Mason Soccer Star Thrives after Dyslexia Diagnosis: ‘I Decided to Own It’

Taylor Washington
Taylor Washington

By Damian Cristodero

Taylor Washington will never forget the moment in August 2012 when he was diagnosed with dyslexia.

After wondering for so long why he always had so much trouble in school, “and thinking I was stupid,” the diagnosis was unburdening and empowering.

“I really decided to own it,” the George Mason University senior said. “I’m going to overcome adversity. This is going to make me stronger, and it has. I have a newfound sense of going after everything and knowing I can do whatever I set my mind to.”

Three years later, Washington is proving his point.

He is a star defender and a captain on George Mason’s soccer team, and after a successful summer playing for D.C. United’s under-23 developmental club, he is a potential pro prospect. An integrated studies major, his 3.5 GPA last semester landed him on the Atlantic 10 Conference’s honor roll.

“It’s been everything I wanted it to be,” Washington said of his time at Mason, “and more.”

Washington transferred to Mason from Boston University in spring 2013 because Mason offered greater assistance for students with learning disabilities, his father, Marc, said.

Washington described his dyslexia this way: “When I’m reading, I don’t necessarily see a period. So if there are two thoughts two sentences apart, my mind will connect them even though they could be nowhere near connected.”

Neuropsychologist Susan Adler first diagnosed Washington.

“He was not able to do the basics of decoding words,” she explained. “What was happening was [his] mom was reading to him so he didn’t have to read. That’s how he was getting the information.”

Washington first majored in biology at Mason, but, despite a 3.87 GPA, he had so much trouble deciphering the material, especially in chemistry, that he changed to integrated studies with a concentration in elementary education because much of the work is participatory or observational. Assistant dean for New Century College Kelly Dunne says, “Taylor is a conscientious, empathetic, and earnest person.  He was a pleasure to teach, and I enjoy meeting with him for academic advising.”

Software that reads highlighted texts aloud helps him through lessons. Another program writes papers as he dictates. Textbooks are provided, if possible, as audio books, and he is tutored through the Intercollegiate Athletics Department and the Office of Disability Services.

The most important accommodation, though, is sensitivity, Marc Washington said.

When Taylor was recruited after leaving Boston University, men’s soccer coach Greg Andrulis spent two and a half hours in a meeting with the player, his mother, Jane, and Linn Jorgenson, assistant dean of students for the Office of Disability Services.

“The assurance to Taylor and his family was you’re going to be taken care of here by true professionals, not just coaches and advisors but people who work in the field who can help you,” Andrulis explained.

That gave confidence to Washington’s parents, who appreciated, as Marc described, “the personal approach that focused on [Taylor’s] strengths and goals rather than an accommodation of time for his disability.”

For Taylor, Andrulis’ presence solidified a relationship that began when the coach tried to recruit him to Mason out of high school.

Andrulis even recommended Washington to D.C. United’s under-23 club, coached by Richie Burke. Washington was so good, he was allowed to practice with the pros.

“I do believe,” Burke said, “there are a couple of MLS clubs out there that have Taylor Washington on their radar.”

This article originally appeared on Mason News in a slightly different form.