Coastal Carolina

‘Dyslexia is a gift that causes great talent’: This CCU athlete is a shining example

Battling for everything she gets is nothing new for Janae Camp.

As one of Johanna and Reginald Camp’s 18 children, she is used to earning what she receives at home.

Her play on the basketball court earned her a scholarship to Coastal Carolina this season, but that opportunity requires academic achievement, and Janae’s battle for that has been exceptionally challenging and complicated.

And for all but the past two years, that battle went unrecognized.

Janae has dyslexia, a learning disability that requires alternative learning techniques, and for the first 15-plus years of her life it went undiagnosed.

“She works her tail off on the court and off the court to stay level where everybody else is,” CCU women’s basketball coach Jaida Williams said. “She’s a fighter. There’s no failure in her. I don’t think she has the ability to fail.”

Dyslexia is a neurological brain condition that affects reading and language-based processing skills, and as many as 15 percent of the world's population exhibits some of the symptoms of dyslexia, according to the International Dyslexia Association.

Among the achievers with dyslexia are inventor Thomas Edison, movie producer and director Stephen Spielberg, Apple founder Steve Jobs, entertainers Whoopi Goldberg and Cher, and actors Tom Cruise, Henry Winkler, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. In many cases, they weren’t diagnosed with dyslexia until they were adults and were considered slow learners, though dyslexia is not an indication of intelligence.

“Dyslexia is a gift that causes great talent,” Johanna said.

Those with it must learn coping strategies, and Janae has done that to find her way to Coastal Carolina and earn a 3.0 in her first semester.

“It is difficult,” Janae said. “I have to have extra time. In class I really can’t understand the professor’s handwriting or what’s in the book, so I have to have everything audio. I have to record their lectures. I have to have a note-taker, and sometimes that’s hard to find because some people don’t like taking notes.”

She gets note-takers through university accommodations, as students provide the service as part of a school-sponsored program.

She has a smart pen and accompanying special book for people with dyslexia. The pen records while the note-taker is writing down the notes. When Janae presses the pen on the notes, the professor’s words are repeated.

Her 3.0 helped her earn a new scholarship established by retired 24-year Coastal professor of English and journalism Linda P. Hollandsworth. The scholarship will cover the cost of summer school tuition – which isn’t covered by traditional athletic scholarships – for a member of the women’s basketball team who displays financial need, is in good academic standing and positively represent the program.

“I’m very grateful,” Janae said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I was just working hard, being me. To have this opportunity to receive this scholarship is awesome.”

Her parents from Portsmouth, Va., stay in Myrtle Beach regularly to watch Janae play and provide support.

“I didn’t do it alone. I have my teammates, coaches, my mom, sisters and brothers all there to help me,” Janae said. “I just took everything they gave me and worked hard. I knew it was going to be hard for me so I have to work harder than any other student.”

Janae was homeschooled, so she is attending classes full time for the first time in her life. “This is a big transition,” she said.

History of dyslexia

Johanna said her great grandmother couldn’t write her name so she suspects she was dyslexic and it has been passed down through the family. She says she has a mild form of dyslexia and believes her husband does as well.

“I knew there was something there but I didn’t know what it was. I never could put a name to it,” Johanna said. “Some parents never know they have dyslexia until they find it in the kids. … I didn’t give up, I was constantly trying to find out what was going on.”

Janae has five brothers and 12 sisters, including twin Janeen, whose dyslexia is worse than Janae’s. Her oldest sibling is 41 and the youngest is 13. She said three older brothers and a younger set of twin sisters have also been diagnosed with dyslexia.

Janae’s oldest siblings attended public school, but her 29-year-old brother had undiagnosed dyslexia and Johanna said he was picked on and was jumped by groups of boys on multiple occasions, so she decided to homeschool her children from that point on.

Now that she knows what has impacted the lives of seven of her children, Johanna is committed to learning more about the learning disability to help others with it. “Now it’s an every day thing,” Johanna said. “It’s a passion in my family. I will educate myself on it.”

Reginald Camp is a Navy veteran who drove 18-wheel delivery trucks before a back injury forced him out of work and into collecting disability.

Johanna and Reginald have been able to feed the family by practicing extreme couponing. Johanna said she recently purchased $2,000 worth of items at Walmart and not only were they covered by the coupons, she received $96 back for coupon overages.

Couponing has even allowed them to provide for others. Johanna said the Camp children haven’t received Christmas presents for the past few years, by choice. They instead give presents to needy children in their community – a tough area of Portsmouth known as Prentiss Park – as well as volunteer to assist the homeless and provide new low-income mothers with care packages. “At one time they were getting stuff, but then they crossed a line and said, ‘Mom, we just don’t want that stuff. We’d rather give it away,’ ” Johanna said. “We see a lot of people who really, really need stuff.”

Contributing at CCU

Janae, a 6-foot-1 forward, has played in all of CCU’s 17 games and is averaging nearly 20 minutes, 2.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, and is easily spotted on the court because of her prescription goggles – a look she likes.

She played a combined 49 minutes in wins Thursday and Saturday over Georgia Southern and Georgia State that lifted CCU to 4-2 in the Sun Belt Conference, scoring six points with 14 rebounds.

“She has an element of toughness that I think most of our post players bring, that’s why we lead the league in rebounding depending on what category you look at,” said Williams, who has one of the nation’s youngest teams with seven freshmen. “She’s done a phenomenal job I think of fitting in with our team, fitting in with the workouts we have and carrying the course work. She’s done a great job. Her teammates love her. She’s no stranger to having a bunch of sisters since she’s one of 18.”

Janae expected to be playing alongside her twin sister, a 6-6 center.

They played together at Wilson High in Portsmouth, where they took only elective classes in order to play, before finishing their prep careers at TPLS Christian Academy in Richmond, Va. When sponsor housing near the academy wasn’t available, their parents would drive them two hours each way for games and practices.

They initially committed to Old Dominion but opted to de-commit and found their way to Coastal. CCU assistant Latisha Luckett continued to pursue the twins and enticed them to take a visit to the Conway campus. “When we de-commited she contacted us through social media and asked if we wanted to come down to visit, and it was a good place to start here,” Janae said.

Janeen did not qualify to enter CCU academically and is at Towson State in Maryland, where she is redshirting this season. Janae said the plan is to have both sisters at CCU next year, where they can support each other.

“They are so close,” Johanna said. “They are each other’s accommodations.”

Janae hasn’t decided on a major and wants to be eventually be involved in music, acting or professional basketball. “But right now I’m just trying to get through college,” she said.

That’s a battle that is being won.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin