The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan

Chapters 1 & 2 by Joyce & Monique


Reading with my eyes is not the only way for me to learn information!

What a powerful statement! Paraphrasing this from Chapter One, I have a whole new way of looking at learning, as well as teaching. We need to embrace our differences, realizing dyslexia is only a characteristic resulting in "a specific issue with interpreting text" (p 11). It is not a disease or an indicator of intelligence.

  • What are other avenues in which to gain information?
  • Are there some vehicles you would choose over others?

We can't spend our time "...trying to cram ourselves into a pair of too-tight pants." (pg 17) The author suggests just finding a comfortable pair that fits and go with those - or better yet, design your own! How free-ing (if that IS even a word)!

  • What do your learning pants look like?

"Learning and literacy are about ideas, not words on a page..." (p12) For the dyslexic child, we can look at progress with reading, but go beyond remediation and offer more.

  • "There will come a time when remediation is no longer effective...and we can begin to focus on other avenues of learning." (p13)

Look for our children's strengths, and empower them with confidence. Address the areas of need and give them access to the curriculum. "I am still reading when I listen to audio with my ears."(p12) Offer audiobooks or visual information with film, rather than just fixating "on the form rather than the experience". (p12)

Thought-provoking questions to share:

  • Would I tell a person in a wheelchair to "try harder" to get up the curb?
  • Did I provide him with a ramp so he has access to the building?
  • What are the alternatives? (Can I shift the format and find the path?)
  • What is the gap and what form/experience can I offer to build a bridge moving forward?

Thought-provoking considerations:

  • Speak frankly with our children/parents/colleagues about Dyslexia.
  • Equip them with the tools for life's journey. Look at the long road.
  • Do not ignore the dyslexia, but look realistically at the options.
  • "The written word is not the important part, it is just another vehicle". (p12)

Bottom line:

Assist in the development of resiliency, strengthen emotional skills, offer alternatives to learning beyond TRADITION!

(Tradition song, taken from Fiddler on the Roof)


Ben Foss opens the chapter with the shocking statement, "Many people think dyslexia equals stupid or lazy." He goes on to give an example of this by quoting a technology blog who reviewed his Intel reader. The headline of the review read, "Intel Reader Books to the Lazy and Infirm." Foss then discusses how this is not only an attack on one's character but untrue. He states that, "Most people who are dyslexic are working three times as hard as a non-dyslexic just to get a B-minus putting in hours that without the barrier of text or spelling, could well earn them an A. He finishes the introduction with feelings that there are still a lot of misinformed people and that if these people are allowed to continue to believe the myths about dyslexia then the harm will continue.

  • Myth #1 Including Dyslexic People Lowers Classroom Standards- This myth deals with educators and people in authority who don't want to change their old habits of testing and homework. People who believe they would be lowering the "standards" to measure students in a different way. Foss debunks the correlation between SAT scores and future college success. He states, "If you measure students on their resiliency or their proactivity, rather than their spelling, you would be much more likely to pick true winners."
  • Myth #2 Your Child Can Be Fixed- Foss discusses the shame associated with dyslexia and how some people will say, "I use to be dyslexic" or "I'm a little bit dyslexic." When in fact there is no cure for dyslexia. He also mentions the before 1975 era who may have never been officially diagnosed and therefore don't feel entitled to the title. Foss goes on to explain how technology (MP3's, voice commands, Siri, & smart phones) has leveled the playing field making the written word irrelevant. What he says is relevant is the "word," be it spoken, written, Braille or spoken by a computer. Then he gives the hopeful statement, with the right accommodations your child is going to learn. That learning just might look different from a traditional class.
  • Myth #3 Reading is the Best Way To Learn- "A central contributor to a dyslexic's sense of shame is the fixation on eye reading as the best way to learn." Foss discusses the timeline of oral language and reminds us how new writing and reading are by comparison. He stated, that it was in the last sixty years that the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education gave all children a chance at an equal education. He gives the example of a child going blind at age 18, would the belief then be that the child couldn't go to college? No.
  • Myth #4 Your Child Isn't Maturing At The Same Rate As Other Children- Foss reports that some people may try to delay services by saying the child just needs to mature. He states, "While it is true that children develop the skill of reading at different ages, dyslexia is a response to a biological difference in his brain, which has nothing to do with maturity."
  • Myth #5 It's Best To Keep These Problems Hidden- To sum up this myth, parents should talk to their child about their diagnosis, testing and accommodations. Foss says, "Until I learned to integrate my dyslexia into the rest of my life, I was constantly lying to the world and myself, doing damage as a result." He tells a story of wanting to win a bookmark contest to prove to everyone how he was a lover of books, so people would assume he was smart. Foss discusses teenagers who feel bad about themselves and go to extremes to prove their worth and feel included. In short, parents should not keep dyslexia a secret and should encourage their child to look for his or her strengths.
  • Myth #6 Dyslexia Is The Fault of Bad Parenting- Basically, Foss assures parents that their child's dyslexia isn't due to bad parenting or something the mother did wrong while she was pregnant. Dyslexia is passed through family genes. He also emphasizes, "The other element of the word fault that you need to get over is the notion that there is a problem in your child. There is not." He encourages family members with dyslexia to form a sense of community.
  • Myth #7 Boys Are More Likely To Be Dyslexic Than Girls- Foss cites studies that show that dyslexia doesn't discriminate between the sexes. However, boys may be diagnosed more readily because of their tendency to act out in class and thus draw the teachers attention.
  • Myth # 8 Dyslexia Is a Difference, Not a Disability- Some people don't like the word "disability" or don't want their child to feel disabled. Some parents use words like "special" to sugarcoat the truth. Foss stresses that due to legal rights it's important to maintain the designation. He admits that the term "learning disability" is not particularly attractive. His problem with the term is that dyslexics learn just fine. Foss discusses the differences between an innate (born with it) and acquired (injury) disabilities. He finishes up this section discussing the shame and self-loathing that can ensue when the innate disability is hidden.
  • Myth #9 Being Dyslexic Means You Are Lazy- Foss states, that as many as 80% of teachers associate the term Learning disability with mental retardation. He discusses how dyslexic children work three times harder then their non-dyslexic peers to just make B's. This same child may be so tired from trying hard all day that they have nothing left to give by the time they get home. He says some people will assume that the issue is just a matter of drive.
  • Myth #10 Dyslexia Is A Gift- This is the inverse of "dyslexia means you're stupid." While some dyslexics are highly creative they each have their own individual capabilities. He encourages parents to not gloss over the challenges that come with dyslexia. He states, "The dyslexia itself is neither a curse or a gift. It's just a trait." Dyslexics should be thought of as individuals and parents shouldn't worry about what other parents or the school system thinks. They should create learning profiles individual to their child and their strengths and weaknesses should be recognized and understood.
  • Myth #11 Using Non-Text Based Ways To Learn Is Just A Crutch- Foss says that using audio or kinesthetic learning is not a crutch but a ramp. Dyslexia is not a short term situation that will heal but a lifelong challenge. Dyslexics need to learn what their strengths are in learning. Accommodations are not a crutch.
  • Myth # 12 Dyslexia Happens Only In The United States- Dyslexia is present in every country in the world.
  • Myth #13 It's Better That I Don't Tell My Child That He Is Dyslexic- Sometimes parents and teachers choose to hide the fact that the child is dyslexic from the child. Foss states how important it is for dyslexia to be integrated into the child's life. However the parent shouldn't go around telling their child's friend that the child is dyslexic if it is against the child's wishes.
  • Foss discusses his own life how how he hid his dyslexia through school and into college. He finally began to embrace his dyslexia. He talks of Joe Stutts the man he describes as the father of the dyslexia movement. He made a Headstrong film about him. Foss discusses several parent groups and EDREV an offspring of earlier groups. These groups help form a sense of community and help kids let go of the shame.
Choose strength not shame: Ben Foss at TEDxSonomaCounty
chapter 2 questions
*edit* Foss did the bookmark contest in elementary school