Dyslexies of the world, untie

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Dyslexies of the world, untie
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The plus side:
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Dyslexie kids may have special spatial, mathematical and musical skills. 'It's like we'reMacs, whereas the majority of people are PCs.'
Dyslexies of the world, untie
Order off the menu, don't keep your condition a-secret, and other tips [rom a veteran
BEN FOSS RAS several techniques for ordering
food at a restaurant. Strictly speaking, none
of them involves reading off a menu. He
might ask a server for the specials or wait to
hear what his friends order before making a
decision. Foss, who graduated from Stanford
Law School, is dyslexie; his reading and spelling are on par with a fifth grader's. But he
doesn't consider his dyslexia a disability, and
in his new book, The Dyslexia Empowerment
Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child's
Confidence and Love ofLearning, he credits
it with getting him where he is today, The
book, which hits shelves this week, aims to
reframe the way people look at dyslexia,
emphasizing its advantages rather than its
weaknesses. "It's like we're Macs, whereas
the majority of people are PCs," he says.
Dyslexie students, he points out, are often
able to process audio information more quickly
than the average person. Many are talented
public speakers. He outlines these and other
strengths relating to verbal, spatial, mathematical and musical skills in the book. "If
you can figure out your strengths and play to
them, you can actually be very successful,' he
says. According ta Foss, a major mistake we
makewith dyslexie kids is focusing solely on
traditional reading. Though he concedes there
is a benefit to "eye reading," no dyslexie person will ever be able to do it as weil as every. one else, so parents should investigate audio
books and other forms oftechnology, as should
schools. When learning to eye-read, he suggests using the Orton-Gillingham method, a
72
multi-sensory technique that uses hearing,
speech and visuals together to guide children
through the phone tic components of words.
Dyslexies are in very good company: Richard
Branson, Anderson Cooper, Erin Brockovich
and Steven Spielberg are among those who
have the condition. ln the U.S., 35 per cent
of entrepreneurs are dyslexies, according ta
a study by the Cass Business School in London. "A kid who is dyslexie learns to think
outside the box, because he can't do things
the way everyone else does,' says Foss.
Henry Franks knows something about
that. The 23~year-old dyslexie designer's
recentaward-winningproject,DyslexicObjects,
re-imagined several ordinary household items
and gave them dyslexie,
but practical, characteristics: an upside-down
mug, inspired by a symptom called inversion,
keeps drinks hotter for
longer because it has a
narrow top and wide bottom; a pen holder that
only holds two pens in order to reduce elutter has a "poor memory." Franks's work has
garnered attention from museums and design
shops around Europe. "Creatively, I'rn proud
to be a dyslexie, but it's still annoying not to
be able to read like anyone else,' he says.
Foss says the key to unlocking potential is
overcoming the shame associated with dyslexia and not keeping it a secret. Through
most oflaw school, he would fax his home-
work home to his mother, who would read it
out loud to him over the phone. "Why am I
sending it to New Hampshire rather than
knocking on the do or of the kid next to me
and saying, 'Can you help me with this?' " he
recalls. "l've only got one person I can trust
who I know won't out me."
Foss dedicates a chapter to how best to
open up about dyslexia. First on the list: "Craft
a compelling story" about your child's condition. He even recommends a public-speaking class. "You're looking to explain your
child's situation to people who have the power
to help or stand in the way ofher learning."
Foss only began teiling people about his
dyslexia in his final year at Stanford. Opening up to a professor,
Andrew Grove, who was
the CEO of Intel, landed
him a job at the company,
where he went on ta create the Intel Reader, a
hand-held
deviee that
reads printed text aloud
usingacamera. "Thatwas
a turning point. If! explain to people what's
going on and that I'rn actually working hard,
their attitude changes."
He encourages parents to combat ide as
that their children are "stupid" or "lazy"criticisms he says slow readers typically endure.
"Your kid is not broken," he says. "If you can
figure out his strength and teach him how ta
advocate for himself, everything is going to
be fine." MANISHA KRISHNAN
Dyslexie kids ean
often proeess audio
information mueh faster
than the average person
SEPTEMBER
16,
2013

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