Pastor Lawson Clary believes everything happens for a reason. That includes being a father to kids with learning differences.
Clary, who’s the executive pastor of 5 Point Church in Easley, South Carolina, has two sons with dyslexia.
He and his wife Michelle (pictured here) noticed their older son, Hudson, struggling when he was 4 years old—and his struggles persisted as he began school.
“We knew something was up,” Clary says. “He had a lot of anxiety and was not getting good grades in kindergarten and first grade. It was frustrating to see.”
So they had Hudson evaluated. The results showed that he has dyslexia and .
A few years later, an evaluation showed that Grayson, their younger son, has dyslexia too. They decided to have their boys switch schools, moving them to a private school that offered more of the resources they needed.
From there, Pastor Clary and Michelle decided to become advocates for other parents. When parents at their church were concerned about their children’s reading, the Clarys talked to them about next steps. They shared ideas for accommodations and other ways to help kids with reading issues like dyslexia.
Through their faith, the Clarys knew they had the strength to bring dyslexia into an even larger conversation. They were also fortunate to know someone who could help get learning differences noticed beyond their church family.
Pastor Clary’s father had been elected to the town’s legislature a few months before the boys were diagnosed. He helped push for a law in South Carolina that gave kids with learning challenges priority when applying for charter schools.
So Pastor Clary had a thought: Why not open a charter school of their own?
He and Michelle, along with a team of advocates, worked together to open a charter school for kids with dyslexia. Lakes and Bridges Charter School will be the first of its kind in South Carolina. It’s scheduled to open in fall 2018.
“In the school’s application, there’s an ability to screen and put those with a learning difference at the top of the list,” he says. It’s an opportunity to help more kids with dyslexia get the supports they need in school.
The Clarys know their sons’ learning differences cause challenges. But they know their kids have many strengths, too. And the new charter school could help more kids with dyslexia discover their own strengths.
“We learned that it’s not so much that our boys are different. It’s more that they have a different perspective on life,” Pastor Clary says.
“[Dyslexia] will never go away,” says Michelle, who leads a children’s program at the church. “It’s something that they will have to always work at, just like in our faith.”
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Tara Drinks is an associate editor at Understood.