See It, Hear It
Alum With Dyslexia Helps Provide Textbook Alternatives
By Karen Shih '09
Photo by Edwin Remsberg
By the time Pat Patterson unscrambled the words of the first question on a test at Maryland, everybody else was on the third.
When he arrived on campus in the late ’50s, few people had heard of dyslexia, and universities didn’t know how to accommodate students with the disability. Just one professor in four years allowed him extra time on a test when he asked. The others told him it would put his classmates at a disadvantage.
Today, the university’s Disability Support Service provides hundreds of digital and audio versions of textbooks to students in need, and a new $25,000 endowment funded by Patterson ’63 (left) will allow the expansion of its “Text to Voice” program.
“I wanted to help students who have disabilities like me because it was very, very painful for me,” says Patterson. As a child, “I was told I was ‘slow.’ I thought there was something drastically wrong with me because everyone else was getting it and I wasn’t.”
The agriculture graduate went on to create a successful nursery business with his family (he discovered his talent for hands-on projects when working on submarines for the Navy) and hopes he can inspire students struggling today.
Andy Martin ’15, who suffers from memory problems following a head injury, says she transferred into Maryland anxious that she wouldn’t be able to keep up. The self-described “super, super senior” majoring in family science says the digital versions of the textbooks help her search for particular phrases. She can also work with the DSS staff to set the appropriate speed for the audio versions to be read, and take home a CD copy.
“I’ve seen a huge improvement in my grades with these services,” Martin says. “I’m confident that I’ll graduate now.”
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