learning disability


Photo of Nancy J. Hammill Cooper Learning Center With teeshirt which says This is what dyslexia looks like

As a dyslexic adult, Nancy Hammill makes a difference in the lives of others everyday. Here’s her story.

The Cheese Stands Alone

My earliest memory of school is from kindergarten when we played the Farmer and the Dell.  I was chosen last, so I had to be the cheese. I stood alone in a circle as my peers holding hands, skipped around me singing

“The cheese stands alone.

The cheese stands alone.

Hi-ho, the derry-o.

The cheese stands alone.”

It turned out to be a metaphor for my school career and how I felt around others during those years.  I always felt awkward, frustrated, filled with self-doubt, and standing alone.

I only made marginal progress with reading and writing throughout second, third, fourth, and fifth grade.  I had trouble telling time and learning math facts. I mispronounced sounds and words, and went to speech class.  I failed spelling tests and math tests. I had poor fine motor skills and sat in the lowest reading group everyday. Although I wasn’t formally diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD until graduate school, my father (who is dyslexic) was aware that my learning difficulties were not a result of IQ or motivation.  The school’s position was that I wasn’t trying hard enough.  

Kept Back

At the end of fifth grade, my parents decided to have me repeat the grade in hopes to have me catch up with my peers. This was an extremely difficult decision for my parents, but after years of battling with the school and seeing their child struggle they felt like it was the only option. I was devastated. All summer long, I would wait until we were in the car and would let loose about how they were ruining my life.  I was a beast.  Honestly, I am surprised I made it to the fall without them wringing my neck.  

Mrs. Mary Jane Nauss, my fifth grade teacher, was dynamic, creative, and was the first teacher to ever like me.  My parents felt like she was my only hope, lucky they were right!   She formed the exclusive Phonics Club, membership one - me.  I met with her after school everyday for two years.  Mrs. Nauss with her high-heels, diet coke and quirky humor, armed with a bounty of snacks, taught me the code.  Although I wasn’t cured, not even close, Mrs. Nauss’s nurturing put me on the path of success.

Pressure to Succeed

During high school and college, I became hyper-focused on succeeding, a quest to prove I was smart.   Succeeding at school defined my self-worth and my intelligence.  It was extremely difficult. I did not receive any services, supports, or accommodations.  I had a lot of shame and self-doubt. I feared that people would see me as defective if I came out needing help.  I did it all with flashcards, hours of studying, and hounding my professors.   I put a great deal of pressure on myself.  I wasn’t emotionally healthy, suffering from perfectionism and anxiety attacks.  However, I performed well.  I even became a National Officer of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and traveled around the United States talking to college students.  It was like living a double life.

Inclusion Benefits All

In the 1990’s, I became involved in the Inclusion movement during a college internship.  Its philosophy was embedded in Civil rights – that the general education system needed to be more inclusive, to better serve all students.  It was empowering.  It flipped the script for me.  Instead of believing in a one-size fits all classroom, the inclusion movement embraced the idea that schools could accommodate and educate differences.  I marched on Washington D.C..  I decided I should become a teacher.  I accepted a job in education and went to graduate school at night.  At 24 years old, I mustered the courage to get formally tested.  I was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD.  I received my first accommodation on my teacher state exam.

Strength from Weakness

I think many of my strengths, like my weaknesses, are directly linked to my learning disabilities.   My struggles have made me empathetic, organized, and a constant problem-solver, whether I want to be or not. However, I think my greatest strength is  my tenacity and “stick to it- iveness”.  I am like a dog with a bone when I put my mind to something.  I never quit on a goal.  I totally believe that if you work long enough and hard enough there isn’t a goal you won’t eventually meet.  To believe is a power that no force on earth can stop. That being said, I still struggle with self-doubt – that I am not smart enough.  It is something that I need to frequently put into check.

Effective Life Hacks

The luxury of being an adult is that you can craft your life to your strengths and interests – and I have done just that.  Also, technology really helps my organization and writing.  However, I still frequently stump spell check.   I think my most effective life hack is good old-fashioned kindness.  I learned long ago that people are more forgiving and more likely to help people they like.  At work, I am a team player.  I give freely, try to support others, and reserve judgment.  It creates the type of relationships that allows me to ask for help.  Let’s face it, if you are dyslexic there are times you need an editor!

A Message to Adult Dyslexics

Accept yourself and the beautiful brain that has been given to you.  Take the time understand your strengths and vulnerabilities.  With your team, prepare a list of reasonable accommodations that support you, bring the list with you to college and pursue these accommodations.  It will take self-advocacy skills and confidence to effectively get the help you may need.  Don’t be ashamed!   Accept that you may have different educational needs than your friends without learning and/or attention problems, and that is okay.  Then go for your dreams…

Photo of Nancy J. Hammill, Cooper Learning Center, from Linkedin photos

My Work at Cooper Learning Center

After receiving a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Bank Street School of Education in New York City, I began teaching in Montclair, New Jersey.   I taught grades 3 through 5, both inclusion team teaching and resource room.  When my husband and I relocated to Southern New Jersey, I accepted a job as a learning therapist for the Cooper Learning Center.  As part of Cooper University Hospital’s Department of Pediatrics, the Cooper Learning Center is distinguished as the region’s only child-learning program affiliated with a university-level medical center. I have developed extensive training in Orton Gillingham, Lindamood-Bell®, Project Read, a certified Teacher Expectation Student Achievement (TESA) trainer, and a Certified Self-Regulation Alert Program Leader.  For the last decade, I have provided literacy remediation in public and private schools.  I was honored to be the recipient of the 2016 National Learning Disabilities Educator of the Year Award, presented by the Learning Disability Association of America, as well as asked to serve on the New Jersey Board of the International Dyslexia Association.  It’s been a remarkable year.

Nancy J. Hammill Cooper Learning Center Read Across America Day pictured from Left Elliott Sikes, Nancy J. Hammill and Liam Gonzalez

Pictured from left, Elliott Sikes, Nancy J. Hammill, and Liam Gonzales - Read Across America Day.

I love that my position allows me to draw upon my professional expertise and my firsthand experience with dyslexia to help people of all ages overcome their learning challenges to achieve success. With time my responsibilities evolved to include adult education.  As Cooper Learning Center’s Professional Development Coordinator, I design and facilitate research-based literacy trainings and coaching opportunities for schools and educators. I also develop community programs, making a difference for families navigating their own educational journeys.  One of my proudest accomplishments with Cooper Learning Center has been designing and implementing a professional conference, Facets of Dyslexia, in my region of New Jersey on Dyslexia. The goal for establishing the conference was to provide access to quality information and promote a deeper understanding of Dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities to my community.  I feel extremely lucky to be doing the work I do… everyday I work with people making a difference in the lives of others.  It doesn’t get better than that in my opinion.

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your story with us!  

Photo of Kellie Green by photographer Kellie Elmore


My Teachers Didn’t Think There Was Anything Wrong with Me.

It was always hard for me to keep up with other students but all my teachers didn't think there was anything wrong with me because I was a good student. I turned my work in on time, I listened in class, and I answered questions when called on.

Kellie Green with family


I was told I had dyslexia.

Things started to get really bad in the 4th grade when I was told that I had Dyslexia. I think my mom (who is an occupational therapist) knew before I was diagnosed but she wanted to be sure. We also learned that my dad and little brother have dyslexia as well. I was evaluated and given the diagnosis of "learning disabled". I have an ISP which stands for Individualized Service Plan because I go to a private school. The schools that I have been in haven't really helped me. My grade school tried but they didn't really understand what was going on but they did try hard to help.

 Photo of Kellie and three friends dressed up for dance/occasion

Middle School was Hard. My last year of High School is the Hardest.

My middle school years were hard but I pushed through. The hardest year is my last year of high school (this year) because they do not want to help me. When I have offered to do whatever it takes to help them understand my dyslexia they haven't been open to listening. They keep telling me to read more and I should get better. They also do not understand what ear reading is, at all. My high school has changed the resource teacher that was working with me to another person that they make work at lunch and not help other kids. They also don't try to help me when I really need it. They are really set in their ways and they are not open to little changes.

Photo of Kellie and classmates, group shot

My Challenges, Tools, and Strengths

Texting and emailing people is challenging for me. Emailing is more for people like places I would like to work and teachers. Texting is hard for any person I am texting. My close friends usually understand what I am trying to say. Some of the tools I use which help me are Read 2 Go, Notability, Textgrabber, Voice Dream, and istudiez pro.  My IPad and iPhone have been life savers! One of my strengths is my ability to understand people.  I have helped a lot of friends’ work through hard times.  Also, my creativity is a strength. My hobbies and passions include acting, music, reading, being with people, my pets and so much more.

Photo of Kellie Green and a friend sitting at table

Moving Forward

I plan on getting my degree in Mortuarial Science at Kansas City Community College. 

My message to others?  Know that it does get better, and if you fight for what you need you will get it.


Many thanks to Kellie for sharing her story with us!  All the best to you Kellie, Class of 2016!  Keep us posted on your progress in college and beyond! 

A special thank you to Kellie's aunt, also a "Kellie", Kellie Elmore,  Professional Photographer from When I Grow Up Photography, for permission to use the great photos submitted! - http://www.whenigrowupphotography.com/ 

Do you have a story to tell?  Want to share it with us?  If you are an adult dyslexic age 18+ and would like to share your story living as an adult with dyslexia please contact us at info@headstrongnation.org.  You can discuss your strengths and your struggles, any dyslexic hacks you'd like to share, your favorite assistive technology, and how you "Own" your dyslexia.  Your story may inspire another person to share theirs too!


We'd like to invite you to donate to Headstrong Nation.  We need your help to fulfull our mission for the adult dyslexic.  DONATE HERE

Like us on Facebook,  Follow us on TwitterPinterestYouTube, and Instagram.   Thanks for your support!  - The Headstrong Nation Team






Photo of two children's chairs designed by Dane Jensen

Memories of School

Among my earliest memories growing up in Seattle, was as a grade school student, being taken by my teacher to the library. I couldn’t read and must have been holding the rest of the class back.

When we got to the library, another woman met us outside the library and the two women began discussing why we were there. Even though the two of them thought that I either couldn’t hear or couldn’t understand their discussion, I distinctly heard one of them say, “This is a case of mild to moderate retardation”. I pretended not to have heard as they ushered me into the large library room and sat me down amongst a group of children. Several were hydrocephalics, many were mentally and physically challenged. None were “normal” as I thought I was to that point. I don’t remember how many days I spent in that classroom, but the damage was done. From that point on, I vowed to myself never to trust anyone, or to let anyone get to know me, for fear of being “discovered”. It was me against the world. I became elusive, and said very little to anyone until I felt comfortable that my retardation wouldn’t be verbalized or confirmed. 

The middle child in a family of five boys, I was basically on my own from the age of three, when my parents, in a last attempt to have a girl, had twin boys. My father was a surgeon, my mother, an only child who ended up with, at one point, four boys under the age of five. So, somewhat understandably, I received no support from my family. I was the big disappointment; always with bad grades, always in trouble for some reason, and unable to retain the facts to win in an argument. 

Photo of auditorium seating by Dane Jensen

A War Ends.  So does College... with Mixed Emotions

Fast forward to age 21. It’s 1973, and the war in Vietnam just ended. Finally, I knew that I would not be drafted into the army. Staying in school (university), to that point, was only to avoid being sent to the war. I dropped out with mixed emotions; glad to have the agony of school behind me, but knowing that I could do better.

I could barely read, and I graduated from high school by the skin of my teeth. I was fairly talented with right brain activities such as drafting, geometry, art and design, but math was a nightmare and I flunked algebra hands down. To this day, I don’t know my multiplication tables. Sometimes the class clown, I also diverted attention away from me by being a good liar (or so I thought), or I used other somewhat devious techniques. I adopted any means necessary to aid in my survival.

In college, I must have set a record for the most times on academic probation. I just didn’t get it! I knew on some level that I wasn’t stupid, but I just couldn’t seem to operate as others did. There were flashes of brilliance… or at least competence, but then everything would come crashing down! All of this only helped to reinforce my chronically crippled sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Black Chair - Dane Jensen Design

Work, Relationships and Teaching Myself to Read

I have worked since the age of 13. I was gone every summer working on a ranch or up in Alaska and I worked my way through high school and college sometimes by holding down two or three jobs to make my way. I had no help from family, student loans, etc.  It never occurred to me back then how extraordinary that was for someone so young. It was all I knew and it reinforced my aloofness.

The next ten years of my life were spent as a carpenter and manual laborer, then a general contractor.  This fit in with my thought that maybe this was all I was capable of, but my total inability with numbers proved to be insurmountable. I worked very hard to the point of physical ill health. I enjoyed the creative/visual side of my work but not the business side. If I had not had a friend back then who committed suicide, I might very well have done the same myself. The world was a totally unnurturing place to me at that period in my life.

I moved from one romantic relationship to another during those years. I felt I had no choice but to move on as the women in my life began to get to know me. I still couldn’t risk being “discovered”. Believe me, fear of commitment was not the issue! I know I hurt some people, but it was even harder on me! During this time, I taught myself how to read by using a geometric/ relative parts of the whole approach of my own design. It has taken many years, but now I am an avid reader.

Wood Chair designed by Dane F. Jensen

Higher Education and Pivotal Moments

In 1983, at the age of 30, and ten years after I dropped out of school, I re-entered university study with the belief that I deserved better and that I was capable of more.  I really don’t know how I mustered up the self-confidence to take on additional schooling! During my first year, I saw a notice about an event on dyslexia at the school. I attended not really thinking it was relevant to me.

A holistic doctor asked for a volunteer and I raised my hand. He proceeded with a demonstration in Applied kinesiology for which I became the subject.  Applied Kinesiology is the study of the electrical energy in the body- it’s surpluses and its deficits. As I was instructed to raise my arm, the doctor gently pushed down with 2 fingers after he said, “now hold”. My arm moved very little. Then he wrote an “X” on a blackboard. He said, “concentrate on this”, then “now hold”, and pushed with his 2 fingers. I couldn’t even hold my arm up when he pushed lightly. He tried other symbols, some strengthening, others weakening. He explained that the “X” is a weakening symbol to dyslexics. “They don’t totally understand why” he said, “but if it’s true, you have a severe case of it”, he said to me.

Wooden dining chair designed by Dane F. Jensen

This was a pivotal moment in my life. I realize that Applied Kinesiology is a controversial topic and certainly not a mainstream science based discipline. I would not recommend it to anyone as a definitive diagnostic tool. It did however alert me to the fact that more testing needed to be done. I subsequently underwent testing with a psychologist in Los Angeles, and testing with an educational specialist in Denmark. With a confirmation of learning difficulties, (dyslexia; dyscalculia & ADD were suspected), I went through an entire metamorphosis. It began with emotional upheaval… including lashing out at my parents, the Seattle public schools, and our educational system in general, to reading all I could get my hands on about the subject. Unfortunately, the “wisdom” at that time, (the early 80’s), seemed to be that it is geometrically more and more difficult to “overcome” dyslexia past the fourth grade.  I was told by several special education teachers and administrators trained in the area of dyslexia, “you’d better do the best you can with what you have.” I will never settle for this advice.

The effect of having a confirmation of my dyslexia was life changing. Finally, there was a word, a condition, a reason for my frustrating disorientation and lack of self-confidence. I began to forgive myself and give myself permission to venture out into the world and discover who I was and who I could become.

It took me three years to achieve an undergraduate degree from UC Davis in environmental design, a degree I achieved with honors. I also received a fellowship for research I undertook at UC Davis. I worked in San Francisco on Fridays and on the weekends, and studied Danish at UC Berkley two mornings a week in anticipation of graduate work in Denmark the following year. I did subsequently study furniture Design and interior architecture in Denmark at the Royal Academy of Art and Architecture, and at the School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark. I then worked for a time there as an architect until my residency permit ran out.

Returning to the US, I could not find work to save myself. I ended up conducting a feasibility study for US Aid on manufacturing furniture in Honduras, C.A. for export to the US under the Caribbean Basin Joint Venture Initiative. US Aid reneged on their agreement with me and I was never paid.

photo of cabinetry designed by Dane F. Jensen

Searching for the Right Fit

I returned to Seattle and still was unable to find work. I moved to Los Angeles to work as a project manager in construction. A year later, I was recruited to study and teach at UCLA in Industrial design. Although difficult, I managed to finance my education in Los Angeles while teaching for a meager salary. I worked on movie sets, took on freelance design work, and built custom furniture in the shop at school.  I received my MA in Industrial Design in 1990, and continued to teach in the department for two more years. At this time, UCLA closed its Department of Design.  I spent several years looking for and applying for teaching positions without success.

Since that time, I have had several short-term jobs working for a variety of companies for very low wages. None of these utilized my education and / or experience. I have never found gainful employment in any field, perhaps due to the fact that I was too old to enter the job market in my 40’s when I was done with my education.

Another possibility is the chronic unemployment or underemployment dyslexics tend to experience due to various factors too long to go into here. In education I believe, the catch 22 of not having had continuous employment prevented me from procuring teaching jobs. And now in this world of the near totally computer oriented job market, it is as if I am an alien from another world. Due to dyscalculia and my visually oriented thought process, I remain in some ways, in the world of isolation that I created when I was a young boy.

I make my living at present by designing and building furniture, cabinetry, interior remodeling, and other design / build projects. Because of my spouse, Mary with whom I have discovered that total openness is a good and healthy thing, I can ask her and others for help with numbers and business problems and no longer risk being “discovered”.

Photo of Dane F. Jensen

Moving Forward and Making a Difference

I act as an advocate for children with dyslexia, and I’ve served on the board for a school for dyslexic children. I have a certificate in nonprofit management and continuously seek positions with nonprofits. I hope to start a nonprofit in the support of dyslexics and their families. In the mean time, I am researching teaching methodologies for dyslexics, and legal avenues that will necessitate that our educational paradigm include effective special education for dyslexics.

I believe that there are as many ways to take in information as there are people, and until we learn to respect these differences and realize that we can all learn and grow as a result, we will continue to experience foreshortenings of our cultural, intellectual and spiritual possibilities.

Metal leaf/floral design pendant by Dane F. Jensen

At 63, I am a bit resigned, and saddened by my lack of ability to have fit in to the mainstream of society. But I am also proud of my accomplishments. I have made my own way in life, and I continue to attempt to make a difference in the lives of others. I have learned that I must take responsibility for myself, and for my life, and not wallow in what might have been. I also choose and try not to live with negativity or cynicism. Even in the darkest of times, there has always been a glimmer of hope and optimism that has left the door open for new opportunities. Giving up has never really been an option. I believe success and fulfillment are always attainable.

I continue to educate myself by taking classes such as jewelry making, nonprofit management, autobiography writing, and I occasionally assist in teaching a furniture design studio at the University of Washington.    



Thank you very much Dane, for sharing your story with our community.  

You can see more of Dane's functional and beautiful work on his websitehttp://www.dfjensen.com/


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Dyslexia Awareness comes to St. Croix, USVI

2015 Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference – St. Croix, USVI

Achieve the Impossible hosted the 2015 Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference on November 13-15, 2015. Mrs. Juliet Thomas-Arthurton, President and Founder of Achieve the Impossible,  Dr. Tracy Johnson, Vessels of Hope Founder/CEO, dyslexia advocate, and Headstrong Nation Fellow along with Apostle Patricia Phillips, Evangelist, Founder and President of It’s Not Always Autism Tijuana Lane participated in the event.  

Attendees at the event listened to the three keynote speakers as they presented definitions, characteristics of, and additional information on individuals with learning differences and the challenges and barriers that they face. They also discussed the tools and strategies needed for those with learning differences to help them to thrive and become successful.

Flyer from Learning Disabilities conference in St Croix Nov 13 and 14 2015                                                                                                                                                    

Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference November 13th and 14th – St. Croix, USVI - Keynote Speakers: Apostle Patricia A. Phillips, Evangelist Tijuana Lane and Dr. Tracy Johnson. (Dr Rahmanda Campbell, pictured in flyer above, was unable to attend conference).

Dr. Tracy Johnson speaking to group at conference

Dr. Tracy Johnson sharing her experiences as a dyslexic.

Dr. Johnson discussed her own powerful testimony and how after receiving evidence-based multisensory Orton – Gillingham influenced remediation as a young adult she was able to attend college and obtain a number of advanced education degrees leading her to her current teaching career at Harcum College.

Photo of attendees at Learning Disabilities Conference in St. Croix

Group photo of attendees and presenters at the 2015 Learning Disabilities Awareness Conference in St. Croix, USVI

The Message and What Was Learned

The message at the conference was one of hope.  Some of the important points which the participants learned were: 

  • Having a learning difference does not mean that you are dumb.  It means that you learn differently and need specific supports and tools to enable you to thrive.
  • When it comes to teaching children how to read, one size does not fit all, and instruction should be differentiated based on the specific needs of each child. 

photo of Zion arthurton  at computer at conferenceJoshua Arthurton at dyslexia awareness conference          

         Two bright and curious young men in attendance. From left, Jeremy (Ziyon) Arthurton and Joshua Arthurton. 
  • Needed services and supports can be very costly and it’s important for dyslexics and parents of dyslexics alike to serve as advocates for change to effect change and to begin a dialog with representatives on the local and federal levels on the need to address dyslexia and related learning disabilities. 

Juliet Thomas-Arthurton photo speaking at Learning Disabilites conference

Mrs. Juliet Thomas-Arthurton, President and Founder of Achieve the Impossible Inc, and The director and coordinator of the 2015 Learning Disability Awareness Conference in St. Croix, USVI, speaking to attendees.
  • It’s important to join existing support groups along with other parents all over the United States and to consider creating a new local group, as parents share many of the same concerns.
  • With the proper instruction and support, dyslexic individuals of all ages are capable of doing great things! 

Information is power and St. Croix needs more!

Juliet Arthurton, the president and Founder of Achieve the Impossible Inc., and the Director and coordinator of the conference, acknowledges that more information on dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, CAPD and other learning disabilities needs to be shared with those in St. Croix to continue to raise the level of awareness of parents, educators and individuals living with these conditions.

The following link will take to a page on our website listing some general definitions and many useful links to organizations which provide information and resources on dyslexia. We hope that this information will help you as a starting point on your journey. - http://headstrongnation.org/list-dyslexia-and-other-related-ld-resources

What’s Next?

The response to the conference was very positive, and Dr. Johnson is looking forward to returning to St. Croix sometime in March, 2016 for part two of the conference!  She is pleased that Dr. Rahmanda Campbell, CEO of the Learning Clinic Inc., who was originally slated to be a keynote speaker, but was unable to attend, will get an opportunity to join this second event. 

Apostle Patricia Phillips, Evangelist Tijuana Lane, and Dr. Tracy Johnson posing for camera at WCVI - TV 23  studio

Apostle Patricia A. Phillips, Pastor and Founder of Nothing but the Word Deliverance Church, Florence NJ, Evangelist Tijuana Lane, President and Founder of It’s Not Always Autism, and Dr. Tracy Johnson, CEO and Founding President of Vessels of Hope, Inc.

Evangelist Tijuana Lane, Mrs. Juliet Thomas Arthurton, Apostle Patricia Phillips and Dr. Tracy Johnson Photo

Evangelist Tijuana Lane, Mrs. Juliet Thomas -Arthurton, Apostle Patricia A. Phillips and Dr. Tracy Johnson, CEO Vessels of Hope. 

Photo shoot of group at WCVI TV 23 Pastor Virginia Ventura of Miracle Revival Deliverance Tabernacle Church, Ms.Patricia Sage, Apostle Patricia A Phillips, Evangelist Tijuanna Lane, Dr. Tracy Johnson, Mr. Christopher Millette,General Manager of WCVI-TV23 and Mrs. Juliet Thomas-Arthurton. )

Photo Shoot at WCVI-TV23, the only ChristianTV & Family Broadcasting Station in St.Croix Virgin Island. Pastor Virginia Ventura of Miracle Revival Deliverance Tabernacle Church, Ms.Patricia Sage, Apostle Patricia A Phillips, Evangelist Tijuana Lane, Dr. Tracy Johnson, Mr. Christopher Millette, General Manager of WCVI-TV23, and Mrs. Juliet Thomas-Arthurton.

Great job to all in continuing to spread awareness to those living in St. Croix and beyond!

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.  

Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  If you would like to help us to fulfill our mission, please consider donating to Headstrong Nation HERE 

Thank You! ~ The Headstrong Nation Team 


Jim McCarthy realized that his true passion was found in creating art.  He’s a self-taught artist, and is currently pursuing a degree in art at Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork, Ireland. Jim agreed to collaborate on an interview for Headstrong Nation and the following are responses to questions about his life, both past and present, as a creative dyslexic man on a mission to spread awareness and change how dyslexia is viewed by the public.


photo of artist Jim McCarthy with paintings

(Artist Jim McCarthy in his studio - Copyright,  Jimmy McCarthy - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

Early Years.

My early years in school were very challenging and not a very pleasant experience. Corporal punishment was very prevalent, and I often found myself on the receiving end. I don’t think dyslexia or other SpLDs were fully understood. There wasn’t any specific help given to a person with dyslexia at that time. I enjoyed certain aspects of school, but always wanted to leave and find a job as early as possible. I left school at the age of 14/15 and then worked in construction for over 30 years as a carpenter/joiner.

Jim McCarthy's sculpture entitled fighting with words- Sculpted image of man cut out of pages in a book arms raised in fighting stance             Portrait of a grieving mother wearing veil, dust covered             painting of antique Morris automobile entitled "Redundant Morris" by Jim Mccarthy

(From left: Fighting With Words - Medium: Paper Sculpture, Grieving Mother  - Oil on Canvas 40cm x 40cm,  and Redundant Morris - Oil on Linen 240mm x 300mm - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

Self Evaluation and Higher Education.

In 2012 due to a major recession in Ireland, I found myself out of work for the first time. I applied for jobs in everything I could, but never had any luck in securing long-term work as the lowest qualification for work in factories was a degree. Looking at my skills, I decided that the best path to get a degree would be in the arts. I have always had a passion for art. In order to achieve my goal of getting accepted into art college. I first had to attend a college of further education due to my leaving school so young. I found I was strong in the practical subjects, but found the academic subjects to be a serious challenge for me.

Inspiration and Information.

After about two months, I attended a lecture and viewed a documentary about the artist Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg spoke openly about his dyslexia. I could relate to everything he had to say. After this lecture I went and spoke to staff at the disability support service, who sent me for an educational psychology assessment. The assessment confirmed that I had specific learning disabilities that significantly affected my ability to access the college curriculum. The psychologist congratulated me, stating my IQ was well above average and this was probably the reason why I wasn’t identified earlier.

Painting entitled The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

(The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - (What do you see?)  - Oil on Canvas 200mm Diameter - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com )

The Truth Can Set You Free.  The Education System Let Me Down.

Truthfully, I suppose I always knew I was different and suspected I had dyslexia. When I got the results, I found the information freeing and liberating. It was like my past life made sense and everything fitted together. In addition to feeling liberated by understanding my dyslexia, I also felt angry and betrayed by the education system because it had not acknowledged that picture thinking people learn differently than linear thinking people. I had only wished that all of my old teachers were there to witness the results. After figuring out how I learned, I used this information to study my academic subjects.  At the end of my time at this college, I had achieved top grades and was later accepted as a 2nd year direct entry student into a Fine Art Degree course at Crawford College of Art and Design.


Daily Challenges and The Need for Public Awareness of Dyslexia.

As an adult with dyslexia, I have found that there are still major challenges for me. I have found that society and education systems are designed specifically for the linear thinker. I believe it is essential for the public to be educated about dyslexia as this would help to alleviate any misconceptions. Dyslexia is not just about reading or writing. Dyslexic people tend to have a different perspective of the world. They have a gift of viewing problems from multiple angles. I find I can visualize the end product and most of the time, foresee any problems that might occur, even before any work has begun.

Tools I Use. 

I use certain tools to help me work more efficiently. I use Dragon Dictate, Read and Write Gold and a LiveScribe Pen . I would recommend any of these to help dyslexics. Because I am a visual learner, I also use documentaries to learn the information I need.

Hand cut image of a distorted fountain entitled Distorted Fountain by artist Jim Mccarthy

Distorted Fountain - Hand Cut Image - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com

Art as a Constant and a Solace.

Art has always been a constant part of my life, and no matter what life had to throw at me, it has been my solace. My earliest memories of doing art are when I lived with my grandparents, sitting at their kitchen table drawing what I saw in books or around me. Later while going to school I would get disciplined by teachers for drawing on my copybooks or school books.

Frustration - Holism Art painting of man covering his ears screaming out in frustration by Artist Jim McCarthy

(Frustration - Oil on Canvas 405 x 557 - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com) 

Holism Art and Concepts as Related to Dyslexia.

“Holism Art” is a name I came up with for my art. People with dyslexia think and view the world holistically and are primarily picture thinkers. Rather than using self-talk (words, sentences, or internal dialogue), they specialize in mental or sensory imagery. This method of thinking is subliminal. Since dyslexic people think in pictures or imagery, they tend to use global logic and reasoning strategies. looking at the big picture to understand the world around them. Thinking primarily with images, dyslexic people also tend to develop very strong imaginations. They use a picture or feeling based reasoning process to solve problems rather than a verbal one. If they are at first confused (or intrigued), they will mentally move around an object and look at it from different viewpoints or angles. From this thought process, they develop many unique abilities and talents. For this reason and others, I believe ‘Holism Art’ is the appropriate name for my art.

Painting of English Market - Cork            Painting of Paul Street by Artist Jim McCarthy

 (From left: Margadh Bearla, Sraid an Phrionsa, Corcaigh 2011 (English Market, Princes St., Cork) -  Oil on Canvas 20" x 24", and Sraid Pholl,                                    Corcaigh 2011 (Paul Street, Cork)  - Oil on Canvas 20" x 24"- artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com

The Power of Art and  Success as an Artist.

Art is more than something on a wall or a sculpture, it has the power to change things and bring joy.  Art can also start a discussion and educate.  If you can gain some material wealth, experience job satisfaction and also help to change a person's outlook on life or help highlight an injustice, what more can you ask for of life?  When I conceive an idea for a piece I never consider whether it will be successful or not. My first protocol is the concept and if it’s relevant to me. The second is how relevant it is to the world in which I live. Thirdly, do I have an emotional contact with the piece?

Of course it would be a dream come true to be a successful artist and to have a steady income to support my family. I have had a certain amount of success in which I have sold my art and have received commissions. I've also had my work in group exhibitions in Ireland and Brittany in France and have pieces in private and corporate collections in Ireland, England, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, New Zealand and United States. All of this has been achieved with no formal education in the arts.

Some of my art is inspired by my own life experiences. By using myself, I hope not to offend others. Many dyslexics can relate to this work and its emotional content. Through my work I have highlighted the injustices and discrimination against dyslexics and have been successful in creating discussion to challenge misconceptions.

After setting up my website earlier this year, I received thousands of views and much feedback from dyslexics, parents, families and friends of dyslexics from around the world. Some of my work has been used for educational purposes and through this work I have spoken to teenagers who dropped out of school early and are now going to return to college.  If I had been told in 2011, while still working in construction, that I would find myself out of work, that I would return to college to pursue a degree, and that my art would help in some small way to change the perception of dyslexia, I would never have believed this.
What the future looks like.

Painting of Craftsman's Tools on table entitled "The Craftsman's Tools" by artist Jim McCarthy
(The Craftsman's Tools -  Acrylic on MDF 455mm x 400mm -  artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

It is quite hard for me to think of the future, as like many dyslexics I have a problem with the concept of time. Since 2012, I have found myself back in the alien world of academia, where each day brings new challenges. I hope to achieve my goal of getting a degree, but where this will lead, I’m unsure! I really hope that along the way some doors will open for me and I might get that lucky break of becoming a successful artist. If not, I hope to secure a permanent job and continue making art as I have done previously. No matter what the outcome, I will continue to promote the positives of dyslexia through my art.

I believe it is very important for anyone who may be having problems or falling behind in school to get an educational psychology assessment. Because I really do believe dyslexia is a learning difference. Getting assessed for dyslexia has opened up a new world to me. Understanding and acknowledging my dyslexia and why I have to work so hard to achieve, has given me a better understanding of myself.

I think dyslexic people will always have to work harder to achieve in the linear world. However, with advancing technology and the help of science this may become an easier process in the future. Science, with the help of MRI scans, has proven that the dyslexic brain is different and is wired differently. Dyslexia is an invisible disability which needs to be understood completely, and until this occurs discrimination will continue against a portion of the population. Society needs holistic viewing people to enhance the world and help in the future of our society.

Jim McCarthy, September, 2015

Jim created a video entitled -This Apple Doesn’t Fall Too Far From The Tree - (SpLDs and what can happen), illustrating  what can occur if Specific Learning Disabilities (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia/DCD, ADHD, 2e-Twice Exceptional) are not identified early and whose needs are not met.


You can view Jim's uniquely personal and meaningful artwork and read his blog HERE.  


Please LIKE us on Facebook and FOLLOW us on Twitter.  Thank You!  The Headstrong Nation Team

Note:  The following letter was submitted by a member of the Headstrong Nation community who would prefer to remain anonymous at this time. The writer discusses personal experiences living with a learning disability, and the desire to be a part of an inclusive and supportive community of other adults with dyslexia/LD.  We appreciate this writer's honesty and willingness to share with us. - Eileen, Headstrong Nation

Photo of cloud with text: The learning disability I didn't understand

(Photo Credit: Eileen Tait-Acker)

Hi Eileen,

So I feel like I need to start with this; I hope this doesn't change anything but I need to clear something up. I am not Dyslexic. I have an auditory information processing disability. Whether it is appropriate or not other LD's get lumped into Dyslexia quite often (my guess is because it's the most common LD). One of the things I have learned through reading or listening to other people with an LD is that we all share similar "symptoms", experiences and feelings.

It has never been easy for me to talk about my Learning Disability (as I'm sure others have found the same) so know that I have taken a breath and am walking really far out of my comfort zone in doing this.

Although my mother was aware of my Learning Disability (and a speech impediment) when I was a child and teenager I did not know about or understand it the way I believe I should have. I was in my twenties before I got another diagnosis and then fully learned about and understood my LD. We could have an entire conversation about the negative feelings I have about that. But it is definitely why I'm so adamant about parents telling and helping kids to understand theirs as young as possible.

My inquiry to you about including personal stories to the website came about for two reasons; first because over the years since my (adult) diagnosis I have found that many LD organizations, 'experts', people giving LD advice usually talk about us instead of to us. To parents instead of the child with the LD. Speaking to adults with an LD seems to be even rarer (Or letting them speak for themselves). To me it seems the LD adult experience on any topic has been rare. (That is one of the reasons I like Headstrong Nation so much). :)   Or everyone written about is a success story. Do A, B and C and your Learning Disabled child's school and later life will be a breeze. (Oh ok…) I have never understood those things. And I have always hated them. The other reason I asked about direct personal stories came out of frustration. Feeling frustrated one day last week I wrote my history on one topic. I've attached that experience about my life.

I always find it interesting and a little troublesome that LD organizations and others in the LD community concentrate so much on school. It’s important of course, and when you’re a child or to parents it seems like everything but the truth is more of our lives are spent as adults than the twelve (or sixteen with college) years that we spend in school.  A learning disability (of any type) doesn’t go away; you just become an adult with a Learning Disability. And “symptoms” come with you (along with long held thoughts and feelings about yourself). Those things don’t seem to be addressed much.

Lower grade school through high school were difficult and trying and awful in numerous ways for me (yes I’ve got several ugly stories just like other LD adults do) but believe it or not college was much easier (academically anyway). I was in high school before I was placed into any type of consistent “special ed”. I didn’t understand what was “wrong” with me and I didn’t know what the adults thought I was supposed to get out of the “resource” class I was in. It didn’t feel like there was “a goal”. It would be another eight years before I got the diagnosis that changed anything for me.

It was the one that actually provided information to me. The one that helped me to understand “what was wrong”, that I had strengths just as I had weaknesses, that I wasn’t dumb, stupid, damaged or just always wrong. It was the one that let me be able to starting standing up for myself.  It was the diagnosis that gave me accommodations in classes (I was in college when this happened). And It was the one that allowed me to gain some self-confidence, to believe that I might be successful in something, the ability to feel a little tiny bit less confused, ashamed, guilty and hopeless. I have no way to tell you if I would have felt and looked at school, myself or life differently if I had grown up knowing about and understand my Learning Disability, I can tell you that learning it as an adult was at once comforting, heartbreaking and devastating.

Looking back now somehow challenges and hardships in the school years look different; it’s not that you forget them or even necessarily feel different about yourself but they get blurry as the years go by. The importance of school somehow changes. As an adult I know that all grades levels in all schools are regimented in what they teach in subject and that it is done in a regimented way; it is not made for a student with any Learning Disability. It may never be. I suppose this is why all of the emphasis is on the school years though. It’s probably also why I was more successful in college.

What I know about my living with my learning disability is that the cliché isn’t true; in school all the focus was on what I couldn’t do (because curriculums are designed for “normal” students) and once I was an adult and out of school…The myth says that once we’re out of school an LD child will no longer fail all the time. Only it’s not true because I haven’t changed, I still have the same Learning Disability and I still struggle with the same processes I did in school. The difference is it no longer has to be the focus of your life. If you go into a career where your weaknesses are minimized and the things you are good at are the things you do, your learning disability will only be 50% of your daily struggle instead of 100% of it. (Calculations may vary by person). Haha.  

With my Learning Disability I still have constant frustration, constant distraction, frequent times of information overload, and constant doubt and failure.

I wish I could tell you I felt like my learning disability has had some type of benefit or strengths. I have never felt that way. I have never understood calling it a “difference” or “gift”. That has not been my experience with it. In the years after my (adult) diagnosis I wanted to find a way to share my negative experiences and hard lessons. Not for sympathy but for others lives or the people in them. I hope that one day I will be able to say that became the benefit of it.

So, this is the overview of my life with my learning disability. I have left the details and feelings out on purpose; they are difficult to get across in writing.

Thank you for listening to my ideas and experiences. I appreciate and have enjoyed our conversations very much. 


Thank you, Anonymous, for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts!   

Please visit the Headstrong Nation Facebook Page, follow us on Twitter at @headstrongnatio, and check out our videos on our YouTube Page.  Thanks for being a part of our community! 

- The Headstrong Nation Team


Disability or Difference?  It’s Personal.  You decide.

A few weeks ago on our Facebook page we posed two questions:

1.      “When you define dyslexia do you use the term "disability" or "difference”?

2.      “Or, do you use both terms depending on the situation?”

We received some very personal responses. Many chose the term difference over disability, as these individuals would prefer to drop the disabled label, which points to what one cannot do. These respondents would much prefer to accentuate the inherent strengths associated with dyslexia and would like to avoid the stigma that often occurs as a result of this label.

The term “disabled” is a label that many feel is exclusive to the school experience.  The thinking is that the school experience is what actually disables the student because the school’s personnel may not be effectively trained to teach to the child in the way that he learns.


Some parents don’t want to identify their children at all as learning disabled, for fear that this term might affect their children’s later academic careers in college or in the workforce. They’d prefer to not have any such notation in school records. For many parents, it wasn’t until their happy, smart, otherwise capable child first entered school, that the word disability ever entered their minds and vocabularies.  Does this resonate with you?  I know that I can relate to this in my own experience with my son.


Many people are okay using both terms: disabled and different. I am one of those who uses both.. I realize that it is necessary to work with the school district in the state that I live in and to speak the language and use the terminology that will ultimately provide my son with the supports and services which he’ll need within the school setting. I use the word disability with the school, specifically, SLD (Specific Learning Disability). SLD is what the school evaluation found, this is the wording listed on my child’s documentation, his IEP (Individual Educational Plan). The IEP, with Specific Learning Disability designation, was the document that I used to request and receive multisensory, structured, systematic Orton-Gillingham training for my son. Under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), school districts are required to provide a “Free Appropriate Public Education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a “disability” who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability. (See the following US department of Education Websites for more information HERE and HERE .

chart showing services you may obtain with disability designation vs. difference designation 

Many parents need to choose the terminology that they use wisely in order to effectively advocate and receive FAPE for their children with Dyslexia.  Those children who struggle with reading, writing, and spelling will only gain access to protections under Section 504 and IDEA in public schools if they have been evaluated and found to have an SLD. The term “difference” does not provide for these same protections under Sect. 504/IDEA. My son uses the term dyslexia and disability with his teachers to emphasize the need to use his assistive technology so he may continue to work at the same pace as his peers in class.  He knows it is easy for a teacher, however well intentioned, to forget to keep track of what each particular Special Ed student needs at any given time in the classroom, and that because dyslexia is not often as readily visible as are other disabilities, a child can get lost in the shuffle if he doesn’t speak up and advocate for himself. He identifies himself as dyslexic with his classmates when they ask him why he uses a school-issued iPad to complete his assignments.  He states “I need the iPad because of my dyslexia, as I have some trouble with writing and spelling.” While describing our dyslexia as a difference is a more optimistic way of describing our patterns of strengths and weaknesses related to our dyslexia,the term disability is the one that typically gets results in the form of services, supports and technologies, when used within the educational setting, however.

See Headstrong Nation get the facts #8 Dyslexia is a disability in some contexts HERE.

When it comes to self-identification, it is important for many individuals to define who they are based on their individual journeys and their struggles.  They have fought long and hard in school systems without the proper supports and services they needed.  They may have always thought they were deficient and stupid as they were never formally identified. In this case, learning that they have a disability answers many questions about what they’ve experienced in the past, and this information helps them to deal with their shame and to begin healing. For these individuals, using the term disability is an important part of their personal identification moving forward.  It’s freeing.

As we learn more about the dyslexic brain and how it functions, we realize that there are inherent differences in brain function. The dyslexic brain responds differently to various reading and language based tasks, with differences even between male and female brains.  Here’s an interesting article on the use of FMRI research on dyslexia in males and females from Dr. Guinevere Eden, of Georgetown University. There has been much discussion on the strengths of dyslexics, including strong spatial skills, etc... Brock and Fernette Eide of Dyslexic Advantage discuss the results of their dyslexic strength survey HERE, in an attempt to redefine dyslexia based on strengths. The Decoding Dyslexia (DD) movement has done a tremendous job in raising awareness about dyslexia and has pushed for the early identification and remediation of dyslexia for children by calling for effective teacher training programs on the early signs of dyslexia with appropriate intervention strategies. These moms appreciate and embrace their children’s differences, yet understand the need to use the word disability as they advocate for their children in the public schools and correspond with legislators in the US House and Senate. DD moms know that “different is good,” but in order for others to appreciate those differences, they must use the word disability to get what their kids need. We currently need to use the terminology SLD and the laws, IDEA/Section 504/ADA, that are currently in place, which provide protections, however imperfect they are.  We have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater!  .

Many of us hope for a day in the future when our education system will change.  We await the time when all kids will be taught the way they need to learn, based on their individual patterns of weaknesses and strengths, and will be truly valued and embraced because of their differences. We hope that children will be able to demonstrate their knowledge in the classroom in ways that work for them, so that their true abilities will be appreciated and they will shine!  Whether we identify ourselves or our loved ones using the word disability or difference, it’s good to know that we are all part of  a powerful community of dyslexic individuals.  In the end, our verbiage is a personal choice.

Get empowered and find community!

Headstrong Nation (Initiative for Learning Identities) is a non-profit dedicated to serving the adult dyslexic community, and we support the parent of the child with dyslexia. Headstrong Nation is committed to helping empower each individual, and we are interested in highlighting the strengths that can come with the dyslexic profile in addition to the weaknesses and challenges that we may experience on a daily basis.  We value you, and want to hear your voice, as your voice will help to shape this community.

If you are interested in supporting our efforts and would like to  donate to Headstrong Nation we would greatly appreciate this!  You may donate via our RAZOO page below and while you're there you can view the film Headstrong Nation: Inside the HIdden World of Dyslexia and ADHD. Just click on the photo of the brain to start the film.


Thanks for being a part of our community !










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)

Jeffrey Philips

1. Passed

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.


Jeffrey child

2. Future

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.”

3. Community

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.

4. You

“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.  
(Phonics starts with a “P”!  I rest my case.)
Opinion of a dyslexic.
Jeffrey Phillips, Senior Chief Damage Controlman 
United Sates Coast Guard Active

Headstrong Founder Ben Foss recently spoke at a TEDx talk in Sonoma about shame and what we can do to put it down. Watch and learn how to end isolation, use your strengths, and help others. 

Having a learning difference impacts family relationships. Watch Headstrong Nation fellow Sarah Entine explore how undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD impacted three generations in her family, starting with her own struggles, in her award-winning film Read Me Differently.

With surprising candor, vulnerability and even a touch of humor, Read Me Differently reveals the strain of misunderstood learning differences on family relationships. It is a unique film that will generate thoughtful discussion whether in a classroom setting, work environment or at home with family members and friends.

Watch the trailer here:

Besides being an incredibly inspiring and moving journey, the film has a lot of practicaly applications. Sarah Entine invites parents to use the film "to faciliate discussion on how learning disabilities influence family relationships... Counselors, both school-based and those in private practice, can use the film to promote awareness and healing, and universities can use the film in psychology, social work, education, special education, counseling, and guidance curricula."

Read Me Differently was selected for the prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Award in 2010 (past winners include Steven Spielberg, Ken Burns, Spike Lee, and Martin Scorsese). In the same year, Simmons School of Social Work awarded Sarah with an Alumni Special Recognition Award. In 2011, Read Me Differently was chosen to screen at the Superfest International Disability Film Festival where the film received an Achievement Award. 

We are proud to support Sarah in her efforts to share her story with others, and to help dyslexic and LD families learn to thrive together. 


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