Samantha-Kaye Johnston_ A Quiet Catalyst_ June 2017

Meeting Samantha-Kaye Johnston for the first time is an inspiring experience. Her quiet demeanor shouldn’t be taken lightly. She is a woman of purpose, virtue and compassion. From a very tender age she knew her purpose in life: finding an effective solution for dealing with dyslexia. Nothing has deterred her from this goal.  Her journey has taken her all the way to Australia and her work has increased awareness about dyslexia in both Australia and Jamaica.

People suffering from dyslexia are often labeled stupid. This is far from the truth. Einstein, one of the greatest physicists and Mathematicians of all time, was dyslexic but had an IQ of about 160. Samantha grew up seeing her brother, Marlon, struggle in a system lacking the capacity to deal with his dyslexia. He was diagnosed with dyslexia in kindergarten, but that didn’t prevent his teachers from treating him unfairly. Their mother soon became a champion for Marlon’s dyslexia support. She tried her best to ensure that he got extra time for his exams. He tried hard, but often didn’t obtain the score he wanted to.

The Road to Samantha’s Dyslexia Research

Samantha’s tertiary education began in 2009 at the University of the West Indies (Mona). She obtained a First Class Honors B.Sc. in Psychology. Her next move was to apply for a PhD program that would allow her to do dyslexia research. In 2012, she applied to multiple universities across Australia because she believed that these universities would provide her with the optimum environment to thrive in dyslexia research. However, she was rejected because she didn’t have a Master’s degree.

As a solution-oriented individual, Samantha immediately began searching for a Master’s program. She found one in Liverpool, applied, and was accepted. She completed her M.A. in Education in 2014 and reapplied to Australian universities. Curtin University accepted her application for their PhD in Psychology program.  Since April 2015, she has been focusing on research related on the correlation between attention and reading development. Her research focuses specifically on visual and auditory attention and identifying the type of attention and modality related to the reading of specific words.

There were many instances throughout her research that she felt like giving up. One of the most challenging components of her research was developing auditory tasks to test auditory attention. There were no existing tasks that she could use. Therefore, she had to create tasks from scratch. Progress was slow and she ended up having to create separate tasks for adults and children.  Nevertheless, she persisted and is on the path towards the end of her research.

Her research will culminate in October 2018. She hopes to implement the findings of her research. Her projection is to be able to make recommendations about how attention is related to reading to Australia’s Department of Education and Jamaica’s Dyslexia Association within the next 3 years. She then hopes to extend the research to non-English speaking countries to determine if the correlation only exists in the English speaking population.

Jamaica will always be her home. A part of her 2018 plan includes extending her Project Capability project to educate people in Jamaica about dyslexia. Project Capability also seeks to provide scholarships for tertiary education to students with dyslexia. From there she hopes to register Project Capability as a non-profit and expand its reach globally.  More details about the project can be found here.

Newlywed Bliss

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Samantha is pursuing her passion. She was made for this. Couple this with a very supportive partner and she finds herself in marriage bliss. She met her husband, Matthew, in 2015 when she was completing her candidacy proposal. Since then, he has been her rock. He sees where her work can make an impact and is really supportive. They have a partnership; she supports him just as much as he supports her. His work is affiliated with the Australian Navy and he is currently pursuing online studies. Her support helps him with his online studies.

However, the primary factor that has made their marriage work is their commitment to the choice they made to be together.  They make a concerted effort to spend time together away from work. Communication is also a part of the glue that keeps them firmly together.

Her Message to You

Samantha has 3 clear messages to share with you.

  1. Always work towards your dreams. The road may seem daunting, but nothing worth pursuing comes easily. Don’t let it remain a dream. There are so many things that you can do when you apply yourself.
  2. Have a set vision. Identify the support you need to pursue your dream. Search for opportunities. People are willing to invest in ideas. Google and social media, when used appropriately, can be your best friends.
  3. Leave everything to God or whatever higher power you believe in. He is the author of everything. Never lose faith.


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