Franklin student’s diagnosis at MTSU dyslexia center opens door to reading, college success

Franklin student’s diagnosis at MTSU dyslexia center opens door to reading, college success

ABOVE: MTSU junior Scott Austin, right, shares a reading experience with Jennifer Flipse, director of the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia. The center helped Scott learn strategies for dealing with dyslexia so that he could graduate from high school and attend college. //MTSU Photo by J. Intintoli



Years ago, Scott Austin’s parents disrupted his summer fun to take him to Murfreesboro.

By his own admission, he didn’t appreciate it. Today, he appreciates it a great deal.

The 21-year-old from Franklin, Tennessee, had fielded oral questions from his parents with ease when preparing for written exams in the K-12 grades. He bombed out on the written exams.

At the end of his middle school struggles, his parents took him to the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia at MTSU. Following a battery of evaluations, experts at the center confirmed that Scott suffered from a disorder that baffles and befuddles even the most enlightened educators.

“This was the beginning point of my journey on the ability to read or learn new strategies to cope with the learning disability,” Austin said.

After the center’s confirmation, Williamson County Schools supported the analysis, as well, and Austin was placed in a special study hall. There he applied some of the techniques he had learned at the center, such as using a card or a ruler to help him focus on reading one sentence at a time.

“For me, it would be equivalent to someone looking at a hill while I look at a mountain,” Austin explained. “It’s a lot more work to get the understanding of what the words in that structure mean.”

Jennifer Flipse, the center’s director, said it’s not uncommon for some dyslexics to go undetected for years because some youngsters can acquire a sight-word vocabulary that helps them to get by.

“It wasn’t that he wasn’t bright, and it wasn’t that he wasn’t trying,” Flipse said. “He just wasn’t getting that reading portion of the puzzle.”

However, just memorizing certain words isn’t sufficient for unraveling a language as complicated and quirky as English.

“English … is a very confusing language and there are so many … exceptions to rules that make it very hard for someone with dyslexia to truly understand English,” Austin said. “Originally, I looked at ‘a’s’ as if they were all ‘o’s,’ and that led to a lot of pronunciation issues and … a lot of reading issues.”

Flipse said some students just give up by the time they reach high school. She said the center’s personnel were very gratified to hear about Scott’s success story.

Initially, Austin aspired to become a nurse, but he realized that was not his calling. So he returned to MTSU as a student majoring in organizational communication, a field that Austin believes could lead to a variety of careers, including human resources and public relations.

For more information about services offered by the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia, contact the center at 615-494-8880 or

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