Camp Delafield panel

Camp Delafield

I have a new favorite audience: the children of Camp Delafield, a camp designed specifically for students who have dyslexia, operated by Dyslexia Institute of Indiana. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to several groups, but none compare to these bright, inquisitive young children, many of whom are newly diagnosed but optimistic and planning for an extraordinary future. All of the kids had superb questions and comments. Here are a few questions I was asked to address followed by my answers:

1. What coping mechanisms help you deal with your dyslexia while in school? Answer: I’m a big fan of high tech, so I’m always on the lookout for good assistive technology. My favorite tool by far and the one I use the most is my Livescribe pen. I have trouble keeping up when I take notes in class but this pen saves me. (I then described how the pen works, and the kids were very excited about this incredible technology).

2. Have you dealt with any bullying because of your dyslexia?
Answer: I used to get beaten up when I was younger for being different or “stupid”, but even when I was little I knew that the problems lay in the bullies, not in me. I wasn’t stupid; they were the ones who were not informed. All that bullying made me want to help other kids and raise awareness about dyslexia. I started the Dyslexic Kids support group for children and teens with dyslexia so that we could encourage each other and remind each other that there’s nothing wrong with us. In fact, we are better than just OK. I like to say that we have a learning advantage that most public schools just aren’t advanced enough to handle!

3. How or when did you learn about your dyslexia, and how did you feel? 
Answer: My parents had me tested when I was young, no thanks to my school (my school refused to test me until third grade) because my parents knew there was a chance I had dyslexia. My father has it, and since it’s genetic, my parents were watching for the signs. At first it seemed to me that dyslexia was a bit negative because it caused difficulty for me in school, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve discovered the really cool gifts that come with dyslexia. For example, big picture thinking, problem solving, creativity, the ability to see things differently and my talents in engineering and technology are all gifts I wouldn’t trade for the world! My father who is also dyslexic works with NASA and a huge percentage of his coworkers have dyslexia so I’ll be in good company as an engineer. Follow-up question: When and where are you going to college? Answer: I’ll be graduating from high school in two years. There are a few colleges I’m considering.

4. How has your dyslexia made you a stronger person?
Answer: I would never have had the courage to start a global support network if dyslexia hadn’t forced me to do it. Now, I’m comfortable with public speaking, debating, teaching, advocating for myself and others, and working with new technologies.

5. How do you now spread the word for dyslexia and yourself?
Answer: I host an annual dyslexia conference in Fort Wayne via the Dyslexic Kids organization. It’s the only dyslexia conference in northeast Indiana! This year the mayor will be involved and will issue a proclamation declaring the second Saturday in October to be dyslexia awareness day so that will help increase press coverage and awareness.  I also post news and information about dyslexia every weekday across most of the social networks to raise awareness and to provide support, encouragement and resources to children and teens with dyslexia. I never turn down a speaking invitation; I jump at any chance to help people understand dyslexia, or to understand the tools and resources available to help those with dyslexia.

6. Do you have any encouraging words for us to remember?
Answer: Each and every one of you has special talents or gifts. Continue to work on your assignments and tutoring of course, but make sure you take the time to recognize and nurture your own unique skills and talents. Focus on them and build on them. Those are what will make you extraordinary.