Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Life Experience that Uniquely Qualifies Me to Speak about Learning Disabilities.

I was born on January 20, 1970 in NYC. My mother says I was almost born in a taxicab. I wore an eye patch for the first few years of my young life to help my eyes adjust; this may have affected my visual nerve development in subtle ways. I enjoyed a busy life as a child, and everyone complimented my ability to speak to adults and settle the disputes of others.

At a young age, I developed an internal compass that I have followed throughout my life. This compass has led me into some strange and wonderful places and through some rough waters. Life is not always fair or kind, but I was blessed with a good family and a rich home.

The seasons turned, and many mysteries of lifes eternal wheel were revealed to me: the color of the sand on the creek bottom near the summer cottage we rented; how the homeless men survived on the streets near our apartment in NYC; the imaginary world I created in adventures with my friends; and the great mystery of my little sisters birth into the world. However, despite all this amazing knowledge, the gift of reading remained elusive.

I wanted so badly to be able to read, but the connection between the action and the ability did not come. I can not remember when I first learned to read; it is buried in layers of feelings I am reluctant to dig through, like an anthropologist afraid of land mines. Here lie the bones of dragons, and over there may be high explosives left over from the wars; either may lead to my destruction, so I will sit quietly and theorize about them.

I am reluctant to admit that my tutors taught me anything, because I am an American and I want to believe that I did it through my own passion and labor. However, I would probably have suffered even more painful failures without the assistance of my tutors or my parents ability to pay for the private reading and writing lessons. I feel for students without the resources to pay for that additional support in today’s schools.

I believe that my passion for stories is what kept me going; my father read novels to me, and I was interested in reading my own books. When I was thirteen, I read The Hobbit in ten hours. I was very proud.

My writing ability has lagged behind my reading ability; like a man who is drunk with his first victory, I reel from place to place, unsure of my footing. It has always been this way with my writing. I cannot write in straight lines, but the curves may be interesting to the beholder.

In ninth grade, I flunked out of the Bronx High School of Science, and I was suicidal that year. I failed physics, biology, English, and Spanish as well, I felt like I failed all those classes. More importantly, I was harassed every day on the school bus by other students. Writing became something I hated. Writing was not creative; it was punishment, a cruel exercise in self-inflicted wounds. Writing was a bloody payment for small gain.

To learn more about my experience of high school, read my remediation report from that time period or my more modern version.

I am proud of my high school diploma, college degree, and Master’s of Science in Education, but I wonder if these degrees were really distractions from the important work I have set myself - distractions that delayed my life’s purpose and wounded me almost to destruction.

So I have set this purpose for myself: to reach out to students who are defined as learning-disabled, dyslexic, or learning-challenged and empower them to identify their passions and dreams, to get the students to laugh at themselves and see the light at the end of the tunnel, and to show them that learning is not complex or hard, but easy and fun.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Once there was a girl who couldn't see the letter s

*ara wa* the nice*t child you would ever meet. *he had *weet per*onality, a nice *mile and wa* very *mart. Her only weakne** wa* that *ara could not read, hear or talk the letter *. Witch could be very difficult for her. Her mother would want her to go and fetch her *i*ter* and *ara would come back with one of them in*tead of all three.

*pelling te*t were a drag at *chool though *he did find with word* like naught and doubt, but *nake and *u*piciou* e*caped her. *ara became concerned and nervou* in *chool one day becau*e the teacher *aid they were gong to *tudy the country of *pain. Witch i* very natural reaction con*idering that *ara though they were all going to have to go through a rather painful experience to *tudy the *ubject. Another difficulty wa* following the he or *he pronoun in any particular conver*ation e*pecially if the per*on talking wa* di*cu**ing a conver*ation between a girl and a boy. "Then *he *aid and he *aid thi* in re*pon*e…'

*ara di*covered over time that it wa* po**ible to live with out the letter * until *he could *pend whole day* with out mi**ing it. In*tead of wondering – deare*t *i*ter who I love *o much – could you plea*e pa** me the *au*age*? *he would *ay hey –Rachel - could you kindly hand over the meat *tring plate to me? It helped that her *i*ter* name* were Rachel, Jane and Amanda. But here mother'* name wa* *u*ana and *ara allwa* called her Mom - ju*t to *ave time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What is a letter to a friend?

Once there was a boy named *ris who could not see or say the letter z. It didn’t really seem to matter expect on days when he went to the *oo to see the *ebra. So he didn’t really think anything of it

Then one day he met a girl named *eneta who could not see or say the letter c. Witch was a real pity cause she had a *at and that she loved named *harles and *harles was a *hester cat with strips. She was particularly sad because she loved to order i*e *ream *ones – with lots of *ho*olate *hips. When ever she asked for i*e *ream *ones – with lots of *ho*olate *hips everybody laughed at her. But when she met *ris she felt much better.

They became the best of friends – but people would ask them – How can the too of you be such good friends you can’t even say each others names!?

They would just smile and say – what is a name to us – but a word. What is a word to us – but a few letters. A friend is some one who understands what you are going through. Then the two friends would smile and point to the other. Who else would understands me better?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wrestling with my Brain

I have been thinking about memory and the central role it plays in my life. I know that I remember things, but I also know that I forget things as well. The likely hood of forgetting something increases if I have not gone through the motion of writing it down. Sort of like you only need seatbelts when your not buckled in rule of driving.

I have learned that I need to write things down. But I have also learned that I can’t read my own hand writing half the time. So I compromise by writing things down on the computer. Witch is not always as handy as it sounds. Last January I purchased an ipod and I find the date book option in the ipod really useful. Of course I am dead set against owning a cell phone – witch I will go into in some other post.

David Allen in his book "Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress Free Productivity" says that most people have been in some version of mental stress for so long that they don’t eve know they are in it. He also says that the mind can only hold three things at the same time. After that you start loosing stuff. You can read more about David Allen on his website

I really identify with this concept – not only do I forget stuff like every one else. But because of all this stress from dyslexia early in life I have a whole mental recording about how messed up. Hopefully you don’t have all these emotional echoes from when you to forget your home work that you spent three works diligently working on so that you could hand in one assignment on time – come up when you drive to town to get the bread and bring home the cheese, yogurt, carrots, and the tub of ice cream, but not the milk.

At this point in my dialog or rant depending on who I am talking too and how long I have known them – I will be getting a puzzled look. My friend will say – but Eric I forget things too. Do you? Do you forget things three to five times a day? Do you live in fear of forgetting things? Do you tell people that you would like them to consider calling you if you don’t show up to the meeting just because you might have forgot? Are you always saying in meetings – hum do you have pen I forgot mine?

I can remember 28 hours of storytelling material on the drop of a pin and tell to a very high professional level.

But that is not the real kicker about my memory. Here is the thing if my memory is not so hot – Then what evidence do I use to convince myself that my memory needs watching?

Really I only have what I remember and man I can tell you that I am not really clear on all that –
1) I just don’t rememberr everything I have forgotten
2) I am a very optimistic person and given the choice between realism and a healthy dose of positive vibes – I’ll choose the positive feelings.
3) Denial is very important crutch to some one who has taken nine years of basic English equvalent and still can’t spell equivalent. I mean for crying out loud I am a certified card caring dyslexic individual writing a blog – What other credentials do you want that I have a high ability to deny reality effectively?
4) Emotionally admitting that my mind is not trust worthy is right on par with admitting that Masters of Science degree I worked so hard to get was given out by lottery and any day now they are going to come for me and as for it back. ( over my dead body)

Recently I had a friend of mine who I told about David Allen and his books.
I said that everybody is built the same way and that there are two kinds of people those that admit they need systems to stay organized and those that are pretending they can function with out any system of organization. He claimed in response that his wife was able to function with out any intentional organizational structure. She was just so organized and scientific in thought. I smiled politely and agreed.

But it turns out that this organized and wonderful woman (she is a very nice person) Forgot two separate massage visits with my wife's massage practice. Here is the key idea here – we all need systems of organization and if you are dyslexic you just need to admit that faster then everyone else.