photo of a wrapped gift with snowflake wrapping paper and a blue bow on top

The Gifts inside us.  They’ve always been there.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”              ― Ralph Waldo Emerson


We give them. We receive them.  We are able to identify the unique gifts in others. We often have a more difficult time identifying them in ourselves.


Many adult dyslexics have grown up feeling misunderstood, unsupported, and overwhelmed. We’ve felt shame, anger, anxiety, depression and confusion.

We have layers.  Years of overcompensating, trying to fit in, treading water, spinning our wheels. We’ve spend a lot of time looking outside of ourselves for answers, for clarity, for validation, and for change.  Perhaps we’ve looked in the wrong places.

We need only pause and begin to look within to find the answers which we are looking for.

Dyslexia is a trait.  It’s not a gift, nor is it a curse.  It is what it is. 

Whether you are dyslexic or not, you possess gifts.  

Take the time to unwrap them.  You’ll be surprised!


Happy Holidays from Headstrong Nation!


PS: Here is an article from Bestselling author, Professional Speaker, TV personality, Corporate spokesperson, Interfaith minister, and TedX Host Laura Berman Fortgang, (via the Huff Post) entitled “The Top 10 Ways to Discover Your Unique Gift”. Discover yours this season!


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

We would like to invite you to donate to Headstrong Nation as we need your support to help us to fulfill our mission for the adult dyslexic. Please consider donating to Headstrong Nation HERE. Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter . Thank you very much!  - The Headstrong Nation Team








photo of Headstrong Nation Board Chair Larry Banks


To our partners in the space,

Hello. My name is Larry Banks, I am the new Board Chair of Headstrong Nation. Some of you know me, but I'm sure that most of you have heard of Headstrong Nation. For the past ten years, this organization has sought out dyslexic leaders from all walks of life. We've given retreats to discuss the issues that face us as adult dyslexics and to determine more deeply how we can be of service to our community while attempting to deepen the commitment of adult dyslexics to dyslexia in adults. As I'm sure you're well aware, most of the organizations and groups within the dyslexic community are oriented towards children, parents, research and early childhood education. We are looking at the situation from a different vantage point. We are excited and deeply moved by the programs that are going on for our children and for the effort and the programs that are being developed in education. But we believe that is equally important to remember that dyslexic children grow up to be dyslexic adults and for us that struggle is cyclical. We go through it as children, we find ways of managing our challenges in developing our talents as adults, then we are tossed back into it when our own children enter the educational system. We have just reached the point where most of us realize that dyslexia is genetic and if we are identified dyslexics most of our children will be as well. 

As identified dyslexic adults, have we looked at our own profiles deeply, both dyslexic and psychological? Have we cleared the shame, disappointments and fear from our own nature before we begin to raise children? Are we sure that we will not unwittingly, do to our children what was done to us? Disclosure, sharing and self- examination must begin with family, community and acceptance of self. If you are over 50, the first time you stand in a room full of adult dyslexics or children with attention and learning issues, and say,I am Dyslexic”, the rush of emotions can be overwhelming (it was for me), but it is also quite healing. If you have never had that experience your child has probably missed out on it too. Adults matter. If we want to prevent the destructive cycle from reoccurring.  Adults matter, because it is adults that will reshape the world in which we live. Adults matter, because we are the nurturing ground of the future and all that will happen will come through us. 

I am reaching out to every single one of you and I am asking you tojoin Headstrong Nation and help us to support you. In the words of Gandhi, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” Stand for your children by standing for yourself, advocate for your children by advocating for yourself, help your children know you by knowing yourself. We are a young organization and we have a new mission. When we say dyslexic we do not mean to be discriminatory.

We are reaching out to adults with learning and attention issues that come from this unique neurological profile. All are welcome. In fact, all are needed. Your membership is important because your membership fee will sponsor our website and programs. We also invite you, your skills, knowledge and talents to participate with us and become an active member. Join together by joining with us as we develop Employment Prep programs for college, employment programs post high school, webinars, workshops, leadership retreats and mentoring. Knowing that you are not on this journey alone and that we will be with you as a community for the rest of your life. 

Please Donate to Headstrong Nation and help sponsor an organization of dyslexics for dyslexics and funded by dyslexics, and internationally known for its adult dyslexics.

Thank you very much, 




Photo of Headstrong Nation Board Chair Larry Banks

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."

Larry Banks - dyslexia. #WeOwnIt


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:   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

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



Photo of celadon glazed pottery bowl

Imagine being asked to cover a lunch break at a folk festival for an artisan that you are planning on apprenticing with.  You are given a cash box, and a little worn out card with sales tax amounts printed on it. You have no calculator.  You mention to the artist, a potter, that you are not good at math, and that you are uncomfortable with this idea.  She giggles and says “nonsense! I will only be away for a half hour to grab a pulled pork sandwich.  You’ll be fine.”  You feel ashamed because she is minimizing your concerns.  You’ve always been  “math anxious”. Your inability to work with numbers has affected your life in many ways.  You always did poorly in school,  and couldn’t keep a waitress or retail job operating a cash register.  Your dreams of becoming a nurse were dashed because you failed the medication math exam and you dropped out of nursing school as you felt inadequate.  Your parents were disappointed in you. You felt lost and less than. That was almost 20 years ago.  You are only being asked to play cashier for thirty minutes but the pressure you feel is tremendous.  You tell yourself again,  "I’m an adult, how hard can this be?  You can do this!"

You are asked to take an item of pottery the customer would like to purchase, wrap it securely in paper, place in a bag, then add up the total cost of the items. Once you have a subtotal, you will look at the paper card to obtain the sales tax  and then you’ll add the sales tax onto the subtotal and let the customer know how much he owes. After you’ve been given the money, you will make change and give this to the customer.  You take a deep breath, and wait for the first customer, determined to do your best. Five people approach your stand, and your mind goes blank.  Everyone is waiting, your hand is shaking as you try to add the numbers on a pad of paper.  You’ve given back the wrong change, miscalculated totals, and forgot to add in the sales tax.  Forget about counting up! You find it difficult to breathe, your face is flushed,  you’re sweating in your long plaid skirt with a stupid frilly bonnet on your head.  You keep smiling though, pretending like you have everything under control,  handing out business cards for the potter, complimenting the customers on their choices, and wondering why you ever agreed to this in the first place. 

Graphic Numbers make me numb with math signs and numbers all over the page

A half hour later the potter returns from her pulled pork sandwich, notices your mistakes and your upsetment, and shoots you an expression of mild annoyance and disappointment when you inform her that you’ve just botched up a number of transactions.  Now, it’s your turn to take a break.  In a fog, you wander aimlessly around the fairgrounds, trying to make sense of what just happened. You don’t feel hungry, and you don't feel like looking around at the sights.  You’ve shut down.  You can’t feel your feet on the ground, as you’ve gone numb, you’ve stuffed it inside.  You count down the hours until the end of the event.  You are silent on the ride home, and you find your mind trailing off during the chatty upbeat conversation in the car. You aren’t feeling very upbeat.  You have no appetite for the ice cream that the potter stops to buy everyone in the car. You felt you didn’t deserve the ice cream anyway, since you're such a “screw up”.

You return home and the tears come.  Your husband meets you at the front door, wide eyed. You rip off the stupid skirt and stuff it, and the frilly bonnet, in a bag. It’s hard to shake these feelings off.  They are all too familiar.  You feel ashamed and inadequate. Then comes the anger. You’re angry at yourself, angry at the potter, angry at the other woman in the car who can make change.  Why didn’t she listen to me? Why didn’t she believe me? Then you berate yourself. There goes the tape again. The one that plays itself over and over when events like this happen. There is something fundamentally wrong with you. Why can’t you do what others do so easily? The tape continues, and you let it wash over you.  You feel small.

photo of small ceramic pots on a hand

A week later, you write the potter a polite note, thanking her for the opportunity to help and for the ice cream.  You repay her for the price of the clay that she had offered you in exchange for helping her out. You inform her that you are unable to apprentice with her in her studio as something’s come up, and you don’t offer her any more details. She’d never understand anyway.  You’re done.  The block of clay sits unused, and you let your dreams of working as a potter fade away.  The next folk festival you attend, you cringe when you see a sign for pulled pork sandwiches. You never liked pulled pork, anyway...

Shame. Another opportunity lost. 

I was the apprentice.  - Eileen


Moving Forward: 

In the past I  let my failures define me.  I know better now.  My failures are not who I am inside, or what I am capable of becoming.

Failure and missed opportunity were an ongoing theme for me.  I focused on my weaknesses at the expense of my strengths, and I was uncomfortable asking for help.  I did not understand that my failures could be opportunities for learning and growing.  I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others, and always fell short of my ideal. I dropped out, quit and started again many times.  Persistence wasn't something I was good at. I preferred to run away.

At the age of 18, I dropped out of nursing school  in the first 10 months, after struggling through the program and failing a medication math exam.  I felt the need to get away, so I applied to live as an exchange student in Sweden for a year to “find myself”.  Living away from home helped me to gain some perspective, and gave me some time to lick my wounds.  Upon my return to the U.S., I was able to begin a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. It was a major that did not have a huge math requirement, and my advisor let me work around some of this creatively through taking a foreign language.

I realized that one of the things I enjoyed most about my brief experience as a nursing student was helping each patient to feel as comfortable as possible during their stay in the hospital.  I was able to identify this desire to help others as a strength for me which helped in the selection of my new major.  I obtained my degree in a little under 10 years part-time, while I worked at a variety of temporary jobs.  The combined work and college experience was stressful for me, as I struggled to maintain a healthy GPA.

This was a time before PC’s and Macs, and Iphones with apps.  The technology that most of us take for granted now. All assignments were either written by hand or on an electric typewriter, and I used my share of Wite Out.  Toward the end of my senior year, I spent much of my paycheck from the local college diner where I worked to hire a typist who could read my poor handwriting and type my research papers.  I requested a dishwasher job working  the night shift, as I never got the hang of waitressing as I was unable to keep track of who got which meal at which table, and I was afraid of operating the dreaded cash register.   At age 27, upon graduating, I chose not to celebrate my success with a graduation party.  I felt I had taken too long, and it was time to move on to the world of work, whatever that might look like for me.  In retrospect, I wish I had acknowledged my achievements and taken some time to celebrate.

Hindsight enables me to understand my past struggles.  After my youngest son was identified as dyslexic,  I began to reflect on my past and was able to put together the pieces. I realize that my challenges in math,  although I'm not formally diagnosed,  are likely due to dyscalculia, a math disability.  I realize now that it's never too late to learn something new, to ask for help, and to choose a new path for myself that is more in line with my strengths.  It’s how I perceive my failures and how I rebound from them that is most important.  I understand that I must be vigilant, daily, at keeping those old ineffective, damaging messages of the past from occupying my mind.  it’s important for me to reach out to others early and often when I’m feeling stuck. I know that persistence and hard work pays off, and that it’s important to be patient with myself. I make mistakes daily, but I am not a mistake. I've learned that it’s o.k. to fail...Really!  It’s how I will grow.

More on the value of failure coming soon!   


Share your stories!  We'd love to hear from you!  Please visit us at our Headstrong Nation Facebook Page and share live, or if you'd prefer, message us privately at the page. Follow us on Twitter @headstrongnatio  Follow us at our Headstrong Nation You Tube Channel too!  -  Glad you are part of our community! -  The Headstrong Nation Team


Photo of Sunset with text - Moving Beyond the Shame

This is dedicated to Natasha, Ben, and Larry for seeing beyond my limitations while enabling me to focus on my strengths.  For this, I thank you. 

Strengths, Guilt, and Shame

There has been a lot of talk about the inherent strengths related to dyslexia, the spatial ability, creative and artistic talents, out of the box thinking, and entrepreneurial skills. This is all very empowering and wonderful to see.  However, there seems to be less conversation about the shame associated with dyslexia and this concerns me. Shame isn’t something we generally want to discuss, but until we confront our shame by revealing ourselves and sharing our fears with others, it will be very difficult to move forward. The shame associated with dyslexia will rear its ugly head at times throughout our lifespan even when we feel we are at the “top of our game”.  Some individuals experience more feelings of shame than others, based on their individual experiences. Shame is toxic, and it affects how we relate to ourselves, to others around us, and how we approach situations daily.  As an adult, the events of the past come to visit me on occasion as painful memories, and they can affect my perspective, beat me down, and wreak havoc with my self-confidence.   What goes on in between my ears can be very powerful, and at certain times, won’t be easily silenced.   

Shame is not guilt.  Guilt is an emotion that you may feel when you do something morally or ethically wrong.  When a young child takes a toy from a friend, and stuffs it in his pocket because he wants it for his own, he knows that his actions are wrong, and he may feel guilt as a result.  Guilt is linked to an inappropriate action or behavior. Shame, on the other hand, is an emotion stemming from the behavior or action of a person that is often judged negatively by another.  This emotion is one of deep humiliation.  As the behavior often cannot be changed, the person feels wrong to his core, for something that he may not have any control over. He feels powerless. Shame occurs when you personalize an action or behavior and attribute it to who you are inside, in your soul, your heart, the fiber of your being.  You give yourself permission to become “IT”.   "IT" may be translated into stupid, incapable, or a failure.  “I have failed a test, therefore I am failure”. 

Some Experiences with Shame:

Reading - Were you made fun of when you read aloud in class?   Did you dread this activity?   Did you count the number of seats ahead of yours to figure out which paragraph would be assigned to so you could attempt to practice it before it was your turn?  Then, when you fumbled through it, did your ears turn beet red and you couldn’t feel your feet on the floor?  Did you re-read passages over and over again and still not understand what you read?   Did most of your peers seem to have an easier time of it in the classroom? Did you find homework looming on forever?  Did you feel alone in this? 

Shame – I am wrong. Something is wrong with me. I am stupid. 

Writing – Did you feel like you wanted to form the letters neater but that your hand wouldn’t cooperate?  Did you secretly envy others with neat handwriting?  Did you make so many erasures that you made holes in the paper?  Did the thought of answering a prompt or short essay send you into a panic?  Were you at a loss on how to start?  Did you have a lot of ideas in your head but couldn’t get the right words to move from your brain, down your arm, and onto the paper?  Did your teacher’s frowns and the big red “D” or "F" on this paper make you feel worthless? 

Shame – I am worthless, I am deficient. I'm no good. 

Spelling – Did spelling words make you crazy?  Did you practice over and over and still get them wrong for the Friday test?  Or if you got them right on Friday, did you forget them by Monday?  Did your flash card pile get bigger and bigger?  Did you do some of your best writing and still get marked down because of poor spelling or punctuation? 

Shame –  My brain does not work, I’ll never get this, I want to give up. 

Directions and organization – Do you get lost easily, even with the GPS?   Do you lose your place, do you fight with your computer and can’t find files?  Is your left the “other left” and your right your “other right”?  Do you struggle to read a map, figure out which way to turn the key in the lock, figure out where you stored the file, which way to open the faucet, and so on. Do you move in circles?  Do you spin your wheels?

Shame – I am so incapable, so frazzled.  Why can’t I get this? 

How many self-defeating statements continue to be part of your repertoire, the tape that continues to play in your head?  Do you find that this negative “self-talk” continues to limit you?   In an attempt to move beyond it, do you also engage in self-defeating behaviors, like retreating, stuffing emotions inside, overeating, or other quick, self-soothing, yet destructive actions that serve to keep you down?  Do you blame others or play the victim?  

Have you had the desire to apply for a particular job, but feel fear at the thought of completing certain aspects of the job due to your challenges with dyslexia/LD?  Have you passed over these types of jobs because the thought of disclosing your weaknesses to your employer in an interview petrifies you?  Do you find yourself “quitting” before you even accept the job?  I have engaged in this thinking numerous times and it has cost me many missed opportunities and limited my potential.  However, I know that my situation won’t change unless I make the decision to change from the inside.  It starts with me... letting go of my shame.


Picture of a sky

So how can you begin to move beyond the shame? As I can only speak from my own experience, I’ll tell you what I'm determined to do, one day at a time, to work through the complex emotions that occur as a result of dealing with the shame that rears its head in my life:  It's time to re-write my script, to reinvent myself.  One step at a time.

What Helps Me

I share.  I talk about my dyslexia/LD with friends and family I know and trust (My dyslexia/LD community).  I am upfront about what works and doesn't work for me and I keep no secrets about this.  I let my guard down and let myself be vulnerable, and open to feedback.

I listen.  I listen to others’ stories of how they’ve risen above the paralyzing effects of shame related to their dyslexia/LD.  I ear-read or eye read articles and books that inspire and encourage. 

I watch and Learn, viewing webinars, talks, and videos from experts in the field on topics like letting go of shame, and letting myself become vulnerable.  I explore ways to tap into my strengths and to increase my self-confidence. I also learn much from my son, who is way less serious and intense about life and his dyslexia.  His youthful wisdom helps to keep me in check! 

I engage with and help others in any way that I can.  It’s in our relationships where we can truly flourish, learn and grow, through our shared experiences.  In a supportive community, of others who “get me”, I know I am not alone, and this is very empowering. 

I redirect myself in healthier ways.  I work daily on avoiding ineffective coping methods.  I reach out and talk to trusted friends who know how hard I can be on myself.  This is much better than keeping it all inside, over eating, or engaging in other self-defeating behaviors.  

Letting go of shame isn't easy, but it is possible.  Accepting yourself, confronting fears,  finding a supportive community, and changing your negative self-talk and behaviors, are all positive steps in the right direction.   Releasing the shame in your life will leave you open to embrace your strengths so you may begin to live your life to the fullest! 



We'd love to hear your stories!  

Visit Headstrong Nation's Facebook page and share your experiences live with our community, or if you would prefer, feel free to message us privately at the page.

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Thanks! - The Headstrong Nation Team


When I sit and reflect about my experiences growing up in school, it is far from funny. I know what it's like to endure the entire class in high school laughing at you because of your inability to read aloud. I know the feeling of embarrassment and shame when a friend gives you a spelling dictionary as a gift because your spelling is so atrocious. I know what it's like to be a dyslexic who was not identified until adulthood. The weight of finding out about your learning difference so late in life carries a heavy load and really messes with you. I carry a lot of baggage from my past and it has taken a lot of work and perseverance to iron it all out. I knew early on that I had two paths I could take to deal with my new friend called "Dyslexia." One path was to harbor anger and resentment while continuing to bury my shame and pretend everything was great on the outside. Or I could choose the road less traveled, take a deep breath and face the demons of shame, and arrive at a place where dyslexia is hysterical. I chose to do the heavy lifting and face my dyslexia head-on.

scrabble game board with dyslexia, no shame and hysterical written on it

Two years ago I might have traded my dyslexia in to be "normal." What I didn't know then is there is no such thing as "normal." Who decided what normal is, anyway? Today I live a very funny life and it provides endless comic relief. A few months ago while browsing Facebook, I saw a friend's status that said something about a gopher eating the grass in her backyard. For about 10 minutes I was trying to figure out why a golfer would be eating the grass in her backyard. Trying to rationalize this, I figured she lived on a golf course. Although this still didn't answer the question why a golfer would be eating the grass, I suddenly realized it was a GOPHER! It's like a scene out of Caddyshack but this is my real life! I spent the entire day laughing over this.

Shortly after this incident yet another prolific event sent me into hysterics. I was reading aloud a list of cities. I read placenta for Placentia. This might seem like a minor error that could happen to anyone; seriously that "I" seems pretty sneaky to me, but when your friend bursts out laughing and your daughter asks, "What's a placenta?", there is nothing more to do than laugh. How about the time I showed up to a dyslexic support group meeting when it was over? I had read the end time as the beginning time. Oh, the irony of it all is just too hysterical! These funny little things happen to me almost daily. It's so bad that my now 11-year-old tells me, "Mom! It doesn't say that!" when I read to her. Good thing the endless hours of tutoring for her dyslexia are paying off. Maybe she should start reading to me now!

Dictionary entry for shame

Sure, I could go for self-loathing and embrace a shame storm, and yes, I do find myself there sometimes. However, I try not to allow myself to wallow there for too long because I recognize nothing positive can be created from that space. To be quite honest, it's just way more fun finding the humor in my mistakes. With two dyslexic children learning to come to terms with their own dyslexia, it's vital that they learn to have a sense of humor about it as early as possible. In our family we spend a lot of time laughing. Out of all the disabilities one might have, dyslexia has got to be the funniest. That being said, would I trade my dyslexia today to be "normal?" The answer is no. Sure, there were some really difficult and discouraging times in my life, but I don't have to live in that space forever. I can move beyond the past and embrace that who I am today is a result of what I have experienced in my life. Through my weaknesses I can find strength and perseverance. I am still a work in progress and have a lot of ironing out to do in my life, but I know I have a choice of which path I want to take. I choose humor, because if I don't it's a slippery slope to self-loathing and despair. The next time you head to the city of Placentia, I know you'll be thinking of the city "Placenta" and will laugh!

Dyslexia: It's a funny life I lead and I wouldn't change it for anything!





Ben Foss Photo

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.



Be sure to check out many other great articles and resources on

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. 

Socrates, shame and how to be an empowered dyslexic. Listen to Headstrong Nation founder Ben Foss as he chats with Dr. Richard Selznick, author of The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child" & "School Struggles. 

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