I realize that March was a long time ago, especially for those of us who have problems remembering what we had for lunch yesterday, but that month, I had made an entry about a documentary that was in production. Great news! It’s been released, and it’s free to view. In fact, I’ve inserted it below. If you have 51 minutes to spare, I highly suggest taking a look at it.
For the most part, I really enjoyed the film. It’s full of personal stories of families and adults powerfully impacted by dyslexia, the difficulty they faced and what helped them get through it. The filmmakers also provided some excellent suggestions towards making societal changes, so fewer people will struggle as terribly as a result of how poorly dyslexia is currently handled by the educational system and the general culture we live in.
Here are a few things that struck me:
The powerful influence childhood treatment affects people well into adulthood
Two of the interviewees, Cornell Amerson and Mark Harbaugh, really demonstrated how much they still suffer from how poorly they were treated in school.
Cornell is an outstanding artist and an author who’s still held back from his dream of designing space craft by his lack of education. He obviously has an amazing talent for spacial relationships, and it’s easy to see his intelligence from the way he speaks. His book is The Janitor’s Secret, which I intend to pick up once we get another few paychecks in the bank. (Everything insurance comes due in August, apparently. Blech.)
Mark Harbough is the president of Ditch Witch Midwest, which is geared towards excavation machinery. As he was talking about his meeting with his high school advisor, he got a bit emotional. It sounds as if his advisor had basically just given up on him, and told him to give up on his dream of going to college. Instead, Mark chose a smaller school, passed, and is now obviously a president of his own company.
I think both of these guys’ stories hit home for me because I have so many similar memories that are just as painful to think about. However, the fact that they have both succeeded in doing things the majority of people out there will never do – writing a book and running their own company – speaks volumes of what’s possible with hard work.
The Value of Positive Reinforcement
Ann M. Burke’s interview was also excellent. She’s an Illinois Supreme Court Judge, who helped start the Special Olympics back in 1968. She struggled with dyslexia all throughout her schooling, but because her parents put more emphasis on doing what made her happy, she was able to achieve things throughout her life that I’m sure many didn’t think she would.
Her story demonstrates brilliantly how well positive reinforcement aimed towards reinforcing one’s strengths can make one’s weaknesses diminish enough to eliminate their disabling potential.
The Call For Change
Although I’m not a parent yet, I do realize that our future lies with the children of today. There are a lot of frightening trends, but there are also a lot of people doing excellent work towards improving the educational system in which kids are taught. However, the film points out a few specific changes that I agree with strongly.
Required Dyslexia Education
With how prevalent dyslexia is, it’s disturbing to think teachers don’t get any sort of training on how to recognize it and address it unless they seek those classes out themselves. I honestly believe that the vast majority of teachers want to help their students, but how can they help ‘problem children’ who simply have an undiagnosed learning difficulty if they don’t have training to do so?
This is a huge one for me. Most people who don’t already have a fundamental understanding of the disorder don’t realize just how common and all encompassing it is. We’re not stupid, we’re not lazy, and we can learn literacy skills with the right teaching methods. Parents need to understand it’s not something to be ashamed of, educational professionals (everyone involved in the schools-not just teachers) need to understand these kids aren’t purposely under preforming and the general public needs to understand that it’s a real type of neurology. It’s not some “fad”, nor is it an illness of some kind.
I’d also like to add that everyone learns at their own pace, and as they’re learning how to read, write or spell, they need to be respected. It’s not right to attack them because of poor grammar or spelling, nor is it right to make fun of them because of it. The basics of respect and courtesy goes a long way to making a better experience for everyone.
This one is huge. While I don’t necessarily agree with screening every single child for dyslexia, it’s still smart to screen those who are showing signs of struggling developmentally or educationally. There are very early signs and risk factors every parent can watch out for.
There’s also nothing wrong with reading to your baby from the start, and introducing methods of playing that incorporate numbers, letters and increasing level of reading/math skill. The earlier you begin your child’s education, the more likely they’ll be able to do will later in life.
Even if you or your child are past elementary school age, there’s no reason why you can’t seek help if you need it. Sites like Learning Ally, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Dyslexic Advantage and Dyslexic Kids are great starting points. You might also want to look for your state chapter of Decoding Dyslexia (the MN page is here).
Although I’m just one person who’s still learning about this whole life thing, I’m also here to offer help in whatever way I can.