Beginning in fourth grade, Chelsea had trouble paying attention in school. Her teacher often caught her staring out the window rather than paying attention to classwork. Her teacher talked to her parents about having her tested and they promptly did.
After testing by UPMC Chidren's Hospital, Chelsea was diagnosed with ADD and put on Ritalin. The therapy significantly helped her and she made it successfully through fourth and fifth grades. But then came middle school.
Once Chelsea entered those horrible middle school years, things began unraveling once again. She didn't feel like herself while taking the Ritalin, so she stopped taking it. On top of that, her school had undergone funding cuts for special programs and her IEP was taken away. "They said I didn't need it and besides, I wouldn't get special treatment in college which was a bold faced lie!" says Chelsea. Somehow, Chelsea managed to get through sixth, seventh and eighth grades albeit not without many hardships and bumps along the way. Chelsea struggled, spent many nights doing nothing but homework and experienced some severe bullying by the more mature and popular girls in her class.
Chelsea did not let that stop her though. She was a fighter! She found new friends, went to Sylvan Learning Center to catch up academically and tried her best to keep her head above water.
High school proved to be yet another challenge. Many parent - teacher - guidance counselor meetings ensued with little help. According to Chelsea's mother, "they just didn't want to have to do anything for her because she looked and acted normal! I guess they thought as long as she was passing, it was alright. What they didn't know is what it took just to pass her classes. It took hours upon hours for every project, homework assignment and test. It was awful."
By the time Chelsea had reached her junior year, the family had found Dr. Craig Liden, and expert in ADHD. She had ungone a complete battery of tests, met numerous times with Dr. Liden and his wife/therapist Jane. What was really amazing is that Chelsea found out that her IQ was just below the genius level. She was exremely bright. But not only did the testing prove that she had ADD, it also revealed another learning disability. A processing disorder.
Once again, a family trip to the school was met with resistance. "Our school district more or less laughed in our face," said Sharon Gregory, Chelsea's mother. "They really don't have to do anything according to the law if they feel the child is not bad enough to be considered special ed." The school did not agree to give Chelsea an IEP, but did agree to allow her extended time in taking tests if the teachers agreed.
During that year, college preparation was necessary. The SAT's posed a huge problem for Chelsea. Besides the fact that she couldn't seem to get anything from very expensive tutoring, her guidance counselor told her she wouldn't get extended time for the SAT's. But once again, the school district was wrong. Chelsea fortunately had all the documentation she needed from all her testing that the College Board awarded her 100% extended time to take the SAT's and required the school district to administer the test to her on a Sunday. Everything seemed to be looking up. Until the guidance counselor told her she needed to take the test in her office on Monday and Tuesday of that week. This really defeated the purpose as the guidance office was noisy, busy and very distracting for Chelsea.
Fortunately, Chelsea found colleges with special needs programs and support for those with ADHD. Gardner-
Then on March 13, 2011, Chelsea realized a dream come true and became the 2011 Miss South Carolina International. Since the International pageant system requires a platform, Chelsea immediately contacted CHADD and asked them if she could be a National Affiliate. They agreed and the campaign of advocacy began.
On November 11 and 12, Chelsea will travel to Orlando, Florida to speak at the CHADD National Conference. She will make an appearance at the cocktail reception on Friday night and take part in a breakout session on Saturday.
Chelsea has been able to use her crown to talked to girls conferences, speak to mental health groups, help with charity organizations, tell her story to numerous news papers, and as of this week, share her experience with ABC Radio News.
Chelsea will give up her crown in March of 2012. But she will not be giving up her work for the betterment of students with ADHD any time soon. Chelsea will be graduating in May with a BA degree in Communications and Public Relations. She will be speaking to the National Conference for CHADD in November, and she hopes to continue to make a difference in the lives of others that struggle as she did. For more information on Chelsea, go to www.misssouthcarolinainternational.com.
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Mentors-Matter is a non profit founded by Chelsea Rae Gregory, Miss SC International. The program offers workshops, support groups and a website resource that helps students with learning disabilities get into college and be successful in life.