Talking books help high-flyer fly higher

September 29, 2008


Ever since Ashley Jo Strac was a little girl, she loved being around airplanes. Her father, who is a commercial pilot, would take her to air shows at the South Jersey airport near their Tabernacle, NJ, home.

When Ashley was 10, he rented an airplane and let her “fly“ her first plane. Nothing made her happier than flying in that airplane - except perhaps seeing the joy in her father’s eyes over her excitement. Now, at age 18, Ashley is well on her way to obtaining her own private pilot’s license.


Clinically diagnosed with dyslexia by a neurologist when she was nine years old, Ashley began using recorded books in fifth grade. However, as with many high achievers who have a learning disability, some of Ashley’s teachers opposed this accommodation because her grades were so high. By the time Ashley was in eighth grade, the Strac family had obtained a court order outlining all of Ashley’s necessary accommodations. Now she’s a senior at Shawnee High School, where teachers are very attuned to her educational needs.


“I can actually comprehend what I’ve read when I listen to recorded textbooks and follow along in the text. Now I can talk about books in class discussions with my classmates,“ says Ashley. “I liked my middle school English classes so much that I got in trouble for going ahead. After being behind in everything for so long, it’s all I wanted to do.


“Flying has given me a feeling of freedom,“ she says. “I’ve been behind my whole life. Though it sounds selfish, I finally can do something that other people can’t,“ adds Ashley, who flies at speeds of 101 miles per hour and altitudes of 4,000 feet. Flying may be her true love, but it’s not her only activity. Ashley is involved as a spirit week choreographer at Shawnee High School, where she is an honor-roll student. She is also a black belt in karate, a mentor for students with Down syndrome and a volunteer at her local hospital. Ashley spends her summers working at a local marina.

It is no surprise that Ashley wants to pursue a degree in aviation science using recorded textbooks as she aspires to be a commercial pilot, just like her father.

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