dyslexia.

“They helped me in shaping how I think using creative methods. Because of them, I realise that I have this problem and it shouldn’t define me or how I learn,” she told The Gleaner.

ULTIMATE VICTORY

Her blossoming confidence saw her being awarded most improved female student. She even read a friend’s poem in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competition and earned a gold medal. Her ultimate victory was moving from the lowest in the class to becoming the head girl of the school.

Last year, Cohen faced her greatest challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic forced classes to the online platform.

She said being home it was difficult for her as it was harder to navigate online, but thanks to a supportive community of friends, through the formation of groups using video platforms, they went through past papers together and helped her come up with jingles and acronyms to aid in her studies.

“I have a lot of positive peers. Because my friends are aware of my situation and they themselves understand what it means to struggle with disability, they had the mindset that ‘I want her to have equal success as me’,” Cohen shared.

She credits her parents for being towers of strength in her navigating and succeeding, as she said they always encourage her to continue fighting and the victory will be hers.

Her father, she said, never ceased to remind her that she can do anything she wants and that she is good enough.