A Vision for Headstrong Nation - Thoughts from Larry Banks
Larry Banks is Headstrong Nation's Board Chairman. He has a passion for the organization and for his fellow dyslexics. Larry shares his vision of Headstrong Nation below.
"We are reinventing Headstrong Nation as an internationally known strong voice for adult dyslexics. Dyslexia is a lifelong profile that does not end with graduation. Dyslexic children grow up to be dyslexic adults, and although many of us have managed our profiles and have become successful in the eyes of society, many more of us are struggling, under-appreciated, full of shame and self-recrimination for having intelligence which is obscured by reading or attention issues that are misunderstood.
In children, this neurological difference is exacerbated by the conditions within schools that have the tendency to only recognize one form of intelligence. As these children get older they learn to avoid situations which might expose their differences. When we feel ashamed, much of our energy goes towards hiding and avoiding notice.
Headstrong Nation wishes to be a lighthouse, a beacon that can be seen from anywhere to offer shelter, community, acknowledgment, acceptance, and support. We have gone through the most difficult part of our lives. Now it is time to develop our strengths, come out of hiding, and express our unique profiles. For some, this will be big and for others this will be small. It begins with self-acceptance and the release of shame for being different, and of being able to move beyond the prejudices and pain from being labeled stupid. Together, we can become a counteractive force within society.
Headstrong Nation is here to serve as an oasis, a developing community which offers a virtual space that adult dyslexics can call home, and as an active orientation to help young adults within our community find their way and develop their true voice."
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. - Headstrong Nation Mission Statement - June, 2015
If you'd like to help support us in fulfilling our mission for the adult dyslexic, please consider becoming a member of Headstrong Nation. You may sign up here to be included in our #WeOwnIt campaign mailing.(Note: 4/29/16 - Campaign has ended but donations are needed to support our work. You may donate at our RAZOO PAGE HERE:https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Headstrong-Nation After signing up, please take a moment to spread the word to your family and friends via social media using the tag #WeOwnIt. Thank you! - The Headstrong Nation Team
You may be asking yourself, what does #WeOwnIt mean, and how does this relate to my dyslexia and to Headstrong Nation? Headstrong Nation will begin a new membership campaign on November 9th. What this means for our organization and for you, is that we are ready to move forward with our revised mission, which is stated below.
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. (June, 2015)
On November 9th, Headstrong Nation is an organization which is designed for adult dyslexics, by adult dyslexics. In other words, #WeOwnIt.
We would like you to have a voice in the evolution of Headstrong Nation, to take your seat at the table, and we need your help financially so we may begin to fulfill our mission.
What does it mean to “own” your dyslexia? To own your dyslexia means you understand your individual dyslexic profile. Each dyslexic is unique, although we typically share a common struggle with text in many forms. To own your dyslexia means you won’t let yourself be limited by text or other barriers which hold you back from success. You won’t let yourself be described solely by what you struggle with, because you are so much more than your struggles.
To own your dyslexia means you have made a fair and thorough assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. You maintain a teachable attitude and you are always working on ways to learn and work more efficiently. To own your dyslexia means you embrace the wide range of assistive technologies available to you, and you’ve begun to create a tool box of helpful apps and products which will help you on a daily basis.
You understand that to truly thrive, you must find out what works for you as an individual. You will not let yourself be merely defined by what you cannot do, but will explore what is actually possible for you. To own your dyslexia means that you understand the value of asking for help when needed. You know how to honestly self-advocate and you spread awareness about your dyslexic profile to those you feel comfortable with to help enable them to understand the varied strengths and challenges associated with it.
You desire to be part of a community of other adults who will understand you, who will lift you up, and who will embrace you on your journey.
We want you to join us at the table as a voice for positive change for the adult dyslexic, so we may explore together what is possible for us in learning, work, and life.
Please join us as a member of Headstrong Nation. We'd love it if you could tell you family and friends about us too and ask for their help! We thank you for considering our invitation, and we’d appreciate your financial support during our first official membership campaign which will enable us to more effectively address the needs of the adult dyslexic. Spread the word using the hashtag #WeOwnIt.
Become a member of Headstrong Nation! We invite you to be a voice in your future! – Join Now NOTE: 4/29/2016- Our formal membership campaign has ended, but you may donate to support our work at https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Headstrong-Nation
Failure and the growth mindset - It’s OK to Fail...Really!
I’m my own worst enemy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail. Don’t like to be revealed. It’s like hanging dirty laundry out for others to see. But I fail daily and so often that I now realize that my failures are part of who I am, my individual learning curve. I know that it’s important to accept the fact that I will fail, and to learn from these failures and move forward. If I don’t, the feelings of anxiety and shame associated with my failures, whether large or small, will begin to consume me and erode my self-confidence. These negative feelings and scripts are of no benefit to me, and it’s up to me to meet them head on, and change the messages that I give to myself.
I’ve read many articles on the value of failure as related to learning and growth in an individual. No one likes to fail, but some of us will fail more often than others. Dyslexics often experience their fair share of failures in the classroom, and in the workplace. The types of messages that we give to ourselves after we've failed at a given task will determine our desire to keep going or to quit, These scripts, if negative, will remain with us and will affect how we view ourselves, how we interact with others, and will influence the future goals we set (or do not set) for ourselves. This type of self-talk is limiting.
Why are some dyslexics more successful than others? Might it be that those who are successful see their failures and setbacks as opportunities for change and growth? How about those dyslexics who do not feel they have reached the level of success that they desire? Can these individuals change the messages that they give themselves when they fail, and in turn, experience positive growth and future success?
Let’s also consider the individual who generally performs above average and is constantly given the message by others that he is gifted or smart, academically or otherwise. Do these “positive” messages foster growth in this individual, or might they cause this person to hit a wall when he encounters a problem that he cannot solve? Will he avoid future problems or tasks that he cannot easily solve or complete? Will he only work at a comfortable level, play it safe, and not take any risks that could lead to greater success for himself?
The work of Carol Dweck has helped me to see the value in making mistakes. It’s o.k. to fail. Really! It’s how I will grow. But what I say to myself when I fail is equally important. My “self-talk” affects my motivation and desire to keep moving forward. Carol Dweck, Ph.D is a leading researcher in the field of motivation and a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She is the author of the bestselling book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. Below is a You Tube video of Carol at Talks at Google discussing the growth Mindset:
I was first introduced to Dweck's work while taking a free online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Stanford University taught by Jo Boaler, Ph.D Professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. As a child and later as an adult, I was one of those people who would describe herself as "Stupid in Math". I felt that I would never be able to master mathematical concepts, and it was by necessity that I explored Boaler’s course “How to Learn Math for Teachers and Adults”. I needed to help my son learn 5th grade Mathematics. I realized I had “hit the wall” with my less than desirable, Subpar math skills and was unable to fully assist him in his daily work. Boaler's course helped me to challenge the stereotypes I had about myself as a woman learning math, and her subsequent course for students helped my young son to learn the value of perservering through tough open ended math problems. Boaler's work involves teaching with a growth mindset in mind. Boaler promotes mathematics education reform in schools and challenges the myths and stereotypes surrounding learning mathematics. You can read more about Jo and her courses here at her site, www.joboaler.com.
So what does it mean to posess a growth mindset? – According to Mindset Works, of which Carol Dweck is co-founder, the growth mindset focuses more on individual improvement and less on worrying how smart one is. The big idea is in understanding that intelligence can be developed with hard work and persistence, that it is not fixed. Students who can foster this mindset in themselves show greater motivation in school, and have better academic outcomes.
We can all learn from our failures, and it is important for all of us to challenge how we view ourselves as learners. As we age, many of us get more rigid in our thinking. Young children can often serve as guides because they are learning and making new mistakes daily. Developing a growth mindset is knowing that learning is not just about producing the right answers all the time. It’s about giving yourself permission to improve constantly, to make the effort, to think outside of the box, to create, innovate, and to stretch your brain and grow.
I often need to catch myself in interactions with my young son, as I begin to tell him the “right” way he should be doing things. In many instances, there are many “right ways” to approach problems. As a parent, it is important for me to get out of his way and let him explore and find his own answers and praise him for the hard work and effort he's making. For myself, it’s equally important to get out of my own way, to keep an open mind and let myself search for new ways to do things. If I fail, instead of making the typical statement, “I can’t do this”, a growth mindset statement would be “I can’t do this….yet.” That’s empowering, and indicates there is always room for improvement with persistence. Tieing praise to effort, hard work and persistence, not to intelligence, is what will ultimately keep us moving us forward.
The bottom line? Let's learn from our failures and let them guide us. Let's confront our fears and go beyond them. Let' get unstuck. Let's try something new. We can all improve and make progress. For example, I'm learning how to write code. I have no experience with it, and would never have entertained the thought to try it before. but I'm taking a chance on myself. I struggle with it daily, but I am making slow improvement and my brain is making new connections I never thought possible. "I can't do it", becomes "I can't do it.... yet."
What’s between our ears can make or break us, and we have the power to change the tape, and change the path, one encouraging word at a time, for ourselves and those whom we love, by working on developing a growth mindset. Failure leaves us open for new opportunities, and new directions.
Read 10 top quotes on failure from one very successful dyslexic entrepreneur, Richard Branson HERE
Author and entrepreneur Ben Foss is dyslexic and empowered. He understands the importance of accepting his own dyslexia, embracing it, and owning it. He wants dyslexic kids to do the same. Ben wants kids to see the strength in their dyslexia and understand it is not something to overcome or hide, but something to celebrate. It is a part of who they are; there is no shame.
Ben had the opportunity to speak candidly with Laura Kusnyer-Key of Understood on November 21, 2014 via live webinar. He spoke on why it's important for kids to own their dyslexia, use their tools, and play to their strengths. His message that he wants kids to experience less shame, and have more joy and confidence in their day to day lives resonated throughout the conversation. Focusing on what they can do, versus what they cannot, and learning effective self-advocacy skills, was at the core of his message.
Watch Ben describe his own experiences and offer some thoughts on how we can help our children to own their dyslexia.
Please meet Stacey Cavaglieri, the newest addition to our stellar volunteer team. Stacey will be covering the West Coast region and then some (hello Moutain Time Zoners!). Please give her a warm welcome on Facebook when you see posts coming in from California—and post on our wall or send private Facebook messsages if there are particular events or stories from your city that you would like us to highlight. Read on to hear more about Stacey and what she hopes to achieve for the dyslexia movement.
Stacey is a mom of two, Hailey (10) and Ryan (7). She lives in San Diego with her husband, Michael, and is currently at home raising her kids. Before starting a family, Stacey worked as a sign language interpreter and in a before-and-after-school care center.
Dyslexia was a part of Stacey long before she knew what the term even meant. As a child she was labeled a “slow learner,” but it was not until her daughter, Hailey, was identified in third grade that Stacey began to understand herself.
Growing up unidentified until adulthood gave Stacey great insight into how important the dyslexia movement is, not only for the next generation but also for adults who continue to wrestle with their own feelings of shame. When Stacey learned about Headstrong Nation and read Ben Foss’s book The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, she felt a big impact on her life. Ideas like “strengths not shame” and “Dyslexia is not a disease. It’s a community” began to shape her views on dyslexia. The notion that dyslexics are not broken, but simply learn differently, has lit the path for Stacey’s and her daughter’s journey.
Stacey’s goals are to help her daughter have better experiences than she did growing up and to teach her about the value of strengths over shame. She is passionate about encouraging other dyslexics to stand up and tell their stories, and hopes to educate and support families, adults, and teachers to bridge gaps and create community.
Stacey is excited to volunteer for Headstrong Nation and looks forward to opportunities to serve the dyslexic community.
Say hello to Headstrong Nation’s newly minted Facebook volunteers, Eileen Tait-Acker from Pennsylvania and Suzanne Edwards from Texas. Both Eileen and Suzanne have managed social media through their schools and organizations like Decoding Dyslexia. We are thrilled to have these two aboard so they can share their experiences as parents and leaders of the dyslexia movement. Also, we are still looking for a Facebook volunteer to represent the West Coast! It could be you! Learn more here.
Eileen is taking the helm of our East Coast activities, highlighting important news, events and activities happening in her region. If there are issues that you’d like to see us mention, please post to our Facebook page so Eileen can see and repost when appropriate.
Suzanne will be covering the Central region and will also look to fellow parents and leaders to help her cover important issues and stories that are relevant to the heartland.
We realize these “regions” are very large, and rounding up appropriate stories from every state may be a challenge in the beginning. That said, both Eileen and Suzanne will do their best to reflect the broadest scope possible.
Read on to hear more these two amazing women. Thank you Suzanne & Eileen for stepping up. (And to any West Coasters who are considering volunteering, get on it!)
The Headstrong Nation Team
Eileen is mom to David (16) and Evan (11).Evan is bright and dyslexic, one of those kids who didn't qualify for Special Education services in the public system, a child on the borderline between regular and Special Ed. Eileen withdrew him from public school and began teaching him at home through a public cyber charter school.Evan was re-evaluated a year later, and did qualify for services.Eileen spent the last four years as her son’s primary teacher and advocate.
Having gone through these experiences, Eileen decided to give back to her community by assisting other parents on the journey through dyslexia.It wasn't until after Evan was evaluated with a learning difference that Eileen and her husband realized how they, too, had struggled as children in the public school system of the 1970s. Neither got the kind of help they needed, and their unrecognized LDs affected their self-esteem, and every future academic and career choice they made.
"We felt like we were stupid, and we kept it all inside, not wantingto be revealed.We wanted Evan's experience to be different."
Eileen currently volunteers for Decoding Dyslexia PA. “It is my goal to prevent others from having to reinvent the wheel when it comes to getting help for their dyslexic children. If I can point someone in the right direction of supports and services, my job is done!”
Eileen's son Evan will transition to public middle school in the fall, now equipped with many self-advocacy skills. He enjoys ear-reading with Learning Ally books, loves to play games, paint, cook, bake, and be a good friend to others. As Eileen puts it, "Evan is a child who learns differently, and as we say in our household, ‘Different is Good!’”
Suzanne graduated with a BS in Education from Virginia Tech. After a career in teaching she worked as VP of Human Resources for an international acquisitions company.While both careers were incredibly rewarding, Suzanne found her passion when one of her sons was identified with dyslexia. Growing up she had always been told she, too, was probably dyslexic.
“There wasn’t much information on how to educate dyslexic learners back then.I just learned how to get by,” Suzanne says. “I figured out how to learn without reading the textbooks, because I knew it would take me too long to read them.”
When one of her sons was formally identified with dyslexia, her journey to fully understand the profile began.
“I sought out every resource I could find. I trained on the Orton Gillingham method, I attended workshops, I scoured the Internet. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. And, the more I learned how to help my son, the more I reflected on my own struggles throughout my own education.”
In her continued search for information, Suzanne came across a glowing recommendation for a book titled The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan. The thought of reading a book cover to cover was painful, but something drew her to dive in anyway. “The book changed my life, and truly gave me the power and the tools to help navigate my son's dyslexia journey. It opened my eyes to the ways in which my son will have access to information throughout his education. It made me realize he would not have to just 'get by' as I did. It gave me something unexpected as well. It lifted the guilt I had always had about being a terrible eye-reader, and gave me permission to embrace ear-reading, something I had always before seen as a ‘cop-out.’”
Suzanne lives in Dallas, TX with her husband, Roger, and two sons, Jack (13) and Sam (11).
Listen to Jeffrey share his experiences as a dyslexic leader within the US Coast Guard and his vision for the future. (The post below was only slightly edited & preserves Jeffrey's native tongue. Click here for an example of Headstrong Nation founder Ben Foss writing with his native (dyslexic) tongue)
How many of you remember sitting in “that seat”?
The seat the teacher puts you in so she can ignore your questions. The seat that gets a “D” no matter how bad you do. The seat that is out of the way so you don’t bother anyone. One thing never happens in that seat: learning. How many of you have sat in that seat?
I was held back twice from Kindergarten to out of 5th grade. After that the schools would no longer grade me correctly, but they didn’t want to fail me anymore, so I was just given Ds.
I hated school, but I hated it for a good reason. The school that was supposed to teach me reading, writing, and arithmetic, instead taught me to cheat, lie, and fight. I knew these things were wrong, and I hated the school and myself for this.
I was homeschooled by my stepdad for two years after dropping out after 8th grade. My reading was around first or second grade level and I could not spell at all before being homeschooled. I spelled ‘of,’ ‘ove,’‘to’ became ‘toow,’ and a note I wrote to my mom read: “I love you WOW!”
After school, I got married and joined the US Coast Guard. With my test scores, I barely made it in, and was called illiterate in boot camp. But my work said so much more, and I quickly advanced. As an E-5, E-6, and E-7, I was usually the youngest person in the unit to hold that rank, but still led those around me.
People say the military makes grate leaders, but that is not necessarily true. Very bad leaders can look like grate leaders when they can throw people in jail for not doing what they say. Good or bad is up to the individual. I found out I am a natural leader of people. The guys and gals that worked for me found my pride in them to be a great reword. They wanted to make me proud of them, and I usually was.
As an E-6, I was handpicked to teach Navy and Coast Guard Officers critical knowledge before going out to the fleet. As an E-7, I was chosen to WRITE the single most read document in the entire Coast Guard, the Enlisted Professional Military Education (EPME). While I was there I advanced to E-8, which put me in the top 2% of the Enlisted ranks. I should make E-9 in the next few years and this will put me in the top .2%. Although I did so poorly in school and had so many people betting against me, when I was working I was successful at almost everything I did. In the real world my dyslexia was a blessing not a curse.
When I get out of the Coast Guard I want to start a career in politics, focusing on education. Not to get concessions for dyslexics but to have the system change everything they know about dyslexia. I don’t think we should be taught to learn how book readers learn (yes, I mean taught to learn), but to be taught how dyslexics learn.
Take this scenario, for example: In a spelling test, you are asked to “spell the numbers in the mathematical term pi to the 5th decimal place.” If you get a number in the sequence wrong, you will get the whole question wrong even if it was spelled correctly. Would that be a fair assessment? If spelling problems were graded as if they were math problems, would it be fair to those who had trouble with math?
No. Then why is it fair to count answers wrong if they are spelled incorrectly in history, science, or literature classes? I don’t mind failing my spelling test because I can’t spell, but it is wrong to fail my history test because I can’t spell. I want to make spelling a subject and not an educational tool.
Even in state universities, the standards on papers are old and antiquated. I don’t think I wrote a paper in college that didn’t come back to me with a grade that reflected my technical ability to write more than my knowledge of the material. When this was pointed out to the instructor I was invariably told, “This is the way it’s done.”
Dyslexia is a larger community (~ 4 million) than the deaf and blind communities combined (~ 98,000). There are schools for the blind and schools for the deaf, so why aren’t there schools for dyslexics in every district? There are many publicly funded programs that cater to the needs of smaller groups than dyslexics, but these group differences are either easy to determine or the group has strong public awareness (e.g. autistic spectrum disorder & Down’s syndrome). Today no one would call a deaf or blind person dumb or a Down’s child retarded, but somewhere right now there is a kid being called stupid because s/he is dyslexic.
We need to get mad about this! We need to be mad that there are kids all over this country having their spirits broken by the ignorance of our society. It’s not okay to use the “N” word when referring to a black man or, as stated above, the “R” word when referring to a little Down’s girl and no one uses “deaf and dumb” for a mute person. So why is it ok to call a dyslexic child “Lazy, dense, slow or stupid”?
We need to flood our leaders and school boards and demand that they see us for who we are—individuals specially designed to lead, think, and innovate. Dyslexics can be the gratest human resource this country has discovered. All we need is to be correctly taught the fundamentals and we will create everyone’s future.
We need to start voting dyslexic. Ask your representative if they are dyslexic. Ask if there is a dyslexic in their family. If they are dyslexic or have a close personal understanding of our issues, let this influence how you vote. It is ok to vote for people who know what it is to struggle.
“It is the theory which decides what we can observe.”
— Albert Einstein
Tell everyone you know that you are dyslexic. Write on blogs and comment on articles you find interesting. Share your insight and label what you write as “opinion of a dyslexic.”
The world needs to know we are here, and as soon as they do they will want to know if their doctor is a dyslexic or if their CEO is a dyslexic or if their president is a dyslexic. We have been fallowing way to long—we were meant to lead. Make these thoughts your theory and the world will observe you as you are: a great person gifted with dyslexia!
5. One extra sidebar on dyslexia
We must not allow those in the educational system to tell us that eye-reading is the true sign of intellect. If discovery is inventing the wheel, intelligence is using that wheel in a practical manner, and education is passing that knowledge forword so it does not die with you. Before Gutenberg, dyslexics did all of these. We were the inventers, the holders of intelligence, and the educators of those that came after us.
A person can lead at most 10 people, any more than that and you are leading leaders. Before books, society would have needed about 15% of people to have the ability to learn by word of mouth and pass this knowledge on to the next generation the same way. Dyslexics make up 10-20% of society so we could have naturally fit into this category, becoming the leaders of communities, as well as the doctors, lawyers, scientists, and engineers.