Photo Credit: Rifka Schonfeld

To spell the word spell
Is as simple as can be
Just spell it as it seems
But a word like vacation is difficult for me.

 

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To read words is easier than to
spell them for sure
For me, dyslexia opens a whole
other door.

 

I can draw a dog spot on
and decorate a cake with fondant
Dyslexia makes reading and spelling both hard
but lets my art be on the cover of a card.

 

Left from Right
Months of the year
Sometimes fill my eyes with tears
Trying to remember my best friend’s phone number
Sometimes makes me kind of wonder.

 

But Pi Day is worst of all
I want the extra credit bad
But trying to remember many numbers
makes me sad.
It begins with 3.1459
but the rest is all a distant rhyme.
I always do better with extra time.

Liza Pilsbury, 5th grade

 

I recently read an inspiring book entitled The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss, a dyslexic who has a law and business degree from Stanford University and heads a major technology company. Foss writes that he did not “overcome” his dyslexia, but rather integrated it into his everyday functioning in order to lead a more successful and happier life. Like Liza, the author of the poem above, Foss recognized that he had many strengths that accompanied his dyslexia.

Below, I have included some common myths about dyslexia:

            Dyslexic children are not smart. While it is true that dyslexic children struggle with reading and writing – and therefore have a hard time in school – many have great strengths, which may include excellent auditory and verbal skills and the ability to think strategically.

            Dyslexic children will not succeed financially. Elementary school is a difficult time for children with dyslexia; however, as Foss points out, thirty-five percent of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. Perhaps this is a result of powerful strategic thinking or strong verbal skills. Regardless, many highly successful people are or were dyslexic, such as Foss himself, and possibly Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Pablo Picasso.

            Dyslexic children have poor social skills. In reality, before dyslexic children enter an environment that forces them to read and write in ways that are nearly impossible for them, they have excellent social skills. It is only as they grow older and remain undiagnosed and untreated that their poor academic performance can inhibit their social skills.

            If you are dyslexic, you cannot read. It is much more difficult for dyslexic children to become “fluent” readers through the regular instruction we give in school. However, with time and different practices, they can become “manual” readers who read slowly and with great effort. And, while dyslexia will make you struggle with reading, it provides strengths in other areas.

            Dyslexia is rare. Actually, a recent study noted that more than 30 million Americans have dyslexia – about 1 in every 10 Americans. That means that if your child goes to school on a school bus with thirty children, the chances are that three of them will have dyslexia.

 

Tips for Parents

It is important to stress that if you suspect your child is dyslexic, it’s never too early to do something about it. Talk to your child’s teacher and educate yourself about the laws that govern special education. The earlier you intervene, the better your child’s chances of becoming a more comfortable reader (and a more confident member of his peer group!).

            Get tested. Your child’s school may have specially-trained staff members who can evaluate your child. But if the school lacks the resources or you disagree with its assessment, find an outside evaluator. Sometimes, someone outside of the school will be better able to objectively diagnose the problem. In addition, the benefit of an outside evaluator means that your child’s school will have only the documentation you choose to share with them.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.