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Meet Gracie



On paper, Gracie is an average 15-year-old.

She plays softball, basketball, and lacrosse at Dalton High School and has a fun and energetic personality. Everything appears as it should, however, Gracie’s mother, Marrianne, noticed very early on that Gracie had difficulty learning.

In first grade, Gracie was diagnosed with ADHD and continued to struggle in school. At the end of 7th grade, her mother took her to another doctor to get a second opinion on Gracie’s learning issues.

It was then that Marrianne was told that Gracie was going deaf.

Still searching for answers, Marrianne took Gracie to another specialist where she was told that Gracie had a learning disability.


Frustrated with multiple diagnoses and wanting answers for her daughter, Marianne took to Facebook where United Way Community Solutions Chair, Bill Brueckner, saw her post and

sent Marrianne a private message asking if she had considered taking Gracie to United Way Community Partner, Looper Speech and Hearing Center.


Bill commented, “I knew Marianne through our daughters playing sports together and when I saw her post on social media about her frustrations with Gracie’s diagnoses, I felt like I should mention Looper.

I previously served on the Board for Looper and currently keep in touch with them through United Way’s Community Solutions Panels. It’s an awesome asset to our community and I knew that they would be a good resource for Marianne and Gracie.”


After meeting with Dr. Katie, an audiologist at Looper, Gracie was tested for an auditory processing disorder based on her history and symptoms.

The testing for auditory processing disorders can be extensive and costly so often times this testing is not provided.

Thanks to United Way funding, Looper was able to perform the test for Gracie and diagnose her with an auditory processing disorder.


“Addressing an auditory processing disorder doesn’t end with diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made, that’s when the real work begins.

The audiologist, parents, school, and child all have to work together to not just address the child’s processing deficits, but also to come up with a plan to use the child’s strengths to help them be successful with

communication at home, school, and—in Gracie’s case—on the sports field.” – Dr. Katie, audiologist at Looper


With Gracie’s auditory processing disorder, she could hear the words that her teachers and parents were saying, but she was unable to process and remember the information almost immediately after hearing it.

Being able to name her condition has empowered Gracie. She has been able to understand how her brain processes the information that she hears and has adapted her learning style to better understand the information she is learning.


“We knew that she had the ability to learn but it sometimes took her a little bit longer. Gracie was frustrated and ready to throw in the towel because she thought that she wasn’t smart.

Knowing the diagnosis has helped her name what is going on and it has helped build her confidence.”

 - Missy McKinny, Assistant Principal at Dalton High School


Gracie is very active by being involved in softball, basketball, and lacrosse at Dalton High School.

Her coach and teammates have all been very supportive of Gracie’s learning style and help her to hear and remember plays throughout the game.


“It has a lot to do with us having a good relationship so we can understand each other. We have signals so she (Gracie) understands when I mouth something or point to something.”

 – Taylor, Gracie’s softball and basketball teammate


Gracie’s teachers and counselors have also been extremely helpful in making sure that she is able to learn in a way that caters to her learning style.


“Part of a teacher’s job is to figure out how a child best learns. Having this diagnosis helps us figure that out. And as a coach, I have been able to appreciate the hard work Gracie has put into

various sports. Not many students could say that they have a learning disability and play three sports at a public high school.”

– Stacy Parker, Dalton High School Softball Coach, and Teacher


Gracie has found sports as her motivator to do well academically because she realized that if she didn't keep up her grades then she couldn't play sports. 


The auditory processing diagnosis came at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. Now 6 months into the new school year, Marrianne says that she has already seen a huge improvement in Gracie’s school performance.

When asked what advice she would give to other parents who may have children struggling with a similar disorder,


Marianne said, “Don’t stop fighting for your child.” And Marianne never did.

She is grateful for United Way volunteer, Bill Brueckner, for connecting her to Looper’s and changing her daughter’s life.