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May 21, 2007
Sacramento State Bulletin

Dyslexia brings together professor, Korean student

Photo: Professor EunMi Cho and Ki-Tack Lim share a laugh during a study session.
Professor EunMi Cho and Ki-Tack Lim share a laugh during a study session.

As a sixth-grader in Korea, Ki-Tack Lim had difficulty comprehending what he read in his native language, let alone understanding or speaking English. Today, he’s a Sacramento State freshman, majoring in mechanical engineering and hoping to start his own school for students with learning disabilities in his home country.

The catalyst for this turnaround: Sacramento State special education professor EunMi Cho. The specialist in learning disabilities met Lim’s parents during one of her regular trips to Korea to teach special education workshops.

Since then she’s become not only Lim’s guardian, but a surrogate parent, helping to diagnose Ki-Tack with dyslexia and bringing him to the United States to attend a specialized school and later to Sacramento State. “I feel like his mom now,” Cho says.

The field of learning disabilities was slowly emerging in Korea when Lim was diagnosed, so while his parents understood the cause of his struggles, there was no school that could help him. “In Korean culture, there is a strong focus on education. You are expected to go to college,” Lim says. “But they would never think you could have a learning disability. If you were having trouble, they would say that you should start studying harder.”

So Professor Cho researched options for Lim in the states and found the Gow School for Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities in Buffalo, N.Y., which specializes in programs for boys whose issues with dyslexia have kept them out of public schools. When Lim enrolled in the school he had a very limited grasp of English, but by the time he graduated last May, he was invited to give the commencement address.

And, perhaps because of the language issues—learning English as a second language even before he mastered reading in Korean—Lim also discovered he is very adept at physics and math. “With numbers you don’t need vocabulary,” he says.

When it came time for him to choose a university, Lim decided on Sacramento State, partly because of Cho.

“This is not a school for students with dyslexia,” Cho says. "But our campus provides excellent services to students with learning disabilities. As a specialist, I was very comfortable bringing him here.”

Lim says the University’s Services to Students with Disabilities has been a support network for him. Assistance comes in the form of note-takers during lectures, and when he takes a test he gets a private room, a reader to read the test questions to him, additional time to complete the exam and the option to use a computer for essay questions. He also has access to a private tutor.

Cho meets with him regularly, advising him on which classes to take, and not to take on too much too soon. “He’s making progress, but it’s not easy,” she says. “He’s still learning English. And he still has dyslexia, but he is learning how to work with it.”

Lim’s parents have been so happy with his progress, they’ve bought land in Korea and hope to open a school for students with learning disabilities. Ki-Tack has a dream that when he finishes his engineering program he will eventually enter the teacher credential program in special education so he can teach at the school.

“Korea doesn’t yet have a specialized school for students with learning disabilities,” Lim says. “I hope the students there can get help the way the Gow School helped me.”


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