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I started my company in 1980 with a singular vision to help students read and write with technology. Since then, we’ve reached over 32,000 schools with our assistive technology tools, and in some ways, it feels like we’re just beginning to see what’s possible. I’ve found that a lot of students we work with struggle with the same challenges I had when I was their age. You probably want some background, so here’s my story and what drives us to do what we do.

I remember being excited to go to my first day of kindergarten—I couldn’t wait. That all ended when I was placed in the “low” reading group and struggled through every grade. You can read about my story in a book I wrote called Building Wings. It’s available to read online. After nine years, it just took one teacher to turn it all around. Her name was Mrs. Tedesco, and she was the first of my teachers who believed in me. She set high expectations and helped me see myself as a thinker and a learner. She told me that reading is more than reading every word on a page—it was really about thinking and building images in my mind.

You have students who are just like the kid I was—the one who hides his learning disability by acting out, the one who slid by, just passing. And you are Mrs. Tedesco to your kids. They look up to you and someday one will seek you out later in life, telling you about the flame you lit in him. Many more may never call you up, but they will remember the way you believed in them and helped them believe in themselves.

When I was in school, I didn’t have technology to accommodate my learning disability, but now I use technology all day—most people do. Technology is a way to level the widest inequalities. This is the passion behind the company that I started in 1980. We develop assistive technologies that help students read and write. These technologies are your paintbrush and your students are your canvas. I believe that every student can attain some level of literacy. Together we can make it happen.

 –Don Johnston

PS: Educators and parents…please join Don’s Blog and follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook for ongoing and thoughtful discussions about the needs and successes of children with disabilities.

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