Month: August 2017

The Billionaire & the Gift of Dyslexia

Don't lose sight of the pain caused by dyslexia problems when focusing on the advantages.

This week on my Twitter feed, I came upon an article that talked about a billionaire who felt that his dyslexia was a “gift.” In his mind, it was the primary reason for his success as a businessman.

Many businessmen and women get their inspiration to start their own business from somewhere. Without it, they won’t have the drive that is needed to build a successful company from the ground up. Whilst in this case someone took their inspiration from dyslexia, it could come from a wide array of things including learning new skills and being able to call something their own.

The truth is that some people don’t excel working in professional workplaces under employers. Whilst the creating of the resume is easy because you can contact somewhere like ARC Resumes in PA ( to give you a helping hand in finding a job, it may not be what you expected, thus causing you to move onto other things, including starting your own business.

Having that primary reason to start your own business, like the businessman with dyslexia, you could find that it is the gift you need to help you excel in your chosen field.

When it comes to dyslexia, I get it.

Dyslexics have an array of “gifts.” In my book, The Shut Down Learner, the essential theme is that kids (and adults) with dyslexia often have this incredible other side to them – that is, the creative, spatial, visual side. This allows them to flourish in so many ways that often are not recognized in school.

In fact, in the back of the book I list about 50 different jobs that tend to “pull” for dyslexics. These range from trades, such as automotive engineering, plumbing and landscaping, to professions, such as engineering and architecture, as well as a variety of creative endeavors, such as video production.

I understand the “gift side.” I also think it’s important not to lose sight of the pain and the anguish that also comes with having a learning disability like dyslexia.

How does dyslexia affect everyday life?

This week alone I evaluated three different kids, all at various levels of development, who turned out to be dyslexic.

Each child was fun, spirited and vibrant in their style. However, I also detected the deep insecurity and embarrassment that they felt from struggling with reading, spelling and writing.

Take Mary Beth, age 10, a twin who detests reading (and spelling and writing).

For Mary Beth, school is a daily embarrassment that she quietly stifles in terms of keeping her feelings under wraps. She feels like she is constantly running a race at a 45 degree angle (with hurdles) while everyone else is on a level track. When she sees her twin brother blithely sailing along in school, she’s not feeling all that fortunate about “the gift.”

I see a girl like Mary Beth, who would normally at her age love reading, saying she hates it. When I hear from her parents that there is almost a nightly ritual of tears and crying, I think that the billionaire’s view is a bit short-sighted.

Takeaway Point

Focus on the strengths and recognize the gifts, but you can’t ignore the pain.

Hooks in the Mental Closet

Medication for ADHD in children may be less important than background knowledge and reading comprehension - add hooks to your mental closet.

As part of an assessment I recently asked 17- year-old near senior, Bethany, “Who wrote Hamlet?”  Looking bewildered, she said, “I have no idea.”

Then, when asked to define the word “tranquil,” she could not further no guess.  Bethany had no association to the word.

By the end of the assessment, it turned out that Bethany scored in the 16th percentile for word knowledge and the 9th percentile for fund of information and general knowledge.

In contrast, Bethany functioned somewhat above average on tasks that were nonverbal, like putting blocks together to make spatial patterns and while analyzing a series of visual patterns.

“I think I have ADD,” Bethany said to me.

“What tells you that,” I asked her.

“When I read my mind wanders.  I have no idea what I am reading.  In class I can’t follow what the teacher is saying and have no clue what they are discussing. It has to be ADD – I think I should be on meds. Most of my friends are on meds.”

“I should be on meds” – The Drive towards ADHD Medication for Children

I get that kind of thing a lot – kids thinking they should “be on meds.”

Even though Bethany may benefit from stimulant medication, what I do know is that one of the primary reasons Bethany does not pay attention in class or while reading is that she lacks what I call “hooks in the mental closet.”

Background Knowledge and Reading Comprehension

We used to think of reading as a fundamentally one-direction process.  In this model words would go from the page to the brain.  Researchers in the 1980s and 1990s enlightened us that  reading (and listening to class lectures) was more of a two-way, interactive process.

The fact is the more “hooks we have in our mental closet” (the researchers used different terminology, mind you), the better we comprehend what we are reading or understand what we are listening to.

These “hooks” also help us to pay attention.  While medication may help Bethany focus, she still needs to be building in background knowledge and word awareness to try and overcome her sense of feeling lost.

In short, Bethany needs to build in more hooks.

There are plenty of books on the market that may be helpful such as, “Words You Should Know In High School: 1000 Essential Words To Build Vocabulary, Improve Standardized Test Scores, And Write Successful Papers.”

Building Background Knowledge Strategies – 720 New Hooks

I can tell you with pretty good assurance that Bethany knew about 15% of the essential 1000 words.

Even if Bethany practiced two words per day for a year, she would be in much better shape with the 720 new words (365 words X 2) for the year that she could learn.

There would be 720 new hooks in her mental closet!!!

Takeaway Point

Hooks in the mental closet matter and may explain some of the reason your child is not paying attention or adequately comprehending. Try and build them in any way you can.


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