From Patient to Advocate: Willow Alexander
Willow Alexander was in preschool when her teacher notified her mother, Flip, that Willow seemed to be experiencing speech delays. At the time, Willow’s parents were naive to the resources—as limited as they were—available to them. Willow’s doctor referred them to a private therapist, but the expense was jarring.
Facing this prohibitive cost, Willow’s parents eagerly responded to one of her teacher’s suggestions that they look into the Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic at Baylor University. This began Willow’s journey—spanning her preschool years to sixth grade—receiving speech and reading support at Baylor for what would later be officially diagnosed as dyslexia.
During the time when Willow was in kindergarten, support within the school system did not start until the third grade. However, her therapists at Baylor encouraged her to continue with treatment even then, citing that early intervention could make a significant difference later on. For a while, Willow was visiting the Clinic twice a week for three hours at a time. During her mid-elementary years, she visited less often and then came back again in fifth and sixth grade. She also attended Camp Success for two summers.
“They were amazing,” Flip said. “Something I always loved is that they really took time to find out how she learned and tried to find out what would resonate with her.”
Flip remembers when different treatment methods revealed that Willow was a visual learner. This discovery led her Baylor team to use a model of the mouth to demonstrate how the tongue is supposed to move for certain speech patterns. Willow was able to copy what she saw and make substantial strides with her pronunciation.
Today, Willow is a 15-year-old soon-to-be Eagle Scout. For her Eagle Scout Service Project, she has organized the Dyslexia Awareness Conference, which takes place from 1:00-2:30pm on October 1 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
“Ever since I heard about the Eagle Project, I wanted to do something with dyslexia,” Willow said. “I didn’t know what it was until I started filling out the worksheet. I brainstormed different ideas, and one day it just clicked—dyslexia awareness.”
Willow’s goal for the conference is “to let parents and teachers known how to identify dyslexia, what dyslexia really is, and to give people resources to help people who have dyslexia or to get themselves trained to help dyslexics themselves.” The event will feature various experts with the opportunity for parents and other attendees to visit with each and gather the information valuable to them. Willow hopes to have recent college or high school graduates who have dyslexia available to share their experiences and success stories as well.
In addition to her Eagle Scout goals, Willow is also an aspiring writer. Someday, she says she might like to become an author, a dyslexia therapist, or perhaps a language arts teacher. As Willow pursues these dreams and thrives in school, the early intervention she received for her dyslexia supplements her personal drive and diligent personality. She even notes that she still uses some of the tools she learned at Baylor—like tracing words on a desk with her finger or using an extra sheet of paper to keep her lines straight when reading.
“Watching Willow blossom from the young child we first saw at the clinic to the amazing young lady she is today has truly been a blessing,” said Deborah Rainer, MS, CCC-SLP, Clinic Director and one of Willow’s original therapists at the Baylor Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic. “We are so very proud of her, and this is a reminder of why we continue to do what we do here.”
Learn more about Willow Alexander’s upcoming Dyslexia Awareness Conference here.
Learn more about the Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic at Baylor University here.