When I was a young boy I was spanked at school for doodling, daydreaming, and tapping my foot. The interesting thing was that doodling is actually how I got through school. I could never remember any facts. I had an even harder time memorizing things we had to repeat to the teacher by rote. I did, however, assign little pictures to things I needed to remember. I would then put the little picture in my mental Rolodex. When asked a question during an exam, I found it much easier to answer by recalling the drawing and then picturing the words with it. Here is an example.
I am very fortunate that I continued drawing and using visual techniques to learn. I took that experience and used the same style to write and illustrate a series of self-help books for kids, including How to Do Homework Without Throwing Up and Bullying Is a Pain in the Brain.
I wish I had the following quote by Ron Davis from his book The Gift of Dyslexia when I was a kid struggling through an educational system that didn’t know what to do with me.
Usually when people hear the word dyslexia they think only of reading, writing, spelling, and math problems a child is having in school. Some associate it only with word and letter reversals, some only with slow learners. Almost everyone considers it some form of a learning disability, but the learning disability is only one face of dyslexia. Once as a guest on a television show, I was asked about the “positive” side of dyslexia. As part of my answer, I listed a dozen or so famous dyslexics. The hostess of the show then commented, “Isn’t it amazing that all those people could be geniuses in spite of having dyslexia?”
She missed the point. Their genius didn’t occur in spite of their dyslexia, but because of it! Some talented dyslexics: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, General George Patton, Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, and Danny Glover.
Having dyslexia won’t make every dyslexic a genius, but it is good for the self-esteem of all dyslexics to know their minds work in exactly the same way as the minds of great geniuses. It is also important for them to know that having a problem with reading, writing, spelling, or math doesn’t mean they are dumb or stupid.
—Ronald D. Davis (from his book, The Gift of Dyslexia)
Please share your own stories of students with disorders succeeding in your classrooms and beyond.
When Trevor Romain was 12, his teacher told him he wasn’t talented enough to do art. By accident, he found out 20 years later that he could draw. Since that lucky day, he has written and illustrated 20 books for children. In addition to writing, illustrating, and speaking at schools, Trevor is a board member of the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation and can often be found on the cancer ward at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin, Texas, doing his rounds as “Doctor of Mischief.” He is the author of several Free Spirit books, including How to Do Homework Without Throwing Up and Bullying Is a Pain in the Brain.
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