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WinkExchange

The following excerpts represent hundreds of messages sent by parents, educators, students, and other visitors to CyberWink.com. Click on the subject that interests you. You might find their stories similar to your own or learn something new. The most recent letters will appear first, so check back often. To contribute your own story to the exchange, e-mail dawinkler@mindspring.com.

Information Resources
Financial Assistance
Education Options
Inspiration/Overcoming Obstacles
Special Abilities
Community Help
Research/Projects


Information Resources

Subject: MORE INFORMATION

Don,

Your Web site has been a big help to me and my family. We have two boys with dyslexia, and although we have known this for several years we are still in search of more information and resources for help. Can you suggest some other Web sites and organizations we can look up?

Dear Parent,

Thanks for visiting CyberWink.com. If you are seeking more information, you can check on my Web site, www.CyberWink.com or the www.HelloFriend.com site for links to some of the best resources. A good place to start is the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), which has hundreds of resources and referrals. Their Web site is www.interdys.org. Or you can call them at 410-296-0232 (Monday - Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (EST)) or leave them a message on their automated request line at 800-ABCD-123 with a specific inquiry.

The Schwab Foundation for Learning also has a list of Web resources to help users find excellent information about learning differences quick and easy. Web sites are added to the list of resources only after they are reviewed by a team of information specialists.

Also, visit http://www.schwablearning.org/ for free access to the following publications:
  • Assistive Technology Guide for Children with Learning Difficulties: This guide discusses the use of technology to assist students' studies.
  • Bridges To Reading: A comprehensive kit of first-step strategies.
  • Developmental Checklist: The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Differences has developed "Common Warning Signs," a standard developmental checklist of characteristics that may point to a learning disability.
  • LD Matters: A quarterly publication that focuses on timely developments and new strategies in the field of learning differences.
  • TeachEach -- Classroom Strategies to Teach and Reach All Learners: A booklet profiling innovative and effective classroom strategies.

In addition, the Schwab Foundation for Learning maintains a library of more than 3,000 books, audio tapes and videotapes on learning differences and related subjects. You can obtain numerous resources on reading research, teaching strategies and programs, as well as guides to excellent books for kids. You can find Schwab's Reading Resources list at: http://www.schwablearning.org/.

Finally, I would also suggest a videotape titled, "How Difficult Can This Be?", which helps those trying to understand dyslexia and other learning differences from an LD's point-of-view.


Subject: ASSESSMENT/TESTING

Dear Mr. Winkler,

My 9-year-old daughter has trouble with reading and writing. She often transposes and reverses letters within words, and has very messy handwriting. Is there a test that I could give my child to determine whether she is dyslexic?

Dear Parent,

What you have listed may indeed be warning signs of learning differences. However, only a multifaceted assessment process can determine if your daughter has a learning difference, and if so, what her particular challenges are.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) can provide you with more information and with testing centers near you. Call IDA at 410-296-0232 (Monday - Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (EST)) or leave them a message on their automated request line at 800-ABCD-123 with a specific inquiry. You can visit IDA's Web site at www.interdys.org.

In addition, the Schwab Foundation for Learning has a number of resources that explain the basics of education assessment. An excellent first step is their Infosheet on assessment, available on the Web at: http://www.schwablearning.org/.

To read a parent's view of the process, check out "What Every Parent Should Know About Assessment," an article from Schwab's print newsletter at:http://www.schwablearning.org/.


Subject: SHARING IDEAS

Don,

As parents of three wonderful, talented kids with various learning differences, we're always looking for ways to exchange ideas with other parents. Do you know of any bulletin boards on the Internet that focus on this?

Dear Parents,

The bulletin boards on the Schwab Foundation for Learning's Web site are a great way for parents to exchange information with other parents, and for educators to share ideas with other educators who are dealing with kids who have learning differences.

The "Parent-to-Parent Exchange" bulletin board is a place for parents to support each other, ask questions, and share ideas. To find this bulletin board go to http://www.schwablearning.org/.

The "Educator-to-Educator Exchange" bulletin board is a place for educators to exchange insights, thoughts, experiences and best teaching practices with each other. To find this bulletin board go to http://www.schwablearning.org/.


Subject: BOOKS FOR PARENTS

Dear Don,

My husband and I are extremely grateful for the resources and referrals you provide through your Web site. Your caring comes through loud and clear.

Our son has dyslexia, and he is also quite bright (he has a verbal IQ in the top 3% of his age group). He is such a winner and I hope to introduce you to him one way or another. (He has an incredible mind for business, which I think some people are born with. He thinks of things I would never think of.)

Thank goodness we were on top of things early with him. He is only in 2nd grade at a truly wonderful non-public school. He is feeling really good about himself, as he is supposed to feel. He is also being taught the Lindamood-Bell method daily and learning through a multi-sensory approach, as I am sure you are so very familiar with.

We love your Web site and your message. We believe one person can make a huge difference in many, many lives and you are doing just that. Again, thanks for taking the time out of your very busy life to think of us and our son.

Dear Friend,

I'm happy to provide references that may be of help to you and your son. "The Gift of Dyslexia" by Ronald D. Davis is a simple, practical guide to understanding dyslexia with great advice to parents of kids with learning differences (LD). It also recognizes, as you have with your son, that people with LD are often gifted with an unusual talent for creativity and imagination.

Another book you might try is "Straight Talk About Reading" by Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D., which is specifically directed toward parents who want to take an active role in helping their kids cope with the challenges and frustrations of learning to read.

The key for me, as someone with LD and as a parent of LD kids, has been recognizing and accentuating those talents, while developing methods to cope with the difficulties. (I believe you can never completely overcome learning differences -- it is a life-long effort.) I can't emphasize enough how important it is for you to stay actively involved, providing love, encouragement and support. Your son is obviously on the right track, and you should be proud of him AND yourself for that.

Thanks for sharing your son's story with me -- it is always helpful and inspiring to hear from those who are succeeding in the face of similar challenges.


Financial Assistance

Subject: HELP WITH FINANCING AN EDUCATION

Hello Don,

I am a mother of two children, including a son who is dyslexic. We are in search of scholarships or grants for his education. He is presently attending a community college in California, and he has applied to another university for the fall. He deserves to go to a great school. The thing that is so discouraging and so unfair to people with learning disabilities is that all the university looks at is your GPA. When considering scholarships, they never look any further to see what type of person you are, what special talents you have, etc. My son is a great person and has come a long hard road with his dyslexia. I am sure you understand that. If there is any information you can help us with we sure do appreciate it. Thank you so much for listening to me.

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your question concerning grants or scholarships for college-level LD students. You must be very proud of your son! It takes courage and commitment to move on to the next level of education, especially for LD students. I understand how frustrating it must be for you and your family in trying to locate information about grants or scholarships for the LD student. The information is not easily found. However, I discovered some avenues which should help you in your search.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a good starting point. You can reach them at 1-800-ABCD123, which is their automated request line for specific information or (410) 296-0232 at their general number. They also have a Web site at http://www.interdys.org.

There are also published college guides geared for LD students. One such book is "Peterson's Guide to Colleges with Programs for Learning-Disabled Students". I believe the book is available through any national bookstore chain, but you may also contact the publisher at (609) 924-5338. The book is very complete and is an accurate guide for the LD student. It gives students and families the most up-to-date data and expert guidance necessary to help find the college that best needs their needs. "Peterson's" lists more than 900 four-year and two-year colleges with programs and services for LD students. The reference contains current facts about each of the colleges, profiles on which colleges offer comprehensive LD programs, profiles of colleges with special LD services and detailed information on specific LD offerings such as tutoring, special admissions, counseling and more. The book should be a great help.

Of course, there are several financial aid references available too. Three, which the IDA suggested, are:

  1. Chronicle Financial Aid Guide
    Chronicle Guidance Publications, Inc.
    P.O. Box 1190
    Moravia, NY 13118
    (800) 622-7284
    A comprehensive listing of more than 1900 programs of financial aid for undergraduate and graduate study.
  2. Federal Student Aid Information Center
    U.S. Department of Education
    Student Financial Assistance
    Washington, D.C. 20202
    (800) 433-3243
    Provides descriptions of basic federal programs for undergraduate and graduate students and their families. Helps students file applications, checks on whether a school takes part in Federal student aid programs, explains student eligibility requirements, mails publications, and explains the process of determining financial aid awards.
  3. Foundation Center
    79 Fifth Avenue
    New York, NY 10003
    (212) 620-4230
    Operates libraries offering index books of foundations and grant made to organizations serving disabilities.

The Schwab Foundation for Learning fields many questions from parents about scholarships and financial aid for students with learning differences. While they do not make individual grants, they have identified a number of financial aid guides and resources available in print and on the Web. The list contains information on books as well as specific organizations that provide scholarships, grants, and other financial assistance. It can be found at: http://www.schwablearning.org/.

Personally, I know of only one organization that offers scholarships specifically geared to LD students and that is the Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic in Princeton, New Jersey. You can reach them at: phone: (800) 221-4792 phone: (609) 452-0606 fax: (609) 987-8816 Web site http://www.rfbd.org e-mail: custserv@rfbd.org

However, I also understand that Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic is very selective with their scholarships. They will only choose candidates who are members of their organization.

In addition, local service organizations such as the Rotary can be a good place to start. Community groups offer several types of scholarships or financial aid. If you haven't already, look in your local yellow pages for service clubs and make some phone calls. It may lead to other opportunities.

Finally, you might contact your State Division or Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. The amount of aid and the information that can be obtained through the Vocational Rehab Dept is amazing -- and extremely complicated. It is not an easy process to get the information you need: Exploring special help services can be difficult and the system can wear you down. However, the services and information are out there for those who want to pursue it.

Vocational Rehab services vary from state-to-state. The student has to "make his/her case" to the Division. "Making your case" involves more than just stating that you want to go to college. The student must "need it" for his/her vocational development. There can be extensive testing involved with the process, but Vocational Rehab programs may foot the bill for all or some of the education. It is important to remember when you're struggling through the financial aid maze that all colleges/universities want students to attend their specific school. Financial aid offices are designed to help students get there.

When there is a will, there is a way.

Thanks again for writing to CyberWink. Good luck with your endeavor!


Subject: DYSLEXIA HELP

Dear Sir:

I am a working single parent with a 13-year-old daughter who is dyslexic . I am trying to find out about any information or contacts you may have regarding educational funding to send her to a school specializing in dyslexia in the Boston area.

Please contact me back at your earliest convenience.

Thank you for your time.

Dear Parent,

I am writing in response to your e-mail about scholarships that might be available for your teenage daughter to attend a special school. Let me offer a few thoughts.

First, if sending your daughter to a private school is cost prohibitive, you might consider supplementing her public school education with special tutors, which is exactly what my mother did for me. A colleague of mine has suggested that you contact the Learning Disabilities Network (LDN), which is a referral agency in the Boston area. They have tutors and other resources who can help your daughter. LDN's number is 781-340-5605.

I also understand that The Scottish Rite Children's Learning Centers have an excellent, free tutoring center in Lexington, Massachusetts. Many LD schools also offer free outreach efforts and summer programs at much lower costs than tuition, so you might check with the schools in your area for options.

Second, regarding your specific request, I have done some research and found that, regrettably, there are very few scholarships of this kind available today. The best opportunity for financial assistance is from the private school you are considering. Of course, education is a State right and responsibility, so you do have some options if you want to pursue this route. Work with your school district first, and if you are not satisfied with the results, you might contact your State Advocacy and Protection Agency. (You can get the number/address -- and a lot of other information on your options as a parent-- by contacting the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) at 410-296-0232 and ask for the Information and Referral Department. You can also call the IDA's automated Request Line at 1-800-ABCD-123 and leave a message with your specific request.

I have also learned that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a law that says, if a parent can demonstrate that a child has a learning disability and that the public school hasn't met the needs of the child, then the parent can request a due process hearing with the State. If the State finds that this is the case, the public school will pay to send the child to a special school. There are 2 such schools in your area.

Please recognize, however, that making the case that your daughter is not receiving a suitable education can be a long and challenging task. (I recently received an e-mail from a mother of a 10-year old boy with dyslexia who said it took her 3 years to get their school system to recognize her son's gifts.) Also recognize that these schools can be incredible, life-changing experiences for a child. Each family must carefully weigh their options and make the decision most appropriate for them.

Finally and most important, always remember that there is more than one option for helping kids with learning differences to realize their potential. Unable to attend a special school when I was growing up, I succeeded thanks to the love and support of my parents, friends, minister, coaches, tutors and a few caring teachers who took the time to change their thinking.

I encourage you to go to my web site, www.CyberWink.com and check out the "In Don's Own Words" section. As a caring parent, you play the most important role in your daughter's success. And you don't have to do it alone. Keep believing!


Education Options

Subject: YOUR WONDERFUL WEBSITE

Dear Don:

I have studied leadership and leadership concepts for some time, and I wanted you to know that your Breakthrough Leadership Process is an excellent model. One of my favorite books (I carry it with me) is "Lincoln on Leadership" -- you might be interested in checking it out.

Your story is an inspiration to our children. It is also a story of hope to parents. Although I am going through a very difficult time right now, I know in my heart, that with the support and knowledge that is out there, we will find what is best for our situation. There will be a happy ending!

I have a question and I hope you may be able to point me in the right direction. My 15-year-old son is a very intelligent young man who is also dyslexic. He was diagnosed at age 10. He is now in his freshman year in a large public high school and it has been a difficult (to say the least) time.

I am looking into private high schools (like Landmark) that specialize in helping bright LD kids achieve their potential. Needless to say, the tuition is high. Are you aware of any sources of financial aid for this type of educational need or someone who might have this type of information that I could contact.

Thanks so much for your help.

Dear Parent:

Thank you for your kind e-mail. I have not read the book, "Lincoln on Leadership", though I will look for it now.

Thanks, too, for sharing your son's story with me. I also can appreciate how difficult it has been for him in a large public high school, having been there myself many years ago. I can't emphasize enough how important it is for you -- the parent -- to stay actively involved during this time, providing love, encouragement and support. Your son is obviously on the right track, and you should be proud of him AND yourself for that.

Private schools like Landmark can be terrific, often life-changing experiences for kids with learning differences. However, these schools can also be tremendously expensive, and in my limited research on the subject, I have found very few scholarships or financial aid resources available. Some states have laws that say, if a parent can demonstrate that a child has a learning disability and that the public school hasn't met the needs of the child (e.g., a 6th grader with an IQ of 120 who can't read), then the parent can request a due process hearing with the state. Of course, this can be a long and arduous process, as well as both emotionally and possibly financially draining. Bottom line is that each family must carefully weigh their options (and there are many options available), and make the decision most appropriate for them.

You might also consider the Forman School. In addition to being a former Trustee of Forman, both of my kids attended and had very positive experiences there. Forman has a long and interesting history. It was founded in 1930 by John and Julie Forman who believed that young students with special learning needs would benefit from a caring environment, with close personal attention from teachers. Forman's wife was from the Ripley family, which helped financially support the school during the early days.

Today's teachers and staff are first rate. They receive the best training around and 40% hold advanced degrees. True to the school's founding principles, the faculty members serve not only as educational advocates for the students, but also act as "houseparents," providing advice, counseling and friendship. The academic program is diverse and the instruction focuses on individual needs, with one-on-one remedial instruction where necessary. The facilities are great and are constantly being upgraded for future growth. And the rural Litchfield setting is magnificent.

The best way to find out for yourself is to visit the school. You might want to start by phoning their admissions director, Helen Waldron, at 860-567-8712. I remain in contact with the school, particularly with headmaster Mark Perkins and development director, Mary Ann Martin. They might also be good contacts for you to find out more.

In addition, you might be interested in reading my speech -- "Give of Yourself, and We Shall Grow" -- given at Forman's commencement, May 1998. (You can find it on my web site, under "In Don's Own Words.")

If sending your son to a private school turns out to be cost prohibitive, you might consider supplementing his public school education with special tutors, which is exactly what my mother did for me. There is a referral agency in Boston called the Learning Disabilities Network (LDN), which names tutors and other resources (781-340-5605.) They might be able to connect you with a national number or local resource close to you. Or call your local chapter of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Also be sure to check out the many wonderful web sites created for people with learning differences and their families. You can get to these from either the www.HelloFriend.com web site or from mine. I know you will find a lot of good information that will be useful to you and your son.

The point is that there is more than one option for helping kids with learning differences to realize their potential. Unable to attend a special school growing up, I succeeded thanks to the love and support of my parents, friends, minister, coaches, tutors, and a few caring teachers who took the time to change their thinking. Under the "In Don's Own Words" section on my Web site, there is a speech I gave to the Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Chamber of Commerce in October 1998, thanking my community members for their tremendous positive impact on my life.

As a caring parent, you play the most important role in your son's success. And you don't have to do it alone. There are a lot of like-minded parents and educators out there, and they need your support for the cause just as you need theirs. So keep communicating, in as many ways as you can, to as many people as you can. Keep believing -- in your son and in a better view for dyslexic kids everywhere.


Subject: SELECTING A SCHOOL

Dear Don,

Do you have any advice on selecting a good school for kids with dyslexia?

Dear Parent,

There are many ways to research schools, and probably the best is to actually visit and talk with teachers and students there. To start, you can get good information from a number of Web-based and print guides that focus on finding and evaluating schools. A few of these guides feature special sections on resources for learning different students.

The Schwab Foundation for Learning has compiled a list of its favorite school selection resources. The list, complete with links for ordering print materials, can be found at: http://www.schwablearning.org/.


Subject: ANY HELP WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED

Don,

We have a very bright, 13-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with ADD. We will be moving to California the summer before he begins high school and are looking for a school especially adapted to help him excel. He has aspirations of becoming an astronaut; he's even attended NASA space camp. He is also a very good, avid soccer player. Any information would be extremely helpful. Thank you!

Dear Parents,

Thank you for visiting CyberWink and sharing your story with me. I'm not surprised to hear how bright and talented your son is. In fact, I often find that kids with learning differences (LDs) are of above average intelligence and have an unusual gift for creativity and imagination.

While I don't have names of specific schools for children with ADD, I can suggest some resources available for you to begin researching education possibilities.

On my Web site www.CyberWink.com, under "Learning Differences", I've listed the following organizations:

  1. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (C.H.A.D.D.)
    499 N.W. 70th Avenue #101
    Plantation, FL 33317
    (800) 233-4050
    Web site http://www.chadd.org
  2. Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
    P.O. Box 972
    Mentor, OH 44601
    (800) 487-2282
    Web site http://www.add.org
  3. International Dyslexia Association (IDA)
    8600 LaSalle Road, Suite 382
    Baltimore, MD 21286
    (800) ABCD-123 (automated request line for specific information) or (410) 296-0232 (general number)
    Web site http://www.interdys.org

All of these organizations can provide you with more information about ADD and about schools which offer programs specializing in this area. Two other helpful Web sites are the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation at www.perc-schwabfdn.org and the Ennis William Cosby Foundation at www.HelloFriend.com.

According to the Schwab Foundation for Learning, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or AD/HD is a neurobiological condition that affects 3%-5% of the school age population. You may be interested to read the following article about AD/HD at: http://www.schwablearning.org/

You might also by interested in researching a school in Sunnyvale, California (near San Jose), called the Peterson Middle School led by Vonica Miller. It is a regular public school (not LD specific), yet she has re-designed the classroom to employ sensory learning techniques. She not only uses the desks and the blackboards like a typical classroom, but she also uses the walls and the ceilings which are covered with various learning tools.

The main theme is space travel (you mentioned that your son is interested in space/NASA). Students begin the school year as space travelers who have just landed on a strange planet and must learn everything from scratch, using all of their senses. Since everything is new, there are no dumb questions and non-traditional learning techniques are as readily accepted as traditional techniques.

Vonica won a "Teach Each" Award from the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation's Parents and Teachers Educational Resource Center -- you can probably find out more on the www.perc-schwabfdn.org Web site

I was glad to hear that your son is such an avid soccer player. When kids struggle with reading or other aspects of learning, it is so important for them to feel good about their accomplishments in other areas, and for parents to encourage their interests. For me, my success in electronics, wrestling and football allowed me to believe in myself, even while I faced the daunting challenge of learning to read. My ability to do well in those areas --- along with constant encouragement from my support system (parents, friends, coaches, etc.) -- gave me the courage to keep trying.

As caring parents, you play the most important role in your son's success. And you don't have to do it alone. There are a lot of like-minded parents and educators out there, and they need your support for the cause just as you need theirs. So keep communicating in as many ways as you can, to as many people as you can. Keep believing -- in your son and in a better view for kids with learning differences everywhere.

Thanks again for sharing your son's story with me.


Inspiration/Overcoming Obstacles

Subject: Role Models

Dear Don,

I happened upon the link to your site while reading Ennis Cosboy's story of success. I am continually in search of rolle model dyslexics for my son, stories of inspiration that will help him to believe that he can and will be successful in life.

On July 11, 1988 he was born at one pound and left in the hospital by his birth family, them never returning. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him. You see I was his nurse. From the day I took him home I knew I had a gift from God. He was so incredibly bright but seemed to struggle with so many of the basics....the alphabet, reading, organizing, etc. With the help of a fantastic neuropsycologist I fought the public school system when he was only in first grade to win palcement at a world renowned school for children with dyslexia. Now in the eight grade he is thriving emotionally, socially, and academically. While the struggles continue although less, it's stories like your and Ennis' that give me hope that things will be ok. Thanks for sharing such a private part of your life with so many of us.

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your beautiful note. Stories like yours are an inspiration to me. You are a terriffic mother and a great role model yourself.

If you are looking for other successful people with learning differences, I would urge you to visit this site:http://www.labschool.org/Awards%20Gala.html

My best to you and Travis.


Subject: THANK YOU

Mr. Winkler,

I sit here crying with joy as I read each and every article on your Web site. My son, who is eleven, is severely dyslexic and also has sensory integration problems and auditory processing problems. I research what is new on the Net periodically in regards to dyslexia and learning differences.

In my search today, I found the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation site with a link to your Web page. I am printing off articles that I can share with my little boy who needs encouragement and understanding. I have always told him that he will be quite a success one day -- that he is special and that the struggles he is going through will only make him stronger. My son told me (just last week) that his life is so complicated and that he is tired of hurting so much. He feels that his fellow students and even his teachers dislike him. It pains me so to the very core of my heart.

He also struggles with self-esteem which I am finding is very common with learning differences. This is only compounded by his father leaving us seven years ago and his lack of a good relationship with his dad. The pressure he is put under by his father is incredible. His dad expects no less than A's, which causes terrible strife for my son.

On your site, I have found so much relevant information that I can't wait to share it with my son this evening. Things that I told him about just this morning, I read on your Web site this afternoon. It encouraged me that I am on the right track in my quest to educate my son and to pick up where the public schools fall short. I will go to any lengths necessary to make sure he grows up knowing how special and gifted he is. I need to hear stories such as yours to quiet the deep fears in my heart.

My son will start middle school in the fall and I know that through information, knowledge and a great deal of prayer, he will succeed. Thank you for standing firm and for not being ashamed to share your story. If anything, know that your site gives me the much needed boost in my heart to keep pushing and being an advocate for my little boy. God bless you.

Dear Parent,

I was very moved by your story. In my talks to schools and parents around the country, I emphasize the importance of love and support in helping every child with LD realize his or her gift. That is what allowed me to get past the self-doubt growing up, and it is also what sustains me today.

What you have given -- and continue to give -- your son is so important! You are giving him what every parents and teacher should be giving kids with LD. You believe in him, you love and support him, you look for better opportunities to allow him to succeed, and you encourage his interests and dreams. In short, you are doing what a loving parent does.

Early identification and treatment are keys to helping those with LD. Equally important are the perceptions of those who impact the child's development. Do they choose to view the LD as a failure or a disability, or as a gift that requires a special kind of nurturing? I believe perception creates reality -- if you truly believe your son will be a success, you will naturally create an environment that fosters success and the child will flourish.

Too often, children with differences in learning believe that they are at fault in their difficulties at school. They may not admit to "feeling dumb," yet they frequently conceal within themselves such beliefs. These sentiments can lead to a deteriorating attitude toward school, depression, and plummeting self-esteem. The cycle must be broken. Demystification is a process that can be used to prevent or treat children's dangerous self-misunderstandings. To read an article about the process of Demystification go to the Schwab Foundation for Learning's Web site at: http://www.schwablearning.org/.

The biggest challenge is getting parents and educators "out of their boxes." A true turning point in my life (which you can read about in the speeches posted on my Web site) was when my minister made a change in his thinking -- he saw me as a promising child in need of support, as opposed to a troublemaker just looking for attention.

You mention that your former husband is not supportive of your son and his learning differences. I understand how tough this must be for you, and especially for your son. I would like to suggest a videotape titled, "How Difficult Can This Be?", which may help your ex-husband "see" what your son sees. Although it was produced several years ago, it still has a strong impact on those trying to understand dyslexia and other LD concerns from an LD's point-of-view.

Also, allow me to suggest a great book entitled, "The Gift of Dyslexia", by Ronald D. Davis. It is a simple, practical guide to understanding dyslexia with great advice to parents of kids with LD issues. It is available at bookstores or through on-line book sales, such as www.amazon.com

Since you mentioned that sending your son to private school was cost prohibitive, you might consider supplementing his public school education with special tutors, which is exactly what my mother did for me. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) has hundreds of resources and referrals for your use. You can call them at 410-296-0232 (Monday - Friday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (EST)) or leave them a message on their automated request line at 800-ABCD-123 with a specific inquiry.

Many LD schools also offer free outreach efforts and summer programs at much lower costs than tuition, so you might check with the schools in your area for options. Also, be sure to check out the many wonderful web sites created for people with learning differences and their families. You can get to some of these through the www.HelloFriend.com web site or from mine. I know you will find a lot of good information that will be useful to you and your son.

As a caring parent, you play the most important role in your son's success, and you don't have to do it alone. There are a lot of like-minded parents and educators out there, and they need your support for the cause, just as your need theirs. Keep playing the role as your son's advocate. You can also expand that role by talking to other parents, communicating with your schools, contacting local newspapers, writing editorials, speaking within your community and any other way you can get the word out locally.

Keep believing in your son and in a better view for LD kids everywhere. Thanks for sharing your story with me.


Subject: LEARNING PROBLEMS

Subject: LEARNING PROBLEMS

Hello,

I have learning difficulties, which I have passed on to my children. My oldest son has a degree in Business Marketing. He was able to escape the drug and alcohol trap of his peers, but remains easily frustrated and short on self-confidence. I have tried to guide him in several directions, including more education (for a possible job change), seeking counseling or joining a support group. He is an adult and I can only make suggestions to him; ultimately the choice is his. Yet he does share his fears about the future and other problems with me openly. I was encouraged to write you by a colleague of yours, so here is my first attempt at communication.

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much for your e-mail message. You and I know firsthand the daily challenges that we face as a result of our learning differences. In addition, I also understand the parental concerns you have about your son's future -- both of my children also inherited learning differences. It was (and still can be) an equally difficult challenge to deal with learning differences as a parent..

The best advice I can give is to keep believing in your son, and to let him know that you support him. Focus on what he has achieved -- obviously your son can accomplish great things based on his success in earning a marketing degree; both of you should be very proud of that accomplishment.

There are no "cure-alls" for learning differences such as dyslexia; learning to cope is the key. Over the years I have learned what I need to do, what I need to practice, what I need to focus on in order to get me where I want to be. I have daily morning exercises which I faithfully perform that prepare me for the day's challenges. For the individual with a learning difference, the keys to success are discovering what works for you, making a commitment to stick with it despite any adversity, believing in yourself, focusing on what you are good at, and always maintaining a positive attitude. For the parents, love and support are the best gifts you can give to your child.

I can not tell you what is best for your son -- every person is different. I can share my story, my struggles, and my successes so that others can see what is possible, and hopefully learn something they might try. There are local organizations that might be worth contacting to learn more about available resources. Many LD schools offer free or low-cost outreach programs, summer programs, etc. They also might be able to refer your son to local people who have succeeded who have LDs.

On the national level, there are many other groups all over the U.S. that would be worth looking into -- try contacting the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) at 410-296-0232. Ask for the Information and Referral Department. You can also call the IDA's toll free Request Line at 1-800-ABCD-123 and leave a message with your specific request.

In addition, you can check on my Web site www.CyberWink.com or the www.HelloFriend.com site for links to some of the best resources. A simple phone call, e-mail or letter to these organizations could be a tremendous step in the right direction

I would be interested in hearing more about your son and your son's progress. Please pass on my Web site address to your son so that he can see some of the resources available, and let me know what he thinks.


Subject: RECOGNIZING DYSLEXIA

Don,

I am the mom of a 10-year-old gifted dyslexic. Our biggest challenge has been getting the school to recognize this and to help out.

When my son was 7 he took a standardized test that showed his math in the 99th percentile and his reading in the 9th percentile. Since that day I have become my son's advocate and I have not stopped since. At 8 I insisted that the school test my son; I felt he had dyslexia and dysgraphia. After testing my son, the school was still unwilling to admit that my son had special learning needs. They believed the issue was simply a matter of my son being "difficult" since he needed constant prodding to read or write. If they had just asked him why they would have found out how difficult it is for him, with the letters moving around the page. Their conclusion was that my gifted 8-year-old made poor choices and didn't want to read or write. He had one teacher ask him, "Why do you bother coming to school, you don't do anything?" - in front of the entire class. I can't help but wonder how many other comments were said. I was heartbroken and angry. I knew that if they treated my son as a behavior problem, he would live up to their expectations. (On the other hand, if they treated him as a brilliant kid with learning differences, he would also rise to that.)

Through the years, I have continued to fight for my boy. Finally in November 1998, I had the school re-test and we got the formal diagnosis - Highly gifted with dyslexia and dysgraphia. Since then I have not been happy with the way the school deals with this kind of a child -- all they did was give more reading and writing assignments, with little special attention to his needs. I wish they would focus on his gifts.

I am currently home schooling my son and trying to find a good school that will approach my son's differences (gifted LD) in a much better way.

After years of abuse from both teachers and students, my son's self-esteem is recovering. My son is definitely college-bound and he will succeed. He wants to become a fighter pilot, and if he sticks with this goal, I am sure he will accomplish it.

As my son's advocate, I have a new passion in life - to help others from going through the pain and embarrassment my son went through in the school system. Are you aware of any organizations that can use the energy of a mom? Please let me know. I want to make a difference.

Dear Parent,

I was very moved by your story. In my talks to schools and parents around the country, I emphasize the importance of love and support in helping every child with LD realize his or her gift. That's what allowed me to get past the self-doubt growing up, and it's also what sustains me today.

What you have given -- and continue to give-- your son is so important. Based on what you have written, I believe that you are giving him what every parent and teacher should be giving kids with LD. You believe in him, you love and support him, you look for better opportunities to allow him to succeed, and you encourage his interests and dreams (e.g. becoming a fighter pilot). In short, you are doing what a loving parent does.

I agree that early identification and treatment are key. Also very important are the perceptions of those who impact the child's development. Do they choose to view the LD as a failure, as a disability, or as a gift that requires a special kind of nurturing?

Your story reminded me of the case when the records got mixed up at a school, and the so-called "slow learners" were misclassified as the top learners, and vice versa. The result was that those who were treated as the most promising, intelligent students excelled, while the others stagnated from neglect or intentionally poor treatment.

Regarding the mistreatment by teachers and students that your son has received, I believe a healthy environment is as important -- and as crucial to learning -- as presenting innovative academic lessons. When a classroom atmosphere is safe and respectful, that classroom is conducive to learning. Students learn to listen to each other, to respect each other's differences and contributions, to solve problems in non-violent ways, and to take responsibility for their actions. For inspiration from those teachers who are doing things right, check out the Schwab Foundation for Learning's Web site for the "TeachEach" honorees: http://www.schwablearning.org/.

The biggest challenge is getting parents and educators out of their boxes. As your son's advocate, you can expand your role by talking to other parents, communicating with your schools, contacting local newspapers, and any other way you can get the word out locally.

Regarding volunteering, how about asking your own school system how you can help? On a broader level, you might ask the people at Hello Friend/the Ennis William Cosby Foundation. Or contact local chapters of the national and international organizations linked to my Web site like the International Dyslexia Association, which can refer you to LD schools in your area. LD schools I have personal experience with are the Forman School in Litchfield, CT; Marburn Academy in Columbus, OH; Shelton School in Dallas, TX: and Lewis School in Princeton, NJ.

Keep believing in your son. Thanks for sharing your story with me.


Special Abilities

Subject: GIFTED DYSLEXICS

Dear CyberWink,

I'm a teacher who has had the privilege of knowing several gifted students with dyslexia over the course of 10 years. The kids I've taught have been very creative, perceptive and dynamic. Although they struggle to read and write conventionally, they are able to learn things in a non-linear way. Do you know of any organizations or resources that have looked into the possibility that people with dyslexia have special talents?

Dear Teacher,

Thanks for your note. I've heard similar stories from other teachers and from parents of bright, gifted children with dyslexia. In addition, I'm sure you know that some very successful people have had learning differences, including Nelson Rockefeller, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill; actors such as Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones and Lindsay Wagner; sports heroes like Bruce Jenner, Nolan Ryan and Greg Louganis; and business leaders including Charles Schwab, John Reed of CitiGroup, and telecommunications giant Craig McCaw.

You might be interested in the book, "In the Mind's Eye," by Thomas G. West. It is a fascinating read on the very subject you are interested in. Also, the Schwab Foundation for Learning has a book and video list on "Multiple Intelligence" (MI) you may be interested in. The list highlights two texts by MI theory developer Dr. Howard Gardner, two widely-available overview videos, a number of teaching strategy books for grades ranging from preschool to high school, and some useful Internet resources. Go to the Web site at: http://www.schwablearning.org/.

While you are on the Schwab Web site, you might also check out how an educator has used the arts in developing an alternative form of literacy for students. Dr. Chula, M.A. in Arts, M. Arch, M.A. SpEd, is a Resource Specialist for Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico where she uses the arts to develop literacy skills for students with learning difficulties and emotional differences. Dr. Chula works as an arts consultant to parents and educators for youth with special needs. To learn about using arts in the classroom go to http://www.schwablearning.org/.

Finally, as a teacher, you might want to contact the All Kinds of Minds (AKOM) Institute. AKOM's Schools Attuned Program is a comprehensive regular education program offering new methods for understanding and managing differences in learning without subjecting children to labels.

For more information on the program, contact AKOM at 919-966-6312, or visit the organization's Web site at: www.allkindsofminds.org.


Community Help

Subject:  CAN YOU HELP ME

Don,

I have a little boy with Down's Syndrome and I am trying to find out how I can go about getting a "Deaf Child" sign in my area.  We live on private property so our township is not responsible for it.  I have asked the owner of our trailer park and I can not get a response from her.  Can you tell me a group that can help me - or at least point me in the right direction?  Thanks.

Dear Parent,

Thank you for visiting my CyberWink.com Web site.  I have never received a request about special road signage before, so I wasn't quite sure where to begin.  This type of request is not my "area of expertise." I did, however manage to find some resources for you.  Hopefully, they will be helpful.

A gentlemen from your county engineer's office should be calling you about your Deaf Child sign request.  One of my staff members talked to him briefly and he said he couldn't make a decision on the proper procedures because he didn't have all the information required for making a decision.  He wanted to talk to you to get some more details.

Your message states that you are on private property within the trailer park. Since you are on private property, he said that the State does not have any jurisdiction over the road signs and neither does the township.  (If you were on a State Route, the State would be responsible.  If you were on a township road, the township would have jurisdiction.)

He said since it is private property, you will most likely have two choices. The first is to try and get the trailer park manager/owner to pay for the sign. Since you don't live on a State Route, the Deaf Child sign will not have to meet State requirements, which will reduce the cost of the proposed sign.  Signs can be purchased through any manufacturer that makes such signs.  This gentleman will be sending you some literature about sign companies, procedures for ordering signs, prices, etc.  The average price for a sign would be around $80 - $100.

If the trailer park manager/owner does not want to pay for the sign, the second option is to purchase the sign yourself.  It would be a good idea (especially if you are renting) to have the trailer park owner/manager sign a permission form stating that it was okay for the sign to be erected.

For further information, I have included the number of your county engineer's office.  Good luck!


Research/Projects

Subject:  FUNDING SOURCES

Mr. Winkler,

I am a university student developing a grant project to help high school kids with learning disabilities. My project focuses on giving them an opportunity to gain work experience on a trial basis, for a maximum of six weeks at a time.  As you are aware, many individuals learn differently and need a hands-on experience to truly understand the demands of the working world and various job requirements, instead of just abstract concepts.  Too often, I find, people are forced to simply try work that is most convenient, rather than what is truly of interest to the person.

If you are aware of any foundations or corporate sponsors, please pass this information in my direction.  Thanks for your time.  Keep having fun!!

Dear Student,

It sounds like you are developing quite an interesting and important project. In regards to fundraising or corporate sponsorships, there are several angles you can take.  The best sources for funding (particularly for a neighborhood project) are usually local clubs and local people who believe in the value of your project and your ability to lead it.  The community Rotary Club or AAUW are great places to start.

The key to successful fund raising or sponsorships is to have a terrific, well-organized and thoughtful program that can be clearly presented and that inspires people.  You need to do your homework before approaching potential contributors.  It is important to research similar programs - learn how they were funded and organized, assess the pros and cons of each effort, and know how your effort differs from others.  If a similar program is in place nearby, go visit and see what they have accomplished and where they could improve.  If you are suggesting a six week (maximum) work program, you need to completely understand the reasoning behind the time frame.  It is not enough to just have a good idea or vision.  To successfully raise money, you need a detailed, well-researched plan.  Donors want to give money to someone who has a clear plan for spending it wisely.  There are many opportunities and organizations for people to donate to, and you need to persuade them that you are the best choice.

It is also important to research the interests of any organizations or foundations you are targeting for fundraising, so you know the issues they are looking to support.  You can do a lot of fundraising research on the Internet.

Finally, networking can be vital to fundraising efforts.  Invest your time wisely and build a base of believers and supporters.  Keep careful records and notes of your conversations and leads.  It is important to know who you talked to, when, what suggestions were made, and who was going to follow up on them. Thank people carefully, follow-up regularly and involve them in the excitement of your vision.  Keep them posted of your progress and celebrate with them the accomplishment.

Good luck!  Let me know how things work out!

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