Originally published November 23, 2015 on

stylized painting of Mariaux Art and dyslexia logo                                          

I loved books, I loved stories and I wanted to read—I just couldn’t read like other kids. I worked so hard to read that I lost the meaning of what I was trying to read. My book larva gnawed away at me while sat there stuck in an easy-reader—even when others had put their books away—I still labored over words.

Normal readers had a cute little bookworm friend that had little round glasses that were too big for its pudgy little face. It had a nerdy, feeble but kind warble in its voice that politely reminded them to, “read more books.” My bookworm was more like botfly larva. It bored into my head the significance of reading and every time I tried to read, it fed off my delicious inadequacies and bore deep into my sub-conscience that, “books aren’t meant for you.” The teachers said my only cure was to, “read more books.” In those days, no one knew I was dyslexic, but they did recognize that I had a different learning style

I was outwardly intelligent, social, and likable. Eventually I was labeled, “unteachable”—” lazy”—” unmotivated.” I struggled with reading in first grade. In second grade it became apparent that I had a learning disability. Third grade, I hit a wall. The school wanted to send me to a mobile home that sat on the school grounds. I’d sit with a teacher and a few severely disabled children. There was no help for me, and the environment was devastating to my self-esteem. My mom took me out of school and homeschooled me. My parents had no money, and no other educational alternative.

My homeschool years were hardly perfect, but they were liberating years for me. I spent a great deal of my time outdoors. We lived on five wooded acres in the rural countryside of Missouri. I was sure I was going to become an artist someday. I painted pictures, wrote short stories and plays. My mom read me book after book—all the classics. When she wasn’t reading, I was listening to the BBC book of the week on the radio. My little brother and I would lay on the floor and listen. I often drew pictures, painted and colored while listening to books. We were ear reading. Our ability to comprehend was phenomenal. I didn’t feel my limitations, I only felt that all was possible in my isolated world of Narnia, The Hiding Place, Lord of The Rings, Great Expectations, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry—my little brother, and my loving and supportive parents.

 Eventually, I was put into a small school in our church. My parents were open to trying other options and they were always hopeful that something would work. My little brother and I were publicly humiliated (my brother was physically disciplined) by our teachers. They didn’t know about our dyslexia and neither did we. We took the licks and just assumed we were the problem. This was a big burden for small backs. Back then humiliation was a tactic used to motivate. The educators in this school simply believed we weren’t trying. Try as we might, we just didn’t fit. We were abruptly taken out of this school and homeschooled again. My mom wasn’t a teacher and never intended to be. She did her very best. She inspired me—helped me keep my chin up. Only now do I understand her full-time dedication.

After taking an independent drivers education course, I decided I wanted to try and go back to school. I wanted to be around my peers—normal kids. I felt like I was missing out on the world. I was curious and very naive. I went into public high school my sophomore year. I struggled and failed. The shame I felt was unbearable, but I kept a poker face and most of my friends never knew my struggles. At first, teachers looked at me to be a nice addition in their classroom. I was very bright, forthcoming and effervescent about my willingness to learn. I sat in the front row and made eye contact. “Teach me—I want to learn.” I let them all down. Worksheets got the better of me as did and timed testing. The daily anxiety was a shock to my senses. One by one, each teacher stopped making eye contact with me. They looked through me, and I knew they had given up on me. While on my way to the place where the “D” word goes, I slid through the cracks and into a horrible gray world that whispered, “you’re nothing. Why even try? You’ll let them all down. You’ll let yourself down. You’re not normal, you’re not kidding anyone.”

 Painting by Mary Harnetiaux - War in her Bloody Shoes - Woman

The day I left school for good, I was told by my guidance counselor that, “school wasn’t for everyone.” I believed him. I always took his final words as a warning to stay away. I was an impostor who was trying to steal an education, an education that belonged to the “normal kids.” It was a relief to finally walk away from it all.

I have always carried my ignorance like a bag of stones around my neck, hidden under my clothes, disguised by my outward appearance and layered beneath my god given talents. In school I suffered—horribly. No teacher proved me wrong. No one teacher became my hero or my mentor. My profound and confusing ignorance was never refuted—so it must be true. I presented a problem, and they had no solution. The “experts” didn’t even have a solution.

Even though there wasn’t any help for me back in those days, I still took solace in the possibility of a small identity, a word that kept me from taking it all into my inner-self. That word was, “dyslexia.” It was a word that was merely said to me in passing, but I intuitively latched onto it. Here’s why the word dyslexia was so important to me, it became a “thing” it wasn’t me. It wasn’t my fault. It was this thing and it had a name. Once I had a name, I was able to begin to pull the shame away from myself—I pulled it right out my chest like a ball of unraveling kite string. It was in this way that I attempted to bury my school years and move forward with my life.

I discovered myself, my hidden secret talents that I had always had—sort of like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. I began to focus on my life and not my struggle. I started painting, and through a lot of incredibly hard work, my surroundings filled with large scale abstract paintings. I found my joy and creativity. I didn’t know or care how my work would be perceived. I didn’t ask for permission. I focused on one thing, and that was my art.

My paintings eventually reached a man I had known for years, and it brought him home from his world travels. We got married. We had a little boy. Little did I know that I was going to have to unearth my dyslexia and my painful school years all over again—only this time through my son’s educational experiences.

Thirty-four years after hitting my own academic wall, I found myself advocating for my son. There I was, sitting in a blue plastic child-sized chair in front of two educators who were were trying to decide if they believed dyslexia even existed. As they sputtered and groped to use any word other than dyslexia, a curious thing happened—I began to disappear. First I couldn’t see my hands, then I watched my lap go up in a thin veil of vapor. I believe for a moment that I was only a pair of blinking eyes. No one noticed, but I almost disappeared into that place where the “D” word goes—that place that exists in all teacher’s lounges—that secret place all “unknowns” and “unteachables” go. I went into the dark locker of library-silent oblivion and neglect. Luckily for me, I had done my homework. I had a great deal of science, evidence and over thirty years of research to back my position. I also carried with me, a formal dyslexia diagnosis. Almost as quickly as I had disappeared, I returned to my tiny seat in front of two very serious educators who seemed oddly threatened that I might know something that they did not.

Red-faced and flustered, they spoke without relevance, “look at you! You’re fine! You had an LD and turned out okay! What are you worried about?” Unfiltered myths and misinformation came flowing out of their mouths, “we don’t hear that word nowadays, they diagnose better now.” I realized they only knew dyslexia to be a term they shouldn’t use, but they didn’t know what it was. They would never admit that. You see, by admitting that they didn’t know something, they would inevitably disappear into a thin veil of vapor starting with their fingertips until nothing would be left but their blinking eyes. If they admitted they didn’t know something, they would lose their power. They would never want to be in that vulnerable position—because truth be told, losing one’s power is painful. It’s damning. It’s demeaning. It’s dark. They wouldn’t like this.

Not long into my son’s fourth grade year, there came this soft suggestion, “maybe this school isn’t the right fit for your child.” They were right, it wasn’t. We pursued other possibilities.

I didn’t know quite what to do, but promised myself that my child’s dyslexia story would not be mine. I promised myself that his story wouldn’t have unnecessary sadness, or soul crushing adversity when it came to his education. I promised to find the teachers who knew that dyslexia is real—who would see him—and teach him.

One cold January morning, I lead my son up to a new pair of double doors. He anxiously opened one and hesitated in the doorway. Then, I watched him bravely step over a threshold and into a story of his own.

Read Mary’s personal blog and view her beautiful and inspiring art at 


Headstrong Nation Mission Statement - Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia. We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, to understand it, and to develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles.

We would like to invite you to join us as a member, as we need your support to help us to fulfill our mission for the adult dyslexic. Please consider donating to Headstrong Nation HERE:  Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Pinterest and visit our YouTube Channel.  Thank you very much!  - The Headstrong Nation Team





photo of document from US Dept.of Education Assistant Secretary of ED

The Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, United States Department of Education, Michael K. Yudin released a letter today to clarify that there is nothing in the IDEA  (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)  that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents, despite the communications from stakeholders, including parents, advocacy groups, and national disability organizations, who believe that State and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) are reluctant to reference or use dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility determinations, or in the development of the individualized education program (IEP) under the IDEA.

In the letter, Mr. Yudin states that the Office of Special Ed, Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) encourages State Education Agencies and Local Education Agencies (SEA's and LEA's) to consider situations where it would be appropriate to use the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia to describe and address the child’s unique, identified needs through evaluation, eligibility, and IEP documents. OSERS further encourages States to review their policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that they do not prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility, and IEP documents. Finally, in ensuring the provision of free appropriate public education (FAPE), OSERS encourages SEAs to remind their LEAs of the importance of addressing the unique educational needs of children with specific learning disabilities resulting from dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia during IEP Team meetings and other meetings with parents under IDEA. 

#SayDyslexia!  A step in the right direction. Voices were heard.  Good news for many and a document to refer to and share with your child’s school, family and friends. Congratulations to the grassroots movement Decoding Dyslexia and the many other disability organizations and advocacy groups who got involved on a legislative level to spread awareness on the need to use the word and address dyslexia in the schools.  Positive change can occur one person at a time, one word at a time. Spread dyslexia awareness today!

To view the PDF letter in its entirety, click HERE.  


Any questions? 

Contact us at our Facebook page at  We're not experts, but we’ll do what we can to point you to resources and to answer any questions that you may have.  You may also follow us on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia. We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, understand it, and develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles. If you'd like to help support us in fulfilling our mission for the adult dyslexic, please consider donating to Headstrong Nation by clicking on the DONATE BUTTON at the top of the page.  Thank you! - The Headstrong Nation Team

Headstrong is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation, and is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax ID 47-0925290.   





Photo of Us Capitol with text Taking it to the Hill DD-national Hill Day 2015

 Photo Credit - David Acker, 2015

Decoding Dyslexia National representatives will be joining with other organizations for Hill Day, 2015, at the US Capitol, in Washington, DC, July 14-15.  DD Representatives will be advocating for positive change for dyslexic children and their families. They will meet with legislators, and will tell their stories. Moms will speak, and dads will speak. Children will speak. They will discuss their individual stories of struggle.   They will raise awareness on dyslexia and will self-advocate.  They will discuss their strengths and the resiliency that they have developed as a result of their dyslexia.  They will ask congressmen and senators to help all dyslexic children in schools through supporting dyslexia legislation regarding the early screening and evidence-based intervention that can help them thrive in the classroom.   They will call for teacher training programs and professional development on how to screen and effectively instruct students with dyslexia.  They will discuss the need for assistive technology and how it levels the playing field for children with dyslexia/LD, so that kids like themselves can keep pace with their peers and thrive as successful students.  They will discuss the challenges that the dyslexic individual may experience beyond the K-12 years, into college, and as adult dyslexics in the workforce.  

DD reps, their families, and others will come together as a united community, a movement, with a message for change.   

Headstrong Nation supports the efforts of Decoding Dyslexia National and other organizations at this year's Hill Day 2015, and although we cannot be beside you physically as you advocate this year, we are behind you,  and support your collective efforts as a force for positive change. 

Wishing you all the best in "Taking it to The Hill".  Let your voices be heard! -   Headstrong Nation


NoteIn Dec, 2013, Decoding Dyslexia Oregon hosted Headstrong Nation Founder Ben Foss, for a personal talk about dyslexia, his book, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, and the tremendous growth and power of the Decoding Dyslexia movement.  If you are interested in viewing the entire talk, you can do so HERE.  Below is an excerpt entitled:  "A Message for Change" - Get Empowered! 


Headstrong Nation Mission Statement:

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia.  We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, understand it, and to develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles.  

Please visit our Headstrong Nation Facebook Page, and like and share our content with your friends and family.  Follow us on Twitter @Headstrongnatio. We are glad that you are part of our community!  

Thank you! - The Headstrong Nation Team


Jenna and Shannon

We recently had the opportunity to chat with super dyslexia advocates Shannon and her 11-year-old daughter Jenna about school, self-advocacy, and... snakes!

We contacted Shannon after she shared a photo of Jenna brandishing her very own dyslexia ID card—a homemade creation inspired by one of our blogposts

Originally created by Dr. John Frauenheim at the Beaumont Hospital in Michigan to help dyslexic students self-advocate, the ID cards sparked much conversation in the dyslexia community and we knew it was only a matter of time before we had DIY-ers crafting their own.

Turn on text-to-speech and ear-read along (or eye-read!) for our full interview with Shannon and Jenna.

Headstrong: Before we talk about dyslexia, we think it’s very important to discuss one of Jenna’s other passions: snakes. Jenna, how much do you know about snakes?

Jenna: A lot. I have 35 of them. 15 hatched the other day...

Headstrong: 35?! Snakes hatch? Like out of eggs?

Jenna: Yeah. And some breeds give birth live.

Headstrong: What kind of snakes do you have?

Jenna: Ball pythons. Carpet pythons. Corn snakes. King snakes. Milk snakes. Boas.

Headstrong: You have a boa!?

Jenna: I have a few. One of them is six feet long—but I can carry her. She’s really nice. Her name is Nagini. 

Headstrong: Nagini...? 

Jenna: From Harry Potter.

Headstrong: So how did you end up with all these snakes?

Jenna: I don’t know. We were told that if we kept our room clean for a month, we’d get a reptile as a pet. My big sister did it first and then my dad wanted a snake and then I wanted a snake. And then... we just kept getting more and more snakes! My favorite snake is my corn snake Tiny. 

Jenna and sisters with snakes galore

Headstrong: Is he actually tiny?

Jenna: No! He’s the biggest corn snake. Our friend who breeds them says he’s ginormous.

Headstrong: Maybe it’s time for us to give snakes a second chance! Ok, let’s talk about a different animal. Shannon, how did you find out about Headstrong?

Shannon: When Jenna was identified earlier this year with dyslexia, I did what every parent does and went looking for resources. I came across Ben Foss’s book, “The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan”—bought it, read it, took everything to heart, and set out to find the best ways to help Jenna, who had struggled for many years. She’s 11 now and has only just been identified. 

Headstrong: You learned about the dyslexia ID card from our blog. What prompted you and Jenna to make one on your own?

Shannon: Well, we’ve been encouraging Jenna to have her own voice and I thought this was a simple solution to put it into practice. She could go to school and if she had a teacher who didn’t know her, the teacher would understand why Jenna is pulling out audio books when the rest of her class is eye-reading. In this way, she could easily explain what she needed without having to be verbose.

Jenna: It also made it easier for my table when I took out a little computer and they said, “Why do you have that!?” I could hand them my ID card and say, “Hey, just read this!” It made it a lot easier.

Headstrong: So what do these cards look like and what does someone need to make the card?

Jenna: You need a printer and a computer and my mom got the doctor’s signature and the stuff from the children’s hospital and then she wrote a bunch of facts that we might use on my IEP plan.

Shannon: We took 2 pieces of paper so we had a front and a back, and made it into a 3 x 3 square. On the front we would put information about the physician, Jenna’s name, and the certification that she experiences dyslexia, which compromises reading and spelling ability. On the back we printed what we felt were the key IEP points that we wanted addressed by someone coming in to the classroom who didn’t know Jenna.

We laminated and hole-punched it, and now she has a lanyard that she can wear it on or keep in her pencil bag.

Jenna and her dyslexia ID card

Headstrong: Will you share your IEP points with us?

Jenna: Yes. My IEP says:

  • I may use audiobooks for reading (Nook / headphones).
  • Students who correct my papers are mutually agreed upon by me.
  • During all tests, please be available to read words, sentences or to paraphrase questions as needed.
  • I use a Forte (word processor and headphones) in class.
  • Allow me to skip answering / reading aloud out loud at my request. 

dyslexia card with IEP points

Headstrong: That is amazing! After you made the card, what was the next step?

Shannon: We took it to the pediatric neurologist from Children’s Hospital who had identified Jenna and explained the idea to him. He was intrigued because he has patients with other LDs (learning differences), not just dyslexia, who might benefit. He immediately signed it, and was very encouraged to see all of facts and needs from her IEP on the back.

At the school we showed it to the Special Education resource teacher who agreed that it was a very helpful idea, especially because it didn’t cost us anything! And again, that it could help students who aren’t necessarily dyslexic but who have other needs.

Headstrong: Jenna, tell us about the first time you used your ID card at school.

Jenna: It was in the of middle of the school year, and my regular teacher was gone so we had a substitute for two or three days and, well, I was nervous at first to show him the card so I asked mom to come with me. She did, but she made me talk.

Headstrong: And what did you tell him?

Jenna: I have dyslexia and here are some of the things I do. Here is the card we made so you know some of the facts. And he said, “Thank you very much for showing me this.” 

Headstrong: Well that sounds surprisingly straightforward. What was it like in class after that?

Jenna: It was easier even though my table was wondering what I was doing a few times. Sometimes I left the classroom to go to a different classroom and stuff. So I just let them read the card.

Shannon: I think it was also helpful because for a long time this year, the classroom was really kept in the dark about why Jenna does things differently. The teacher wasn’t encouraging and didn’t explain things. It wasn’t just a benefit to the teachers—the card opened up points of communication between Jenna and other students.

Headstrong: We’re curious, has anyone asked for help making their own cards?

Shannon: Not yet. As you’re aware, dyslexia is the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. It’s kept very quiet. Who else is dyslexic? Her school is not very...

Jenna: Dyslexia friendly...

Shannon: Right. We have kicked and fought our way to get her the accommodations she needed this year. Every step of the way has been a battle. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find others in this area who are dyslexic. But as we go through the journey, I have found people online and have shared the idea repeatedly, you know, this might be something that could help your child. 

Jenna: Um, I have pen-pals now who have dyslexia... and it makes a difference because I don’t care if I spell something wrong or if they spell something wrong cause I understand what they wrote.

Shannon: I think the key thing for us is that we want Jenna to feel comfortable with being dyslexic. It’s been an adventure for her. As the middle child, she’s seen one older sister fly in one direction and another fly in another direction and this year, with her identification, she’s starting to fly herself. We know how to help her now. Just like she has blonde hair and blue eyes, she has dyslexia and can embrace it.

Shannon and her family live in California in the Central Valley. Even though Jenna’s hair is naturally blonde, it currently has bits of pink and purple in it. Along with three other humans, Shannon and Jenna are the happy caretakers of 35 snakes and two lizards. 

Jenna and her pet snake

Great post from The School of Dyslexia by our friend Sharon Plante, Director of Technology, Eagle Hill-Southport, Southport, CT:

Sharon Plante

Dyslexia is often referred to as the hidden disability (I use the term dyslexia to include all forms of language based learning disabilities). Difficulties with mobility, vision, and hearing, along with other disabilities, are often more obvious to the world, especially to those of us in education.  Accommodations for these children are imperative to their functioning in the classroom and in their learning.  For dyslexic students, the same accommodations are often given repeatedly, with the hope of improved academic performance, but those accommodations are often not considered imperative for their learning.

This week, I listened to a student talk about his path to learning, leading to his enrollment at our school.  This boy is a sixth grader who was identified as being dyslexic in the third grade.  Despite that identification, year after year, teachers gave him the traditional work that required a trip to the resource room for him to even attempt it.  He talks of spending days in the resource room just playing on the computer because he knew he had to be in school, and he found his time in the traditional classroom to be a waste of time.  Now that he is in an environment that understands his learning needs, he is doing his work, he is making gains, and he is showing his strength as a learner.  He didn't want to hide from learning; he just needed someone to understand his less-than-visible disability. 

Continue reading post here...

Way to share, Nathan. Dyslexics have many strengths—and you're clearly living proof!

You are 9 years old. It’s Monday morning. You walk into class and see a tall man with glasses instead of your teacher, Mrs. Taylor. You see a fat folder of paper handouts sitting on his desk. 

You take a deep breath, march to the front of the room, and introduce yourself to the new sub. You pull a worn ID card from your pocket that tells him you are dyslexic and lists, on the back, the key components of your IEP. 

The sub pauses for a moment and takes it in. Understanding, he nods and hands you back the card, before going to his desk and emailing you a PDF of the handout.

You take a seat, open your laptop and get ready to ear-read along with the rest of the class. 

Dyslexia ID card
Because of the work of Dr. John Frauenheim, this kind of stuff actually happens. 
Dr. Frauenheim caught our eye when we learned about an unusual support strategy offered by the Center where he works: personalized dyslexia identification cards that help students a way to explain their dyslexic identity and self-advocate for what they need in class. Before dyslexics are able to confidently tell their story, in their own words, without props, we can imagine how a signifier like this could be extremely helpful, especially in the early years. 
Dr. John Frauenheim is the Associate Director at the Center for Human Development at Beaumont Children's Hospital in Berkley, Michigan. There he provides multidisciplinary assessments and treatments/strategies to the dyslexic and LD community.
We were curious about what other ideas and insights Dr. Frauenheim might have for us so we sent him a list of questions about his experiences. 
Dr. Frauenheim answered, naturally, from a medical perspective. While this perspective differs slightly in how it talks about dyslexia, the shared emphasis on community and self-advocacy as key stepping stones to being an empowered dyslexic is very encouraging. Go team.
Read on for highlights from our interview. Thank you Dr. Frauenheim!
Note: All links and bolded text have been added by Headstrong Nation. :)

Headstrong Nation: You've mentioned that you selectively give individuals with dyslexia a card that identifies them as experiencing difficulty with reading and spelling. Tell us the history behind the card. 
Dr. John Frauenheim: As one simple step toward self-assertiveness and empowerment we give dyslexic individuals an ID card that identifies them as experiencing dyslexia and looks rather official, i.e., hospital title and signed by a licensed psychologist. We do this for elementary school aged children as well as adolescents and young adults. 
The use of the card can be very helpful at all of these levels. Elementary students, for example, will at times write the elements of their IEP on the back of the card to be able to present to teachers when they make a request for accommodations.  
It can be very helpful, for example, when a substitute teacher comes in and wants students to individually read aloud in class. The dyslexic student can produce their card quickly and ask to be excused from that activity. The card can also be helpful for college students, for example, when they have a need to discuss certain issues or accommodations with an instructor. The card breaks the ice and allows for meaningful discussion. 
We have had others where a formal statement given had to be signed, i.e., in the police department, and they are uncomfortable with what the printed version of their comments state. Examples are endless. The availability of an ID card for dyslexic individuals was something we saw a need for 25 years ago. The card has been in use since that time and, to my knowledge, we are the only facility that utilizes this particular support strategy.
HN: What kind of changes have you seen in the medical community around dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities?
JF: Cases of dyslexia have been well-documented for over 100 years. Research has steadily increased to a level where we now have a much greater understanding of dyslexia and how it impacts life. This has led to a growing awareness in the medical community.  
Schools, however, have been slow to recognize dyslexia, feeling that it is some type of "medical condition." 
On the plus side, programs for children with learning differences have improved over the years. Most recently, at least here in Michigan, school districts are approaching the concept of learning differences within the context of a "response to intervention" (RTI) approach, which implies that a young child in elementary school, where problems are noted, should have appropriate resource strategies available to them to address those concerns. 
The importance of understanding dyslexia includes the fact that it is more than simply an eye-reading problem. We frequently note, for example, an extension into the area of math where dyslexic individuals find it difficult to memorize basic math facts, such as the times tables, that can impact functioning. 
There is a frequent finding associated with immediate auditory memory/working memory that may affect the consistency with which one retains directions, multitasking, etc.  More subtle language issues have also been described such as naming, word finding, and language organization, or the expression of ideas in an organized fashion.  Spelling, of course, is affected with further impact on written expression.
HN: How important is early identification?
JF: Early identification, of course, is important. It may be difficult to specifically identify a very young person as experiencing dyslexia; however, risk factors should be closely examined and where there is some difficulty experienced, then appropriate intervention should be provided.  
Dyslexia does not go away. It does, however, present on a continuum that may range from severe to least severe. At the severe end of the continuum, we see adults whose eye-reading skills have not progressed above an elementary level. These individuals are often ignored in the literature on learning differences/dyslexia.
Specific treatment for dyslexic individuals must be approached along at least four avenues:
1. Specialized instruction in language arts areas should be provided utilizing appropriate and well-documented evidence-based strategies such as the Orton-Gillingham Method.
2. We must introduce assistive technologies* very early in a child's education. As we work at improving eye-reading skills, we also provide ways to work around the interference of skill weaknesses. 
Textbooks, for example, should be made available through some type of audio format to assist with reading fluency and, subsequently, comprehension (e.g. Learning Ally, Bookshare). The use of a computer with word processing becomes important with regard to written expressive language activities. Other computer programs that are available include those that allow for dictation as well as provide reading assistance. Another example would be the Intel Reader.
*Check out Headstrong Nation's Tools page page for a list of current assistive technologies. 
3. We must review curriculum requirements as they might impact the dyslexic individual.  The learning of a foreign language, for example, in the presence of dyslexia tends to be quite difficult. The frequent recommendation is to waive such requirements. Some school districts will allow sign language to replace a formal language requirement. The waiving of a foreign language can be accomplished even at the college level in many instances. Other accommodations, such as increased time for testing becomes important. Oral testing should be allowed as indicated, etc.
4. Universally, young dyslexic individuals entertain the notion of being "dumb." They compare themselves with their peers and/or siblings and realize that they are not achieving at the same level, which produces concern. They worry that they are not meeting the expectations of significant others. Early efforts at assisting in understanding dyslexia and how it impacts functioning are very important.  
Dyslexic individuals need to become "experts" and learn how to appropriately assert themselves in terms of the accommodations that will be meaningful for them. Empowerment starts at an early age. It is extremely important to assure that success experiences occur both academically and non-academically.
HN: We believe that finding community and being honest about one's dyslexia is the key to becoming empowered. How do you support individuals that are struggling with coming to terms with their dyslexia?
JF: Recognizing that one has dyslexia is the key to becoming empowered.  
In our setting we provide "demystification" sessions for those with a diagnosis of dyslexia and at times ongoing counseling to assist in looking at compensatory strategies and to address other issues related to self-concept. 
It also becomes very important for "significant others" to have a full understanding of dyslexia. This not only includes parents, but also grandparents and others in the community where dyslexia may impact functioning, i.e., religious lessons, etc. At times, we offer small group counseling sessions for students with dyslexia to be able to learn from one another strategies that have been helpful. 
Ongoing peer mentoring should be available. In the past we have had group counseling sessions for dyslexic adults. This has been extremely helpful as, in adulthood, dyslexics find themselves generally to be quite isolated, not knowing others, etc., and feeling that they lack any "power" to change life circumstances. 
The areas of self-concept and empowerment must be addressed on an ongoing basis.
Dr. John Frauenheim
Dr. John Frauenheim
Associate Director, Center for Human Development at Beaumont Children's Hospital, Berkley, MI 

Proud of Headstrong Nation fellow Sean Stevenson, a dyslexic community advocate and entrepreneur that is changing the lives of young people in Columbus, Ohio.

Hillside School Dyslexia Talk

Learn about the dyselxia empowerment framework and meet others like you at Headstrong Nation founder Ben Foss's upcoming talk in Boulder, Colorado. Ben will speaking on February 4th at 7pm at the Boulder Theater, courtesy of Hillside School. Tickets are $12 and all ages encouraged to attend. Get your ticket here!

An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan, and when you're dyslexic, it can be the key to carving out your ideal pathway to learning while you are at school. Kids have the legal right to be at their own IEP but, more importantly, it gives them a chance to learn how to self-advocate. Watch Headstrong found Ben Foss & Mayu discuss why and what to know before you go. And don't forget to check out our other video about the key factors that will help you tell your dyslexia story


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