Architect from Wichita shares journey to success with dyslexia

Jef Snyder today: an architect in San Antonio, Texas, who loves his work. Jef Snyder years ago growing up in Wichita, Kansas: a struggling reader who did not know what his future would hold.

Jef knew he wanted to be an architect when he was in fifth or sixth grade.

“I feel really lucky to have always known what I wanted to do,” he said.

But that goal sometimes seemed lofty to Jef due to his difficulty learning to read well.

“(Becoming an architect) was something that definitely seemed out of reach when I was a kid, and I did it,” he said. “I always looked at people who I thought were successful as architects, and they had no resonance to who I was at the time. It was hard to imagine myself being there.”

Early on, Jef used the arts to express himself.

“I was always imaginative, drew cartoons, painted ceramics,” he said. “I found a lot of joy in that, and so doing that it was a naturally segue into architecture.”

Reading, on the other hand, did not come so naturally to Jef. Like many dyslexic children, Jef struggled to learn to read before he met people who could teach him in a way that worked well for the way he learned.

Jef’s family met Fundamental Learning Center Executive Director Jeanine Phillips before FLC was founded. Jeanine began to work with Jef to remediate his reading skills. Later, family friend Arden Murillo, who works at Fundamental Learning Center’s Rolph Literacy Academy, trained in Alphabetic Phonics and also worked with Jef.

Through the two women working to help him read, Jef began to realize successes.

“Having people like Jeanine and Arden and my mother come alongside me and see things in me that I didn’t see and challenge me to push myself and work hard and use the skills that God gave me to create something beautiful,” Jef said. “I think I have done that; it was a long process, but it’s definitely something that has paid off 100-fold.”

As an architect at San Antonio firm Lake Flato, Jef works on projects that are connected to the environment. The firm works on projects ranging from residences to courthouses to museums.

Jef’s visual-spatial gifts, common in people with dyslexia, have helped him along the way.

“I think I have always been drawn to images and the visual aspect of life, and that is something that has made me really good at architecture,” Jef said. “Using my visual spatial skills and my own imagination and getting my ideas out on paper, drawing on the computer or by hand —that’s kind of been my happy place.”

Jef recognizes that his “super power” or talents have contributed to his career.

“That’s been a huge part of being an architect,” he said. “That’s definitely made me good at what I do, and that has been my super power.”

Jef wants children with dyslexia to know that they, too, can succeed.

“It’s been a long road, and it’s required a tremendous amount of work putting in extra hours,” Jef said. “But it’s been so worth it, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. It really made me who I am and has given me experience that I really value.”

A lot of hard work and significant assistance from trained teachers helped Jef become successful.

“It’s been a difficult, joyous journey, but it’s been one that I have been just so grateful for, and grateful to the Alphabetic Phonics and the time (my AP therapists) spent with me because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

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