Dyslexia: Lilly Karrer
October 20, 2011
Filed under In Depth
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With a bright spotlight illuminating the stage, Lilly Karrer, junior, looks boldly out into the audience as the final notes of her song reverberate through the theater. With ten years of acting and vocal experience, Karrer is recognized as a talented performer with a voice that has landed her several lead parts in productions across St. Louis. But while many students are aware of her interest in theater, only her closest friends have witnessed her struggle with dyslexia.
When Karrer was around the age of 4, her parents and teachers began to notice that she was having trouble reading at the same level as the other kids. After testing in the Special School District of St. Louis revealed a deficiency in her reading abilities, Karrer was officially diagnosed with dyslexia.
Since her dyslexia affected the way she viewed letters and numbers, Karrer had many difficulties comprehending her schoolwork. Spelling tests were particularly difficult, and she often spent hours memorizing the words for a quiz with 15 questions.
“I could probably recite the test better than actually doing it on paper,” Karrer said.
Karrer’s parents used unique methods and mediums to help her brain comprehend the shapes of letters, such as writing words in crayon, chalk and even in impressionable surfaces like sand. These tricks helped Karrer approach reading in a new direction, and her difficulties have improved over the years.
“Things are just foreign at first, like driving a car,” Cindy Karrer, Karrer’s mother, said. “Like knowing how far to turn the wheel, it’s just a learned skill to apply.”
As an actress, one of her greatest challenges is cold reading, or reading from a script for an audition without reviewing it. When auditioning for a big role, Karrer calls to see if she could get a copy of the script ahead of time. Since many of the casting directors are unable to do so, Karrer will use connections at the Muny or through a college friend to find the script for the play.
Reading through any part that she could potentially be considered for, Karrer memorizes all the lines for the play.
Nikki Clodfelter, junior and Karrer’s friend, said Karrer’s dyslexia doesn’t keep her from being successful as a performer.
“It does slow down the process, and it requires work other people may not put into it,” Clodfelter said.
Karrer hopes to get a minor in musical theater and a major in teaching. Her ambitions are directed towards helping other kids who have dyslexia, and showing them what they can achieve if they work to overcome their disorder. Karrer’s goal is to tell her story and let them know that everything happens for a reason.
When she was younger, Karrer hid her dyslexia from friends and classmates. But this summer Karrer traveled to New York for a teen Broadway camp and gained a new perspective after seeing successful people who went through the same ordeals she did.
“I have no problems telling people about my issues anymore,” Karrer said. “Its not even an issue, it’s just telling about the way my life is.”