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Newsflash:
Thursday, 14 September 2000

What Is My Life About? Handling a Learning Disability...

Written by  Toby Klein Greenwald

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By Allison, Age 15

With A Response from Toby Klein Greenwald, Learning Expert

Allison's Experience:

When you are a baby your life is learning by watching, being cute and crying when you need something.

Anyone who has taught dyslexic kids knows that you are not stupid. The dyslexic are as bright and creative as any other kids - sometimes even more so, because they have to work hard to compensate and from hard work and determination comes strength

When you start pre-school your job is to play and learn. It is a little hard but it is still a lot of fun!

When you start first grade you are very excited, willing and wanting to learn (and do homework).

BUT, if you have a problem in school that you don't know what to do about, you are HELPLESS!!

Everyone says to you that it is not so bad but you still think it is the end of the world. You get used to teachers thinking that you are stupid and that you do not try hard enough in your school work, when you are trying your best and when you know you are not stupid!

Then you realize when you get to high school, when reading and writing means a lot to your world and the world around you. The teachers say you can manage in life without reading and writing. (They do not know what it is like and they don't know how wrong they are!) BUT THEY ARE SO SO WRONG!!

Because how am I going to read stories to my kids, or read an important sign or notice for that matter? How am I going to read a birthday card? And how am I going to sign checks if I cannot write the amount in words? What am I supposed to do when I get a letter or e-mail, ask someone to read it to me? And if it is private, what am I supposed to do then? If I want to write a letter to some one and I do not want anyone else to know about it or see it? How am I supposed to write it?

So you try to solve it or do something about it. But you cannot find a cure. People get your hopes up that they can get rid of your dyslexia or make it all better. But they let you down. You try very hard at school but after a while you start to give up and you do not want to work any more. You devote your summer to learning while your friends are having FUN. And all you want, all you ask for, is to read and write on a 10th grade level!

I am still waiting for a solution. I don't know if one exists, maybe I KNOW THAT THERE IS NOT ONE. But deep down in my heart I hope that there is. All I can do is pray and wait and hope.

Learning Expert Comments:

Dear Allison,

Your essay moved me deeply. I think dyslexia is like other disabilities in that it is almost impossible to explain to somebody who doesn't have it what it feels like.

Just as college students who are learning how to teach the blind are required to walk around for a day with a blindfold over their eyes, and people who work with paraplegics are required to spend time in a wheel chair, it would be good if every teacher who teaches kids who are dyslexic had to spend one full day seeing words like a dyslexic person sees them.

Anyone who has taught dyslexic kids knows that you are not stupid. The dyslexic are as bright and creative as any other kids - sometimes even more so, because they have to work hard to compensate and from hard work and determination comes strength.

I think it is good that you pray and hope, but don't wait. Yes, there ARE solutions out there and you have to keep looking till you find the people who can help you.

Call your local school board, call the education departments of your local universities, speak to teachers who have received their teaching degrees recently, because they may be aware of new methods that even more experienced teachers don't yet know about.

We are fortunate to live at a time when there is also a great deal of wonderful material available on audio and videotapes. I had one student who was dyslexic and loved history. Whenever she studied a certain period in school, she watched every video she could get her hands on that related to that period in history --both straight documentaries and docu-dramas. Next year she will be starting college and her major will be history.

It will not be easy for her, but she has perseverance and spunk and you sound like you do, too.

In addition, discover what special talents and interests you have that do not require a lot of reading. Develop those talents to the fullest. We know today that all kinds of famous and brilliant people -- Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Leonard da Vinci -- had learning disabilities.

There are also successful business people who are learning disabled but who are very clever with money and their office assistants do the reading and writing they need done! Even Cher is dyslexic! (Catch her TV spots about it!)

Professor Howard Gardener wrote a book called Frames of Mind, about what he calls the "seven intelligences." The intelligences he defines are: language, math, movement, music, visual, interpersonal (relating to others) and intra-personal (self-awareness).

You may have difficulty with the mechanics of one of those intelligences (not with the intelligences themselves), or even with the mechanics of two of them, but that doesn't mean you don't "own" that intelligence. For instance, you may find the mechanics of language, which is reading, difficult, but it doesn't mean you don't have a good grasp of language, just as somebody may be a great composer of music, but he may find the mechanics of music -- playing an instrument -- impossible if he doesn't have the use of his hands.

You are right when you say that one needs reading in everyday life and that is a good reason for you to keep looking till you find the person or the people who can help you. But whether or not you fully overcome your difficulty in reading, there are other areas in which you can excel which need a minimal amount of reading.

You alone know where your areas of interest lie. I recommend that you develop them to the fullest and put part of your energy into being the best you can be in an area that doesn't demand constant reading, even while you continue to seek a solution for your reading difficulties.

Good luck Allison. You can do it!!!

Toby Klein Greenwald

Last modified on Thursday, 14 April 2011 23:34
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Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby Klein Greenwald, Executive V.P. Creative Development, is a founding partner and the editor-in-chief of WholeFamily. Toby is an educator, journalist, photographer, scriptwriter, poet, playwright, lyricist, and theater director, including for populations that have experienced trauma or are at risk. She is a Playback Theater conductor and is the recipient of Israel's Ministry of Education's Egerest Award for Culture, for her work in educational and community theater. She has more than 30 years of teaching experience and has served on numerous educational think tanks. Her specialties include the creation of innovative educational programs, and teaching Creative Writing and Film to AD(H)D and LD high school students, and to senior citizens. Toby is married to Yaakov and they have six children, most of whom have made her a proud mother-in-law and grandmother.

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