Nice Dyslexia and Reading Skills Infographic From JunoMedical

As it often happens these days I was contacted by some dyslexia-friendly folks from across the globe recently.  They put together a rather nice infographic and asked me to share it with you.

JunoMedical is a global company based in Berlin.  Their mission is to fundamentally transform how patients access and experience healthcare globally through the use of smart technology.  I was pleased to see that they have dyslexia on their radar…and it’s always interesting to see how other countries are supporting our students!  

I’m pleased and honored that they reached out to me and I hope you find their infographic comforting and useful!  Please feel free to share!

 

 

Infographic - 5 Ways to Build Reading Skills in Your Child with DyslexiaInfographic – 5 Ways to Build Reading Skills in Your Child with Dyslexia – an Infographic from Junomedical

Your Child Restored: The Path From Suffering to Success

Your Child Restored:  The Path from Suffering to Success

By Michael Hart, Ph.D.

Effective Advocacy for Your Child with Learning Issues

 

Discovering that your child has a learning problem can be very confusing, frustrating and often overwhelming. Many of us, even bright, highly functioning people really struggle with figuring out what to do.  Oftentimes, our first reaction is to reach out to the school for help and support.  For a myriad of reasons, we may find that teachers and their colleagues are ill prepared to provide all the help we need.  In addition to the lack of training and support for the teachers, our education system is often a messy, slow-moving bureaucracy.  In the meantime, our children suffer needlessly…Sometimes for years.

Just last week, while meeting with a group of parents, I was struck again by the pain and agony we feel when we assume that our children’s school officials have the know-how or resources to adequately support our students’ special learning needs only to find out that they don’t.  I’ve been experiencing this pain and agony since I started practicing 25 years ago.  That is TRULY needless suffering and we’ve got to change this.

To be clear, I am a huge advocate for teachers.  The vast majority of educators are seriously committed to their profession and want to do their best.  A lack of proper educational opportunities, inadequate professional development and limited resources frequently stands in the way of their ability to function effectively.

The primary example I use is this:

Facts about Dyslexia and Teacher Preparation Programs

  • Research indicates that approximately 10% to 20% of our students struggle to some degree with dyslexia–a language processing-based difficulty with reading, spelling and writing.http://eida.org/dyslexia-basics
  • And yet, three out of four elementary teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the methods of reading instruction that could substantially lower the number of children who never become proficient readers. http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Chapter3_FindingsByStandard (pp. 36-38)
  • Virtually no secondary school preparation programs include curricula about reading and written language instruction in spite of the fact that dyslexia is a life-long issue.

The majority of our students who struggle with learning struggle due to issues with language-based processing weaknesses.  So, first and foremost, how can you expect a teacher or educational team to help your child in this area when they aren’t given the education, training and experience to do so?  The short answer is that they can’t.

We need to change that reality but it’s going to take decades.  So I’ve come to realize that the path from suffering to success is found by changing our assumptions, expanding our focus and taking better care of our heart and soul RIGHT NOW.

Your Child Restored:  The Path From Suffering to Success

 Over the course of 25 years of working with kids and their families, I’ve created and refined a 5-Part Program where parents and guardians have to think much more creatively about their kids who have learning challenges starting at the very beginning of awareness of the problem.

The core belief behind my program can be obvious but also quite provocative and nerve wracking for the child’s caregivers.  I very directly challenge the assumption that the experts lie outside the family.  Parents must go way beyond contacting the school for help and understanding.

In a nutshell, PARENTS OR PRIMARY CAREGIVERS are always going to be the most powerful and effective advocate for THEIR child.  NO ONE…Not your child’s teacher, or guidance counselor, or principal or therapist will be more effective than YOU.  You may not feel that way in the beginning but you can get there.  It’s important to remember that this is a process…a marathon, not a sprint.  But you’ll get there…and so will your child.  This is not to say that there is not a role for educational consultants.  We can be very helpful but in the long run we often come and go over the years.  We are most effective serving as anchors or guides during the critical moments when you need us.  And we are most effective when we guide your self-directed education.  It’s the old “Teach a man to fish and he eats forever” model.

My program, Your Child Restored: From Suffering to Success, is based on five key steps that a parent or caretaker needs to take.  Here is a very brief synopsis of each of those key steps.

 

Part One:  Fully accept and embrace the role of your child’s advocate

Many of us feel overwhelmed by the prospect of advocating for our child when we think we don’t know a thing about their challenges.  Moreover, aren’t the teachers the experts?  Far too often that is not the case.  When we offer our children up to the educational bureaucracy, months and months or even years can go by before a proper remediation plan is put in place.

It behooves us to emotionally accept that we are not only able to take on the role but can be effective.  And, as I will mention in Part 3, it creates a mindset where you much more rapidly begin to take a look at all of your options both in school and out.  Remember that early intervention is key and that you cannot take the “let’s wait and see” approach.

 

Part Two:  Educate yourself relentlessly so that you can make informed decisions

One of the wonderful aspects of the digital revolution has obviously been our ability to access information that previously was locked up far and away from lay people.  There are mountains of content out there that you will find helpful in both understanding what you’re dealing with as well as what to do about it.

Initially, it will take time, like all new things, but you will grow your database of knowledge quickly.  It is not rocket science.  Even understanding the underlying neurobiology is do-able.  Just slow down and you will learn the specific terminology.

One key issue will be your awareness of your rights in negotiating for services within the school district.  Know them well.

Over time, your need for certain types of information will change.  The demands of middle school are different than the demands of high school and college.  How your child’s or loved one’s brain is wired will likely not change but how they use their brains to meet the environmental challenges will shift over time.  Information regarding how to manage those transitions is available to you.

 

Part Three:  Evaluate all of your options for supporting your child–both in your community and within your school district

The cliché that “It takes a village to raise a child” is a cliché because it is true.  In most cases you will find that you will need community and home-based resources above and beyond what the school is offering for remediation and skill building.  This may take the form of perhaps private school placement, extra tutoring, special classes (both to help with the dyslexia and classes that give your child or loved one pleasure), counseling and consulting, etc.

Fortunately, educational technology has become one of the most powerful tools for remediation, training and education.  The software and applications available today are completely transforming how we work with our children.  This is especially so for people with dyslexia.  It is a “specific revolution” within the overall educational technology revolution.

 

Part Four:  Advocate fiercely along the way.  Be calm, be ready, be fearless and never give up.

By advocating “fiercely,” I do not mean that you should act like a bull in the china shop.  A true warrior is calm, well-prepared and fearless.  “Never give up” of course is the mantra for many struggles in our lives.  In this case, it is a great gift to your loved one.

Dyslexia does not go away.  Henry Winkler, The Fonz from Happy Days, is well known for quoting the following, “You don’t grow out of dyslexia, you just learn to negotiate with it.”  So you have to keep at it and work to avoid giving up.

Again, having electronic access to information and having access to a community of others through digital media and local groups is so critical and at the very least you or your loved one will learn that he or she is not “broken” and you or your loved one are not alone.

 

Part Five:  Take care of your heart and soul as well as your child’s heart and soul.

I am not sure that I can possibly emphasize Part Five enough.  It’s often the missing ingredient for families who really struggle with learning issues like dyslexia.

For your child or loved one it is so important to help them pursue what they love to do and what they do well.  Six or seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months out of the year our children are in a setting that screams failure for them.  They need your guidance and support to heal their heart and soul by doing what they love.

And the same goes for you.  So many parents or caretakers get so focused on the difficulties and challenges that they miss the value of replenishing their spirit.

Really, when all is said and done, what is most important in life?

The NSA and Dyslexia: A Love Story

The NSA and Dyslexia:  A Love Story

 

Soon after relocating my learning disabilities (mostly dyslexia) diagnostic practice to Annapolis, Maryland I encountered a bit of a mystery during my family interviews. Fortunately it turned out to be a lovely mystery.

In the mid to late 1990’s I had a thriving practice evaluating and diagnosing a wide range of learning issues for kids and adults.  I had learned early on in my training that collecting as much information as possible from BOTH parents was critical to truly understanding who these young people were as…people…and not just a set of test scores.  So I made it really clear in the intake process that both parents needed to attend the initial interview.

But something strange although ultimately wonderful started happening during my meetings with mom and dad.  It went like this:

Me:  So, what do you do for a living?

Parent:  I work for the government.

Me:  Yeah, yeah, right…So what do you actually do for a living?

Parent:  I work for the government.  

Stone-faced, resolute response.  Period.  

 

Hmmm, what’s the deal here?.  It took me a few family interviews to figure it out and then the light came on.

Annapolis, Maryland is a bedroom community outside of Washington, DC.  Of course DC is the home to the FBI, Secret Service, CIA and the NSA (among other shadow agencies we don’t even know about)…Guess where all these folks live?  Specifically with the NSA, employees are not allowed to tell anyone where they actually work.  Hence the stonewalling which was really just a reaction to my cluelessness!

But here’s the real story.  I was getting a LOT of referrals for families that did not share where they were employed!  Why was that?

Of course, as we now know, dyslexics and people with other learning issues think differently!  And more importantly, they approach problems in atypical and oftentimes unique ways.  The NSA is all about finding unique solutions to huge, hoary global problems buried in massive volumes of data.  They HIGHLY VALUE dyslexics as employees because they possess special cognitive abilities!  Dyslexics, by and large, see things differently which is enormously valuable to security agencies.

I can’t confirm this but I’ve heard that up to 50% of people who work at the NSA have some sort of wiring issue in their brain…It’s certainly not something that the NSA would publicize but it makes sense.

Here’s where the story gets lovely.

We know that far too many of our dyslexic kids suffer needlessly in school–often for many years–due to a lack of understanding about how they learn and how they need to be taught.  This is not a knock on teachers–they just haven’t been getting the type of university training and professional development they need.

Often my NSA parents had suffered through school as well…but they ultimately had the experience of finding themselves being highly valued for their brains as adults.  They were embraced and highly respected in their careers.

And that experience gave them the wisdom and foresight to know that their children would be okay too…once they got through school.  The world will open up to them too. This knowledge so deeply informed their emotional response and actions when their children started struggling in school that their own experience became a gift to their children.  

My NSA parents were able to consistently deliver the message to their children–both emotionally and rationally–that they were okay.  They weren’t stupid or weak or broken.  It was the environment that was not taking proper care of them–there was nothing wrong with them.  Yes, school was a pain.  Yes, they had to go get tested.  Yes, it was a struggle.  But there was such a deep and clear emotional understanding that “we are going to get through this as a family” and the children would flourish and their strengths would be valued as the world opened up to them later in life.  

To this day, I am enormously influenced by my experience with those moms and dads. I will never forget them. Of course it was tough but it was a beautiful example of how parents can raise their child to thrive even in difficult times.

It was a great gift to me too.

Success Stories…Inspiration For All of Us

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season!

As we enter 2016, it is my hope that we continue to make great strides in taking care of our children’s minds, hearts and souls as they grapple with learning in school.

Seeking inspiration in our lives and in the lives of others is a part of the solution. We need reminders that out of our current struggles can emerge great success. We all benefit from hearing the stories of others who prevailed agains significant odds.

So this week I thought you’d enjoy hearing from some extraordinary souls that I had the great pleasure to interview…

Jovan Haye:

From the inspirational podcast series “From Suffering to Success,” Dr. Michael Hart interviews former NFL football player, Jovan Haye about his initial struggle and ultimate success, in spite of his severe dyslexia. Hear his unique and encouraging story that inspired the defensive lineman’s recent book Bigger Than Me: How a Boy Conquered Dyslexia to play in the NFL.

Listen Now

Sprague Theobald:

In this interview for From Suffering to Success, Dr. Michael Hart talks to Sprague Theobald, a multiple Emmy-Award-winning filmmaker who struggled mightily in school and was not diagnosed with dyslexia until he was 30. Theobald’s story is one of courage, strength and tremendous persistence. He’s a great inspiration for all of us.

Sprague Theobald was awarded his second Emmy for the documentary “The Other Side of The Ice.” In the summer of 2009, a small crew, which included Theobald, his son and two step-children, took a 57′ trawler, Bagan, on a riveting journey north. The expedition traveled from Newport, RI, up through the Arctic’s infamous Northwest Passage and down through the Bering Sea. It concluded in Seattle, WA. By completing the 8,500 miles, five-month trip, Bagan became the first production powerboat in history to find and transit the Passage.

Listen Now

Lisa Otter Rose:

In this interview for From Suffering to Success, Dr. Michael Hart interviews Lisa Rose, the author of middle grade novel You’ve Got Verve, Jamie Ireland!. Rose has written a poignant novel about a dyslexic child that beautifully captures the journey from confusion, anger and shame to a sense of hope about the future.

Rose’s book was born out of her own experience as a mother of three children with learning issues. In this podcast interview, please listen to how this mom became an “enlightened warrior” in her quest to provide the best education for her kids. There are many lessons to be learned for all of us.

In this podcast, you will learn:

  • How the book was born out of Rose’s own experience as a mother of three children with learning issues.
  • How this mom became an “enlightened warrior” in her quest to provide the best education for her kids.

Listen Now

I hope you enjoy!

Taking Care of Your Heart and Soul–Holiday Reset

As the holidays approach, I wanted to offer a review of my suggestions regarding how you, as parents, can emotionally prepare for the new year and get ready to help your kids go back to school.

Recently, as always, I’ve been working with a lot of families whose children are in very difficult situations in their schools…Oftentimes there is no right answer and no decision without the risk of downside.

It’s a horrible situation.  And it’s not going to get better until teachers get the kind of educational and professional development support that they sorely need.  We have to be honest that it will take a long time to turn that ship around.

So what do we do?  I find myself “in the ring” with my families a lot these days…And I sometimes catch myself taking on their energy.  Anxious, gut-wrenched, frustrated.  To be clear, I have good boundaries but in the moment I’m with them and I feel it.

In the end, I keep coming back to the most basic question…What can we do to help your child feel safe? What can we do to support our kids’ resilience?  Actually, the key is to take care of ourselves.

Of course, dyslexia is a chronic issue.  It doesn’t go away.  So we have to take good care of ourselves so we can take good care of our kids and keep making the best decisions as possible.  We need to create and maintain a safe and predictable environment as well as we can.

In my series called Your Child Restored:  The Path from Suffering to Success the fifth component is called Take Care of Your Heart and Soul.

In light of all of us headed into the holidays I thought it was timely to review several ways we can take care of our heart and soul.

Here we go:

  • Predict that you’re going to get knocked off balance sometimes.  That’s just life. Acknowledge it and get on back up.
  • Reach out to your support system when you’re feeling jangled.  Is that not the beauty of Decoding Dyslexia?
  • Remember that it’s okay to feel good about your child’s success (and your own) on your own terms!
  • Exercise like a maniac!
  • Make time to play just the way you like to play.  Don’t go by other people’s rules.
  • Take what I call “breath moments.”  I don’t care if it’s for one minute.  Take a deep breath, exhale slowly and tell yourself “It’s all going to be okay.”
  • Catch someone else doing something right.
  • Help yourself by helping others.

 Okay…Here come the Big Three…Ready?

  • Be gentle with yourself.  Have compassion for yourself and it’ll be easier to have compassion for others, including your kids.
  • Let go of shame and guilt.  Don’t give me that look!…It’s doable!  Go see www.brenebrown.com
  • Use humor, humor, humor!  Using humor is a great way let go and reset when you get knocked off balance.

These are lifetime goals, I know.  Just remember that taking care of yourself is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child.

I truly hope you have a wonderful holiday.  Peace.

 

From Suffering to Success: Lisa Rose’s You’ve Got Verve Jamie Ireland!

Click here to listen to the full exclusive interview with Lisa Rose!

ADD and ADHD: Taking care of your heart and soul

 

 

Click below to see the most important quote for ADD and ADHD…Take care of your heart and soul.

Hallowell Image

 

 

 

Adult Dyslexia/Diagnostic Labels: “I Don’t Want It to Imprison Me”

I was having lunch with a friend the other day. He’s a brilliant, super-creative guy who has a very complex history with his chemical makeup. He could have easily been one of those guys who bought into the “I’m Broken” model. You know…The “There is something wrong with me at my core” kind of guy. “I’m nothing more than a diagnostic code.” But he didn’t.

My friend shares the attributes that many very successful people who, oh by the way, have some challenging chemicals floating around their brain. He is fiercely persistent and never gives up. He was also fearless about following his passions (music, art, photography) wherever they made lead. Frankly, it wasn’t always pretty and a lot of messes were made but he worked hard to be true to himself.

We don’t really engage in light conversation. We generally go right to it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the double-edged sword of diagnostic labels and asked him how he felt about the labels thrown his way. Without skipping a beat, he said he rejected them because “I don’t want it to imprison me. If you accept a label it keeps you there.”

Wow. “It keeps you there.” I can yak all day about the plusses and minuses of diagnostic labels, including dyslexia, but those four words truly do speak volumes.

It has to be said that oftentimes when one is diagnosed and given a label there is a huge sense of relief because now they know what is “wrong.” However, I would argue that living with the way your brain is wired is a process and you go through stages. Early on, go ahead and embrace the label if it gives you comfort or gives you a map of understanding. Later, though, you’re going to want to make sure that you do not limit yourself by over-organizing around the label and forgetting that you are a whole person with lots of other parts. Letting the label define you robs you of the opportunity to explore your life to the fullest. Don’t buy into views of others who do not understand you. Don’t let it “keep you there.”

I’m thankful to my friend for really distilling the language for me. And I won’t forget it. You might want to listen too.

Overcoming Dyslexia: Quote For the Day

“Needless suffering occurs whenever children grow up disappointing themselves and the adults who care for them.”
M. Levine, 1994

“Needless suffering continues when we, as adults, don’t take time to understand the source of a person’s struggles and rely on negative labels instead of supporting someone’s positive strengths.”
Michael Hart, 2013

How can you figure out your life purpose?

How do you reconcile doing what you have to do to learn how to read when you’re dyslexic with “finding your bliss?”

 

http://youtu.be/mnFUDVpFwFQ