Life is difficult enough without the challenge of what is commonly called a “handicap” or a “disability.”
Making your way through school and social settings is one of life’s learning experiences, in the best of situations. Add a disability like dyslexia and someone who might otherwise breeze through the educational system faces challenges most people can’t imagine.
That’s certainly true for one West Hills College Lemoore graduate and Lemoore veterinarian.
“I always struggled with reading and spelling,” said Doctor Kaitlen Lawton-Betchel “My parents told me I just had to study harder, so I didn’t get tested until high school when I was 16. At that time, I was disappointed in my SAT scores and asked my parents if I could be evaluated by a doctor.”
It was only at the age of 16 that Lawton-Betchel and her family discovered she was struggling with dyslexia, a learning disability making it “hard to read, write, and spell,” according to information from leading medical research sources such as the Mayo Clinic and the International Dyslexia Association.
This “specific learning disability, neurological in origin, is characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition” as well as “poor spelling and decoding abilities.” The consequences that naturally follow include “problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
Having dyslexia doesn’t mean a person’s ability to learn is below average. Far from it. The fact is most people with dyslexia are very bright. Kaitlen soon proved this was true for her, as she spent most of her time in 4-H with animals and studying.
However, after high school, the idea of attending college with a disability seemed a bit daunting. Lawton-Betchel and her mother, LaDawna Lawton, however, say that West Hills College Lemoore’s Disabled Student Program and Services helped her find her footing.
The Disabled Student Program and Services (DSPS) department provides access and accommodations for eligible students ranging from test taking help to special equipment.
Lawton-Betchel and her mother give credit to the programs at West Hills for helping her focus on school and not her disability.
“They allowed me to take my exams in a room where I could listen to music and a lot more,” Lawton-Btechel said. “My 504 plan allowed me extended time on exams.”
LaDawna Lawton added, “West Hills special services were so encouraging. They helped Kaitlen through the diagnosis and learning how to utilize the services the disability services offers.”
A 504 plan is the blueprint for how a school provides support for a student with a disability, and takes steps to remove barriers that would prevent the student from having equal access to the education curriculum. This plan is based on the individual need for separate instruction or specifically designed education programs.
Lawton-Betchel graduated from WHCL and went on to veterinary school at Midwestern University in Arizona, where she earned her doctor of veterinary degree.
Her interest in working with and caring for animals developed when she was a veterinary assistant in her teens, in both emergency small-animal medicine and in shelter medicine. After graduating in Arizona, she opened K + K Veterinary Services in Lemoore, focusing on small animals and exotic pets such as birds and snakes. She has added extensive training in both small animal medicine as well as exotic animal medicine including reptiles, small mammals, fish, and birds.
Dr. Lawton-Betchel has taken additional training courses in exotic medicine, ultrasound, dental procedures, communications, small animal nutrition, and small animal acupuncture. The clinic website states, “She is fear-free certified and practices low-stress handling along with pheromones, treats, and distraction tools to make your pets experience enjoyable.
“The biggest challenge in veterinary medicine is client communication,” she said. “It is critical that the owner follows my instructions in order for their pet to recover and that doesn’t always happen. The biggest reward is to help animals in need. Animals have always been stress relieving and my most loyal friends, so it is great to be able to help them.”
So many times in life, we encounter challenges that become obstacles to our plans and our dreams. Dr. Kaitlen Lawton-Betchel is proof that taking on those challenges, and working through them, can keep them from becoming obstacles, and as mentioned earlier, the effort may yield remarkable results.