“Poetry should be a matter of passion, not survival,” writes fellow Rochester, New York native, Philip Schultz.
So should schooling.
I work with a number of students who bravely face their learning disorders on a daily basis in classrooms and institutions where the ideal of differentiated instruction, the mantra of “all kinds of minds,” and the theory of multiple intelligences have not been fully realized. Institutional constraints (particularly large class size and reduced or non-existent funding for appropriate resources), lack of professional development around learning disorders, and systems reluctant to change all contribute to a climate of misunderstanding, resistance, and frustration for students, parents, and teachers. While media coverage around developmental and learning disorders, including increased visibility of individuals who have managed to succeed both in spite of and as a result of their disorders, may not necessarily result in changes to educational policy or classroom teaching practices, this kind of reporting is important in raising awareness and providing hope to individuals who struggle with cognitive challenges.
My Dyslexia: A Poet’s Experience
Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Philip Schultz, is someone who has managed to succeed despite his dyslexia, which he chronicles in his memoir, My Dyslexia. He has been garnering quite a bit of attention through NPR, The New York Times, and PBS. I was particularly struck by his interview with Audie Cornish on Weekend Edition Sunday a few weeks ago, and I recommend giving the interview a listen. Prior to that interview, he was featured on NPR’s Talk of The Nation and he has written a moving op-ed in the New York Times. Most recently, PBS News Hour interviewed Schultz about his experiences.
If you have a child with dyslexia, I recommend passing along any of these links to his/her teachers, as one of my parents did. I also recommend, if your child is a teenager with dyslexia, encouraging him or her to engage with these resources, and others on the topic. Individuals experience a grieving process when first diagnosed with a disorder; while it can be incredibly relieving to finally have an answer to why one thinks, and feels and struggles in particular ways, accepting one’s challenges is often a longer road fraught with denial, anger, guilt and shame. Sharing in others’ similar stories of struggle can be a source of healing and acceptance, as well as a catalyst for one’s own self-advocacy.
- The Dyslexia Checklist: A Practical Reference for Parents and Teachers (2010) by Sandra F. Rief, M.A. and Judith M. Stern, M.A.
- Kids in the Syndrome Mix of ADHD, LD, Asperger’s, Tourette’s, Bipolar, and More! (2005) by Martin L. Kutscher, M.D.
- Overcoming Dyslexia (2003) by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.
- The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock Eide, MD and Fernette Eide, MD, and their website The Dyslexic Advantage
- Yale educated actor and dyslexic Henry Winkler’s work: Hank Zipzer series , and an article about his efforts, “Henry Winkler’s dyslexic hero gives kids with learning difficulties the last laugh”.
- LD Online–The source for research based articles and information on a variety of learning disorders, including dyslexia.
- The work of Virginia Berninger, researcher and professor at the University of Washington.
If you have found certain resources to be helpful for your understanding or management of dyslexia, please contact me about your experiences and findings!
It’s Sunday Morning in Early November
by Philip Schultz
and there are a lot of leaves already.
I could rake and get a head start.
The boy’s summer toys need to be put
in the basement. I could clean it out
or fix the broken storm window.
When Eli gets home from Sunday school,
I could take him fishing. I don’t fish
but I could learn to. I could show him
how much fun it is. We don’t do as much
as we used to do. And my wife, there’s
so much I haven’t told her lately,
about how quickly my soul is aging,
how it feels like a basement I keep filling
with everything I’m tired of surviving.
I could take a walk with my wife and try
to explain the ghosts I can’t stop speaking to.
Or I could read all those books piling up
about the beginning of the end of understanding…
Meanwhile, it’s such a beautiful morning,
the changing colors, the hypnotic light.
I could sit by the window watching the leaves,
which seem to know exactly how to fall
from one moment to the next. Or I could lose
everything and have to begin over again.