August 23rd, 2011
07:33 AM ET

Human Factor: A bridge from dyslexia

In the Human Factor,  we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship - they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week Ben Foss shares how his own disability led him to invent a device that helps others who share his condition.

People like to say that I have overcome dyslexia.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

What I have overcome is the mainstream world. A person in a wheelchair overcomes stairs with a ramp. In the same way, I have overcome people who think dyslexia equals lazy.

This experience is why I am now the executive director of Disability Rights Advocates, a national legal center that tries to get people to do what they should have done in the first place, i.e., include people with disabilities in the mainstream.

Eighteen veterans a day commit suicide. We are fighting to make sure that the Department of Veterans Affairs provides the services vets with disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury deserve. In New York, they are about to replace all the cabs in the city with vans, but they have not picked one with a ramp built-in.

Wheelchair users can use 100% of the cabs in London, but less than 2% of those in NYC. That is wrong. For 17 years DRA has been fighting for equal access to work and school for all.

I made it through a JD/MBA at Stanford but it was because I have integrated my disability, dyslexia, not because I overcame it. I think of it like my nationality; I am from dyslexia. ADHD is our Canada and dyscalculia is our Mexico. Indeed, there are 30 million people with the same disability I have in the U.S.

If we join the disability rights movement with the people in chairs and with canes who fought to get the workplace and schools open to us, there is little we cannot do.

The real mother of invention is frustration. In college, I used to fax my term papers home to my mom to get help finding my own spelling mistakes. It was a bad situation for me and for my mom. When I got to graduate school, it took three weeks for me to get my textbooks converted to digital text so I could have a computer read them aloud with a Stephen Hawking voice.

That led me to invent the Intel Reader. For me it is a ramp into a book. Independent research suggests that kids with dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities  can improve their reading comprehension test scores by up to 23% when using the Intel Reader. These days GE and Intel are selling the product through a joint company called Care Innovations.

The most important thing any person who is dyslexic can do is be seen. Tell your story with all its warts and better still with some good one-liners.

We are everywhere. If you work with 500 people, at least 50 are from dyslexia. But if we do not stand up and talk about it, the kids coming up behind us will believe they are broken. They are not. Together we can overcome, or better yet fix, the world around us.

Editor's note: The text below was the raw version of this blog. To blog, I write my thoughts, then put it into a speech engine and proof it three or four times myself. I then hand it to an editor to assure the written language is clean. The key here is I have command of literacy, metaphor and vocabulary, but not the code of the written language. I am publishing this to show people the work behind the curtain. Yep, still from dyslexia.

People liek to say the I have over come dyslexia.  Nothing could be further from the truth. What I have overcome is the mainstream world.  A person in a wheel chair overcome stairs with a ramp.  In teh same way, I have overcome people who think dyslexia equals lazy..  This is why I am now the Executive Director of Disability Rights Advocates, www.dralegal.org, a national egal center that tries to get people to do what they should of done in the first place, i.e., include people with disabilities in the mainstreem.

eighteen veterans a day commit suicide.  We are fighting to makes sure that the department of veterna affair provides the services vets deserve.  In New York, they are about to replace all the cabs in the city with vans, but they have no piced one with a ramp built-in. Wheel chair users can use one hundred percent of the cabs in London, but les than 2% of these in NYC.  That wrong and for 18 years DRA has been fighting for equal access to work and school for all.

I did make it through a JD/MBA at Stanford but it was because I have integrated my disability, dyslexia.  I think of like my nationality - I am fron dysleixa.  ADHD is ourCanadaans dysscalcula is ourMexico.  Indeed, there are 30 million people with the same disability I have in theUS.  If we join the disability right movement, the people in chairs and with canes that fought to get the work place and schools openned to us, there is little we cannot do.

I like to say that the real mother of invention is frustration.  When I used to have to fax my term paper home to my mom to get help fiding my own spelling mistakes, it was a bad situation for me and for my mom.  When I got to graduate school, it took three weeks for me to get my text books converted to digital text so I could have compute read them.  That lead to to invent the Intel Reader.  For me it is a ramp into a book.  Independent research suggest allow kids with dyslexia or other specific leagning disabilties to use it can improve test scores by up to 23%. Those kids are not overcoming dyslexia, they are overcomeing a poorly designed school and with noe that has tools to hep them show their through will allow them to get good jobs and enjoy life.These day GE and Intel are selling the product through joint company called Care Inovations.

The most important thing any person whos is disylexia can do is to stand up and be seend. We are everywhere. If you work with 500 people, at least 50 are from dyslexia.  But if we do not stand up and talk about it, the kids coming up behing us will beleive they are broekn.  Then are not and together we can fix the workld around us.

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  1. Whitney

    This is pretty interesting. I wish the author would have said more about the background of dyslexia, beyond the spelling mistakes… i.e. what are the implications? Prognosis? Etiology? I am not very familiar with it and it sounds like something that should receive more attention

    August 23, 2011 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • candid_one

      Dyslexia is a range of symptoms and associated learning disabilities with idiosyncratic variations and expressions. This short article couldn't begin to do more than to introduce this syndrome. Dyslexia deserves further investigation by anyone who thinks that they or their friends or acquaintances or relatives might be involved. You're online, research it with your favorite search engine. It's well worth the effort. Few of us are as successful as Charles Schwab but many of us have lived successful lives despite this operative disadvantage. Take care.

      August 23, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse |
    • Cliff

      I live with dyslexia. The first time I recognized the problem was around 5th grade. At that time, trying to write an "r" (the lower case) would come out as "5". I went through a lot of erasers! The manifestation of dyslexia is now gone but others pop up. Each time, the first thing is to recognize what situation is happening and then concentrating on correcting the problem. It is never "cured" but at least you know what is happening and can deal with it each time.
      While I figured out what was happening way back in 5th grade, I didn't know there was a name for it. I never heard the term "dyslexia" until a couple decades later.
      Really, it is the brain trying to 'wire' itself in the learning process and some of the wire just doesn't get prugged into the right box. Like the r vs 5 situation, part of the brain knows what is supposed to happen but the mechanics of making that happen is shorted out. It also seems to change with time. One problem that seems to have stayed constant is transposing objects. I really have to write down a phone number. Trying to remember one will result in switching a pair of digits.
      Dyslexia manifests itself in different ways with different people and can change over time. Personally, I have never really considered it to be a disability but more of a serious challenge. The biggest obstacle is knowing and recognizing that an individual has that problem. After that, its just a matter of understanding and overcomming.

      August 23, 2011 at 10:45 | Report abuse |
    • Kathy

      My experience is very like Cliff's – a constantly changing challenge. On the other hand, the dyslexia that kept me from reading until the 5th grade now helps me to visualize the patterns in complex population genetic data.

      August 23, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
    • Arthur

      I always thought dyslexia was letter position confusion, not seeing phantom letters.

      August 23, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
    • Janice Rudebaugh

      I was born with a learnig disablility wasn't able to read or write well neither speak well, I was i special ED Classes for my first 6 years of school. When I got into Jur High & High School I was begining to loose interest in school. I dropped out. Life got better and I I went to schoo got train ing drafting. Raise 4 kids by myself with out State ad. Now Iam 60 yreas old and I finally ifgured out what the problem was. I was Dyslix and I am still struggling to keep my job and my skills up for the market place in todays world... I wish I had known about my disablility before hand maybe things woudl have been better for me. Keep up the good work.

      August 23, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
    • RChicago

      Thank you Ben Foss for this excellent article. My experience has been much like Cliff's and i think he explained it very well. My weirdness mixup is between b and g. I disagree with Ben about the "coming out" to the world as a dislexic. I'm a writer. No one would hire me. They would consider it like hiring a one legged waitperson.

      August 23, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • Marilyn

      For lots of Great information Google the International dyslexic Association (IDA) Website and listenng to learn. I have discovered so much in the last three years after learning that my daughter was dyslexic.

      August 23, 2011 at 20:36 | Report abuse |
    • Willowspring

      I wonder if a person can be somewhat dyslexic?

      August 23, 2011 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
    • Mom of a Dyslexic

      As a mother of a severely dyslexic child with a High IQ – I explain Dyslexia like 'Cancer' for each person it has a different result/experience – no two dyslexics are really alike they can share experiences and relate but they never appear to have the same issues. The B/P or reversing of numbers or letters is just the most basic form but there are more complicated forms – for my child the disconnect between the reading and reading out loud is painful for me to hear but as a parent of student we all know highly necessary to be in a classroom environment. The Reader while a fabulous tool and one we have – as a young child he doesn't use it sufficiently he still deals with the 'stigma' of his 'Dis Ease" – Reading for the Blind & Dyslexic (now called Learning Alley) has been a wonderful tool for us – there books on CD have opened up a world of reading that he never had before. We are blessed to have this organization in our life, because now he has gone from 2nd grade books to reading more advanced literature for his age group. Though the Reader is a wonderful asset for people with dyslexia you cannot disguard the work and partnership that Learning Alley brings a dyslexic reader. In fact I believe you can download books onto the Reader from Learning Alley but we've not figured that side out yet. Thank you Ben Foss for your contribution to other Dyslexics – I just wish there were a dozen more of you bringing the pain and possibility for these children. It's an up hill battle and really only advocating parents make the difference. I often wonder how those parents who have issues themselves or have no time or understanding cope – there children are certainly swept under the carpet and often labled 'trouble makers' when they have the potential of being gifted movers and shakers in this world.

      PS thanks to organization like Learning Alley and the use of INTEL Reader my son has developed a love of reading and writing and excels in his writing class dispite bad spelling and an inability to read his stories out loud!

      August 25, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
    • Lucia

      My son is dyslexic. I am proud of the fact that he is finishing his college career soon, it has been a frustrating road. Through out his school career we have been told by teachers "why bother? He will never really do anything in life." "Your son should not be telling people about his disability because the other students will want the same considerations when it comes to extended time to turn in homework." I am proud of my son and the obstacles he has over come. His area of excellence is art. To see him run the household while I have been coming and going due to military duty is amazing. Did I say I am damn proud of my son 🙂

      Thank you Dr. Gupta, I wish you would do more stories about dyslexia.

      September 3, 2011 at 08:08 | Report abuse |
  2. Casual Observer

    This is a great article. My husband has dyslexia and I have ADHD, people don't consider them disabilities because they can not be seen. People in wheelchairs and people with physical disabilities are more obvious, and because it is a disability that can be seen it gets more attention than dyslexia, or similar disabilities. I really appreciate you bringing these issues to light as they are issues that need to be addressed. As a side note, my husband has me proof read his papers all the time, and they look identical to your "raw version" of this article 😉

    August 23, 2011 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Arthur

      Dyslexic people can be seen by observing. I can identify them in my ESL classes when I go around as they copy from the board. The chance to identify the afflicted is my reason not to allow them to write whenever they choose.

      August 23, 2011 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
  3. Mary

    Go Ben, go!!! You are an inspiration and making a positive impact on several levels!! Sounds like you have a great mom, too!

    August 23, 2011 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Glen

    Dyslexia in my understanding of my own disability is a confusion of direction by the mind. The explain this to people who are not dyslexic you need to imagine looking at something from a different point. An example of this is reading, in English it is from left to right, but for some Dyslexic people their mind will be seeing from the back side of the page transposing it making it appear backwards in the mind. If you can imagine having all of your letter appear backwards in your mind, you can start to understand the frustration of being dyslexic. This is just one transportation, some people suffer from multiple. I have been taught a way that help me over come some of the mental confusion suffered by dyslexia. You will need to get a sense of your view mentally( how you see out of your eyes, this might be looking at your face; ie. from a mirror image), then rotate your view into where your eyes are in your head. This seems to work for a while and might need to be repeated until your have trained yourself to stay there. Dyslexia game me the ability to image the world from many points of view at once, but if you do not understand what is happening, confusion is bound to happen.

    August 23, 2011 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anne

      Glen, as I've described to my then 2nd grader, dyslexia is a difference in how the mind process things. His father is the only 'lefty' in the house. His mind process' things differenly that makes him left-side dominate. My son's mind process' written letters differently than the majority of people (but a bigger majority than 'lefty's'). So he's not odd... well, yes he is, but not because of his abilities (lol). And after having him tested, I have the paperwork that proves that I'm right, he's scary smart, just a different thinker (like most of the great minds). By the way, he's now going to be a sophmore in HS who actually cried after reading "Le Miz" for honors english, not because it was hard, but because it was 'such a sad story'.

      August 24, 2011 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
  5. Catherine

    I would like to thank the author–not only for his article but for posting the original uncorrected article as well. I have a daughter who is from dyslexia as well–we spend long hours editing and correcting her homework every night. I don't think that her teachers fully appreciate how much work goes into her day. My goal is to keep her from getting frustrated and losing interest in school–an easy thing to do if all of your subjects are a challenge!

    August 23, 2011 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. B-Dubb

    I am a 28 year old who is dyslexic, ADD, and ADHD. I graduated from the United States Naval Academy and am privileged to now a serve as an officer of Marines. My ability to adapt and overcome the previously mentioned academic obstacles were due largely to the sense of self-discipline instilled in me by my parents at an early age and their devotion to my education and for that I am grateful.
    We all confronted with challenges in life, how he chose to deal with them is says much about our character as individuals and as Americans. As for me, dyslexic, or not I choose to operate with the mentality that I 100% accountable for my successes and failures in life. This is far more responsible approach than pushing my personal issues into the public spotlight and expect the government to enact policy in order to make life more convenient for me.

    August 23, 2011 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maggie

      I agree. I am a 45 year old dyslexic. At age 8, in Oklahoma, remediation not 'disability' was the protocol for the learning disabled. Tudoring sessions, one on one, enabled me to learn to read. I went from not reading at the start of third grade to reading at a college level at the end of sixth grade. (This result from from those 'horrible' standardized tests.) Children with learning disabilities who have average or above average intelligence are better served by remediation, not catergorized as 'disabled'. I can pick up any text, book or newpaper in English and read for myself. By telling people they are disabled and handing them a 'reading device' or audio book you limit their independance and ability to do for themselves. Ultimately it is only cheaper in the short run for a school district or society as a whole to classify a child as 'disabled', hand them an electronic devise and ignore remediation. One on one tudoring takes time and money. It is work for the student and instructor and more expensive than a 'reader'. So, shove the kid an electronic reader and push him through the system. Give the 'disabled' dyslexic more time on standardized tests instead of training and teaching him to function on his own. I do not need the extra time, I am capable but must work harder on spelling. I do not want an air traffic controller who takes 30% longer making calculations than the standard because he is 'disabled'. Nor do I want an accountant who takes 25% longer doing my taxes than the standard beacuse he is 'disabled'. People of average intelligance have to work harder at thinking than I do, that does not make make them 'disabled'. 'Suck it up and drive on.'

      August 23, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse |
    • Catherine

      B-Dubb–My daughter does have "self-discipline" and "100% accountable for her successes and failures in life." I don't think having her responsible for her own issues without giving her the tools to be successful is one of the reasons that we have labeled some of these kids as lazy and incapable. Kids with learning disabilities have a much higher risk of dropping out of school all together–something that doesn't benefit our overall society. If I can give my daughter the tools–she can have more success than if I just let her struggle and "suck it up and drive on.". I work in the sciences, but do not have all of the skills and tools required to help her–but I do have some very caring, thoughtful, well educated individuals in our school system that do have the tools and resources to help her. Not all of her supports are high tech and costly. I am also very cognizant of the fact that she has two parents with the resources, advocacy skills and drive to make sure she succeeds. Unfortunately, I am also too aware that not every kid out there has someone watching their back–I think enough of the kids in our school system that I advocate on their behalf with my tax dollars that make the special educators possible in our schools. I can't imagine that helping kids succeed is "bad government policy."

      August 23, 2011 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
  7. Dogboy

    For many of us with dislexia,the damage is already done.Not having come from suppotive parents,my struggle is a daily one.
    It has lead to job loss on more than one occasion.I have to re-read everything several times to get it strait,and verbal instructions are hard to follow,there is a lag in what i hear,this doesnt go over well in a fast paced production environment.I tend to get so flustered on the job that i get labeled a retard and end up quiting the job.Dislexia as i have come to understand it,affects each person in a diffrent way.Severe depression,low self essteem and suicidal thoughts are apart of what i have to over come,in order to over come my dislexia.

    August 23, 2011 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Edward

    I battled through dyslexia without knowing what it was until it was diagnosed in my son. I got through by putting in two to three times the effort of other students in college to get things to stick. I did much better in lecture based courses than reading courses, and excelled in math and science and failed in english. It took alot of effort, but I survived it and have had a successful career.

    August 23, 2011 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Ashley

    I am dyslexic and have recently completed a Ph.D.. My dissertation advisor told me that learning disabilities are not real. It was a struggle the entire time to keep up with paper writing schedules and written exams and I will continue to struggle with a strenuous publication schedule if I want to get tenure. I've been lucky, I have friends that are very good writers and have helped me along the way with editing and spelling. My husband copy edited my entire dissertation. I appreciate your article.

    August 23, 2011 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Nicole

    I stuggled in school for years, close to failing many classes. I would study so hard only to end up dissapointed. I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was in 8th grade, when I broke down, completely stessed, walking out of class. A few teachers worked with me and help test me for the condition. Once I knew what I was batteling, I turned myself from almost failing to a perfect 4.0 GPA in high school. I still have difficulty spelling and reading. I work in the medical field and have some of the most difficulty words to battel with. I look back and hope children with this condition, that teachers and educators would be able to learn how to catch this problem early on, to help with their improvement in reading and writing.

    August 23, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Susan at Lime

    Great job, Ben! And, kudos to Dr. Gupta and team for sharing Ben's story and educating the general public about one of the many very real, yet "invisible," disabilities impacting the lives of millions of individuals every day.

    August 23, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Parent in CitrusHeights,CA

    As a parent of a 12 year old daughter, I have for years suspected that she has dyslexia. My mother has it. My daughter is seems bright but has difficulty reading and spelling. How does one confirm that someone has dyslexia? Is this something that the school districts should confirm or at least recognize and supply additional educational assistance for? Thanks for any advice.

    August 23, 2011 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tinie

      Spea with here doctor he can recommend where to get her tested.
      schools did not help me or my brothers with diagnosis.
      According to them we are all normal but lazy...oldest brother has both physical disabilities and adhd, youngest is dyslexic with adhd, im adhd...so yeah get a referral from her pediatricia, and prepare for a fight. Schools wanted to put us in the slow lc classes mom fought to get us a mainstream education.

      August 23, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse |
    • Fifty

      If there is a College of Optometry within driving distance, that could be a good resource (unfortunately, there are, supposedly, only 16 in the USA). We had our child vision tested at Pacific University, Forest Grove Oregon. We were very happy with this program. They gave us a detailed vision analysis when done. the program consisted of an initial visit with a total vision testing visit. After that, it was 3 more specific vision testing visits, and after that, an analysis visit. The cost was (4 yrs ago) $150.

      August 25, 2011 at 23:38 | Report abuse |
  13. Lorna

    I have two children with learning disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders and adhd. They are both verbal learners. Usual homework: read chapters xx and write.... Mom reads and scribes. Great technical advancement! Hopefully, the hefty price will come down a bit. Great tool to think about college courses.

    August 23, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eric

      Lorna, it took a neuro psychologist to diagnose my son of dyslexia and dyspraxia.

      August 23, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
  14. Elizabeth

    I thought it was pretty nice of him to mention dyscalculia. Most people have never even heard of it.

    August 23, 2011 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Phil

    I have been dyslexic my whole life. I learned to work around it, without help from any agency. I stand on my own 2 feet and don't need anyone to give me help.

    Anything can be overcome by hard work. If I have to proof-read my own writing 3-4 times I do it. If I need to read something 3 times for it to make sense I do so.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RChicago

      Phil, I'm very happy for your success. But clearly your dyslexia isn't as bad other peoples'. And, clearly you don't understand the confusion that takes over when you can't catch your own mistakes even after reading something 15 times. I'm 50+ with dyslexia and, although I was diagnosed at 10, no one helped me. I taught myself to read and write (in French as well as English) in junior and senior high school. And there were no computers when I went to college. Today I'm a writer, really! And very good at it.

      I agree hard work helps. I work very, very hard. But I will never learn to spell. Thank goodness for Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for creating personal computers and spell check.

      August 23, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
  16. Diana

    As an adult with dyscalculia that wasn't diagnosed until college, I thank you as well. I too found ways to overcome the mainstream world but not my disability. I rely on cell phones to remember phone numbers for me, and I ask the person I'm getting the number from to enter it for me. My husband makes phone calls that include entering a string of numbers and then hands me the phone if it's something I have to deal with myself. I use a calculator or round things off to numbers I can handle if I have to do math in my head. I navigate by landmarks instead of direction. And I use alarms and timers instead of my very faulty time sense. Math in school was a nightmare, I had straight A's.. except for Math and PE. The PE wasn't an issue, my parents didn't care so much about that. They thought I was "lazy" and just wasn't applying myself in Math, but I was spending 8-10 hours a night trying to do the homework and still failing. They insisted on college prep math courses every year.

    I had two teachers who never brought up the term dyscalulia, I don't know that they knew the term, but, they understood that it was a disability not a lack of effort and helped me work around it, reducing homework assignments and letting me use a calculator in Algebra 2, checking my graphs and telling me when I'd switched numbers and letting me fix it, and in 5th grade teaching me "tricks" to do some of the multiplication tables (which I still use) and not making me pass the timed multiplication tests that everyone else had to pass to go to sixth grade, because if you weren't capable of memorizing them, they weren't possible to pass. I could do the tests, if they weren't timed, and get a decent grade on it, using those tricks.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Chuck

    I have dyslexia to a small degree and my son has struggled with it since he was 5 years old. The Intel reader sounds like a fantastic tool to help this reading disability, however not everyone has $1500.

    August 23, 2011 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Lee Anne

    I am sick of calling everything a disability. I am dyslexic. While there are challenges related to this condition, most dyslexics are highly creative as well as highly intelligent. There is positive as well as negative to dyslexia, such as being able to see the world through different eyes then the general population. This makes most of us more able to think out of the box and many dyslexics are very successful.

    People in wheelchairs don't have extra advantages they only have negatives. So comparing the two is really an insult to people that really are disabled. Having worked with disabled children, I can tell you, blindness, deafness, of severe physical impairment is not at all like dyslexia.

    All that being said, schools should learn to teach a variety of methods. There are many different learning styles and this would benefit all.

    Also, there are 300 million people in the US. I come from a family of dyslexics. I know few others. I find it IMPOSSIBLE to believe that 30 million, or 1 in 10 Americans is dyslexic. Where the hell do these "statistics" come from?

    August 23, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Diana

      Yes, a lot of people with learning disabilities are intelligent and highly creative, so are a lot of people in wheelchairs, or who are deaf, or blind. There are many types and ranges of disability. Just because we are capable of compensation to get around the disability does not make us not disabled. A mother with no arms who raises three kids successfully, using her feet to accomplish things is still disabled. A blind person with an assistance dog who works and uses a screen reader and functions in society is still disabled. If you think being unable to read or severely limited in reading or unable to consistently perform basic math is not disabling in today's life, both at work or at home, then you're living in a very different world than I am. Yes, as adults we've found ways of compensating and functioning, a lot of us anyway, also dyslexia and dyscalculia are a 'range' disability, some cases are more severe than others. But think of the six or seven year old who just knows they can't do what the other kids can do. The frustration, the tears, the *struggle* to learn and the pressure to keep up with their peers. Do you think a 7 year old with dyslexia is able to use their intelligence and creativity to past state standardized testing without specialized help or training from the adults and teachers around them? How many years do you think that child would be held back for failing to pass a test they CANNOT read? Oh wait, they GET specialized help, they get legally required accommodations to help with such things don't they? Do you know why? Because they are *disabled*. They have IEP's that protect them and require school districts to give them that help. Would school districts help without that legal requirement? Why don't you ask the adults who went to school before it was required. Or ask the parents who are currently fighting for their children's rights under the law against school districts working with less funding and fewer special needs teachers and programs.

      August 23, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
    • CDC stats

      Good stats



      August 23, 2011 at 19:16 | Report abuse |
  19. Mama to two

    I have a child who is dyslexic, ADHD, and dysgraphic. Talk about the bad whammy trifecta. Our formal diagnosis came when we began working with a reputable psychologist. With regular and consistent work with a private tutor and our reading work at home, we have finally started to see improvement (it has taken just shy of a year). A resource that was provided to us by the psych was this: http://www.learningally.org/ it is a resource for audio books and you don't have to have an expensive reader. His suggestion is to have the individual read the book while listening to the audio for greater comprehension. As our child gets older, I believe this resource will be a necessity for more complex text books, etc.
    I appreciate someone bringing this subject to light and enjoy reading a new perspective on it

    August 23, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Megan

    My husband has dyslexia, and reading the raw form of the article is exactly like reading his writing assignments! I was surprised that so many of the mistakes were exactly the same ones my husband makes. And it's true, he has an excellent grasp of the English language, he is a very descriptive writer, but the mechanics of the written form is just off. For now, he uses me as his proof reader, since electronic proofing and the Intel Reader is SO expensive! If these prices were to come down (and I mean by a LOT), then I think it would make for better access for all people who need it. I mean, how many people these days have $1450.00 lying around to get an Intel Reader? We need to eat, first.

    August 23, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shannon

      Great feedback, Megan. My name is Shannon and I work on the Intel-GE Care Innovations team, and we have a blog post addressing your concerns at http://community.careinnovations.com/profiles/blogs/ben-foss-on-cnn-with-sanjay-gupta. Check it out.

      August 23, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse |
  21. s

    interesting; teh authers writing looks a lot like my Mothers, mine and both my daughters. My cousin was found to be dyslexic but I was never tested. I have struggled all my life and we all make fun of my writing/spelling. I tried to get my oldest checked out in school; but the schools only look for certain things and they said there was nothing wrong with her – wrong.... We all know what we have and try every day to over come it. Thank goodness for spell check and apps that try to figure out the words we are trying to write. 🙂

    August 23, 2011 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Guest

    An exceptionally misunderstood affliction. My husband dropped out of the school system because he was tired of hearing about how lazy he was. It was not until a friend told me about a book by Ronald D. Davis called " The Gift of Dyslexia " that we finally understood how different his brain interprets things compared to us "regular" folks. The book described him to a tee and explained so much. He was 42 at the time and it changed his life. Keep up the dialogue Ben – the more we talk about it the more educators will have to listen and learn. I applaud your dedication.

    August 23, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Artfullee

    Both of my children are dyslexic. The unedited article looks just like their writing and I have never been able to get them to read anything that wasn't absolutely required. It took three years to figure out why my oldest was having such a hard time with reading. He would read a word in one sentence, see the same word in the next sentence and have to sound it out like he has never seen it before. First grade readers took forty minutes. The schools did their avoidance tactics (like when I asked for testing, they didn't bother to tell me that I had to put a request in writing - that delayed things for a couple of months. When they presented the the results, they didn't mention the possibility of dyslexia because they don't actually test for it, though they make it sound like the testing was comprehensive.). The reading "specialist" at my kid's school was an adamant "read, read, read to become a reader" whole language advocate, which basically amounts to torture for a dyslexic child. I did a lot of research and finally found people who "got it" though it meant changing schools. One bright spot has been that both kids are now are in high school and are A and B students (except Spanish which is really hard for them, but they want to take it) They understand their strengths as well as their weaknesses and have learned to cope and accept that their brains are just wired differently. They are both planning on degrees and careers that will compliment the way their brains work.

    One statement I read while learning about dyslexia has stuck with me. "Dyslexics are overrepresented in board rooms and prison cells." My congratulations to all the dyslexic people posting here who found ways to cope and succeed, but it seems a bit smug to insist that you did it all on your own. I suspect that some of your coping ability may have been the result of higher than average intelligence, caring families, qualified teachers, smart friends and others who helped you. Many people with dyslexia (or other learning disabilities) have no one who cares enough to help.

    It boggles my mind that "reading specialists" aren't required to be certified in Orton Gillingham based multisensory methods. It is completely ridiculous that schools are so resistant and teachers are not trained to recognize the symptoms of the most common learning disabilities. I worked for years in non-profits dealing with "troubled youth" and nearly every counselor I knew estimated that over half the caseload were kids with learning disabilities with dyslexia and ADHD being the most common (this was a major factor in my becoming such a pit bull for my own kids). Fifteen hundred dollars may sound like a lot for an Intel Reader, but it is nothing compared to the costs when students can't take it any more and give up. Dyslexic people often have unique perspectives and it seems such a tragedy to waste their talents.

    August 23, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Amanda

    My little brother has dyslexia and for many years the teachers thought was was lazy. I remember I had to read everything to him it was not until he went to take his drivers license test that we found out he is dyslexic. He still struggles and he has a good paying job and he no longer hides the fact that he is and he has adapted ways to be able to learn and to do his job

    August 23, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Karen Little

    I have dyslexia and find it embarrassing because I have a problem pronouncing words. Not only don't I remember sounds, I do not associate sounds with the words I read.

    When I was 20, I attended a reading clinic in Milwaukee, WI, where I was taught to read books for Jr. High School Students out loud and just calm down while doing so. That really helped! What continued to help me was just plugging away, writing daily, making use of spelling checker, proof reading over and over again, asking others to help proofing, and, as a last resort, simply praying that produce the best possible copy.

    August 23, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anne

      Karen, I've never been diagnosed, but I know through the years that when I read a word, it will come up in my head a certain way. If someone pronounces the word, without me seeing the spelling, I can say it. However, if I see the word, or imagine the way the word is spelled, I can not pronounce it correctly. Certain words like 'Binghamton', 'Vonnegut', 'intuative' (my spelling stinks too) I can finally pronounce correctly why slowly saying the word. Now at the ripe old age of 46, I have no problem saying to my husband "How's that pronounced?" especially because He knows I won't put up with his lip.

      August 24, 2011 at 08:42 | Report abuse |
  26. dave

    Let me start in grade school I was a hyperactive stutter and dyslexic so they put me on Ritalin the Teachers dint mind because I fell asleep but I wasn't running in to things then they put me in LD classes which is back then but was watered down btw im 52 the ld classes did me no good because they were watered down so by the time I got to high school I was totally unprepared so I dropped out no cared and I dint no one knew nothing about this stuff back then I have learned sometimes act like im stupid so people don't make demeans of me life is easier that way if you don't like what I say that's me take or leave it

    August 23, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ctb67

    Dyslexics of the world untie!!

    Okay bad joke, but you have to make fun of yourself or you will go nuts. With dispraxia, life is a challenge, speaking sucks and being over sensitive to touch sucks and spatial reasoning sucks and discalculia sucks. Nevertheless, I had a good mother that trained me well. Still, nothing gets older than running into door jams and tripping midstep. Ugh!

    August 23, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jennifer


    August 23, 2011 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. julianpenrod

    In fact, the onset of dyslexia was simultaneous with the fraudulent "educational" technique called "whole language". A reason the country is in such horrendous conditiuon educationally is because crooked, politically connected school boards enact different [programs only because they invested in them or they expect to be able to skim money off the budget, which will usually be immense for new programs. But a program needs a gimmick. Montessori said every student has a particular setting in which they learn, so they shouldn't try any otyher. Calculators from kindergarten onward was based on the claim by the crook, Carl Sagan, that "calculators are the mathematical equivalent of written language". Written language allows the committing of text to the page! The mathemaqtical equivalent of written languaqge is numerals! Computers in classrooms allows huge amounts of money to be budgeted. And even the principle of giving students room to work "comfortably"in has been perverted to be used to seize huge taracts of land by eminent domain, improve them at taxpayer expense, then, a few years later, sell them to crooked developers for pennies on the dollar! "Whole language" was based on the observation that children managed to convert the natual talent of making sound into making words. The "researchers" then "concluded" that children must also have an innate tendency to connect shapes with letters and, by immersing themn in strings of letters called words, they'll figure out how to read. In other words, just as kids have a tendency to make an "A" sound and eventually use that to form spoken words, they must alkso be wired from birth with an innate understanding that a triangular shape should have an "A:" sound. They weren't given spelling rules or explained the difference between capital letters and lower case letters, they just were told to look at strings of words while having them read. They were supposed to have "silent e", soft and hard "c" and the verbalizinbg of "ph", "gh" and "th" programmed into them from birth. Dyslexia is not a condition, the word merely means "inability to make sense of letters"! And it is the result of the "whole language" swindle. Dyslexia swiftly faded from attention when "whole language" started to be replaced with phonetics again.

    August 24, 2011 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Cory

    I jsut had a boy, or my wife did I guess. I went through school back in the day. There version of teaching us 'tards was to beatus untill we learend to sit quitely in the corner. My wife is an excellent student, speed reader, with a grate memory. I am the opisite but I too worked through my isues. I have a bac. degee in education a masters in history, my thesis about put my wife in the nut house, and am almost done with a masters in education. it can be worked through but is diffrent for about every one. I also have spatial issues along with my writing. Altjhough I will confess spending sxi years going to a special class th learn to write legabliy might have been beter spent learning things like grammor. Now my wife tells ,e not to fret, but i wonder hope and pray that their is more of his moma in his makee up than me.

    August 24, 2011 at 03:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Karmamaster1

    I determined my wife was suffering from dyslexia on our first date as she gave me directions while driving; we almost didn't make it to the restaurant. She is 50 and back in school trying to get a degree, but has found college algebra to be her nemesis. On my advice, she went to the councilor at her school who said they would help her if she could provide proof (diagnosis by a doctor) that she was dyslectic. She is under a doctor's care for bipolar disorder, but he said he does not test for this disorder and we can not find anyone who does. How do you fight the problem, when you can't find someone who makes the problem official. I know that math unlike reading and writing is a more difficult problem to overcome, even Stephen Hawkins reading the text book aloud doesn't help when presented with tests in class.

    August 24, 2011 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Learning Ally

    Learning Ally is a 63-year old nonprofit, formerly known as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. With the help of this organization, many thousands of people with dyslexia have been able succeed in school and overcome barriers to reading by simply learning a different way. Students from K-12 through graduate school can access their core curriculum textbooks and a wonderful array of popular literature by downloading from Learning Ally's library and listening on their favorite devices, like Apple iPhone and iPad, MP3 players, PCs and Macs. Intel Reader and other Assistive tech devices like Plextalk and Humanware are also supported. Ben Foss himself was a long time member of Learning Ally and spoke on behalf of the organization in Washington, DC earlier this year. When students with learning differences are given tools and support, the whole notion of a disability is turned on its head. Being "from Dyslexia," as Ben points out, is often just a signal for being bright, talented, and full of potential. Why else would there be so many success stories of people with dyslexia in all walks of life? For more on Learning Ally, visit http://LearningAlly.org.

    August 24, 2011 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. DisabilityHelpSite.com

    Thank you for the inspiring article. More articles on successful disability management would be great reading. I've never heard of the Intel Reader. This should help countless folks.

    August 24, 2011 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Anne

    My son was diagnosed with dyslexia right before 2nd grade. His 1st grade teacher, who was phenominal, saw that his reading and writing didn't measure up to his abilities when he orally participated. She pressured the school to keep testing him, however the little stinker was great at working one on one to hide his abilities. When the school finally conceded to test him, it was close to the end of the school year and they had 180 'school days' to do it. We were lucky to have the financial means to get him tested by professionals that gave him a diagnosis of "dyslexic with a specific spelling disorder". The school could only give him a 'learning disable' lable since dyslexia is a medical term. After a rough start, one of the 'special ed' teachers received certification in "The Wilson Program". It was a God-send for my son. He's dyslexic, he always will be, but he has the tools to cope with it when the letters on the page 'start freaking out'. And I have the paperwork to tell that teacher that, no, he's not being a smart-a** when he has the book upside down, just let him know, kindly, and he'll correct it.

    August 24, 2011 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Davis Graham

    Dyslexia is a Gift not a disability. Tools of the 21st Century which I use are: Readplease 2003 plus and the free version, Balabolka which also will change text into a mp3 file for ipad or smartphone for listening, Xmind for note taking and then for reading all the books and periodicals I want I use Bookshare which is a $50 membership per year for non-students with qualifying disabilities and is free for all US students with qualifying disabilities. Bookshare supplies Read:OutLoud, Victor Reader soft and this year they came out with a cool app called Read2go for $19.99.

    Complex thinking is my gift, I think in pictures, we are all built differently, we all can learn differently, although our educational system does not teach efficiency.

    Today, text to speech is best to be in all schools and libraries. Note taking tools available and accepted in all class rooms, virtual textbooks which Bookshare.org creates with Read:OutLoud would make deeper learning thru data mining an ease. (View the Youtube video by typing in the search," Read:OutLoud version 6.0 demo provided by Bookshare.org from Don Johnston")

    We live in a world which is accelerating technologically but tools are not being share or utilized to advance education as quickly as it should.

    At my bio ( manateediagnostic.com/davisgraham.aspx ) you can hear what it is like to struggle, yet succeed and at my blog ( mygiftofdyslexia.blogspot.com ) which I contribute to there are a few of the many tools which are available to enable those who struggle to find their feet with the "Gift of Dyslexia".

    August 24, 2011 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. iwearglasses

    I first noticed it around the 5th grade. I intially joined to military to avoid college, do to my school just pushing me through the grades not really caring about what i learned or how i actually performed.
    Now here i am a Sergeant in the Marine Corps. getting ready to start college with in the next six months. I actually can't wait!!

    August 24, 2011 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Shirley

    There is help! Many teachers have training to tutor dyslexic children using the Orton-Gillingham method which was developed about 80 years ago. Talk about years of research and practice. The International Dyslexic Association has more information about this.

    August 24, 2011 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. DMP@home

    Please make this an app!! Imagine if you could use this technology (and most of it is already in place) with your Apple or Droid device - faster adaptation, and less challenging for younger users (no uncomfortable questions about the device). This can help so many people. Wonderful story!!

    August 25, 2011 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. It's true about Learning Ally / RFB&D

    I've met a ton of of dyslexics who use Learning Ally and totally turned things around in the classroom, and even developed a love of reading that was not possible before. There are great things going on with the IDA around the country too. We all need to pull together and support these resources because they genuinely work.

    August 25, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Mom of a Dyslexic

    Please do more stories on dyslexia and educate more people on the issue ESPECIALLY main stream teachers who often do a semester on learning difficulties and have no real understanding of what it is like to be dyslexic – thank you

    August 25, 2011 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Fifty

    As the mom of a dyslexic daughter, this was a wonderful article. Esp since the author's original, uncorrected article was shown. So many things he did (like splitting combo words, leaving out words, leaving off first and last letters and putting sentences into too big paragraphs), were exactly what our child does, but didn't know was related to dyslexia. Many posrs from dyslexics in the comments exhibited the same thing.

    I recently also read something very exciting. How some fairly recent research is indicating that improper right brain – left brain coordination learning is not in place with dyslexics. Doing activities as a toddler or young child, that require opposite arm leg movement, reinforce the right-left brain thing. And the biggest such activity is crawling, which has right arm – left leg movement followed by left arm – right leg movement, which is repeated in the routine of crawling. If your child had a funny, different crawl as a baby, or just kind of went straight to walking, skipping the crawl stage, then this can possibly be an indicator of future dyslexia. My child had a funny crawl, we called it a frog crawl. Supposedly, some therapists are now doing right brain – left brain strengthening activities as part of dyslexia therapy.

    August 25, 2011 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Proud Mom

    I am the proud mother of two dyslexic daughters. Just last month my oldest daughter who was "diagnosed" in first grade as being dyslexic graduated with a Masters of Education and is a Kindergarten Reading Resource Teacher. My youngest daughter, who also is dysletic, is a professional dancer and actress. Both have struggled with reading and letter and number reversal all their lives. My oldest daughter wrote a research paper on dyslexia and interviewed her younger sister for the project. I was amaized at some of the things they struggle with daily that are not what you usually attribute to dyslexia. Some were always getting lost an unable to follow directions (thank goodness for the Garman). Having to think through a complete conversation so they know how to respond and not have a panic attack. My youngest daughter has to spend an extra few minutes going over the dance routine for auditions and reminding herself not to "mirror" the choreographer and is not afraid to tell a director she is dyslexic and ask for a few minutes to go over the lines. Both have done quite well living with their dyslexia. The most frustrating thing for me as they were growing up was that the school systems did not recognize Dyslexia and an acceptable disability, so therefore the correct help was never available. We learned how to compensate and they have both become beautiful confidant young ladies. It would be my hope that children would not be labeled as having a disibility and just having their needs met as every other child. Low self esteem is one of the biggest things to overcome. Children with dyslexia need to know that are extremely smart and creative not stupid or disabled. Adults should never be embarrased. All of us has something that makes us "disabled" whether it is an obvious disability or one we have created ourselves that prevents us from being everything we can be.

    August 26, 2011 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. when dyslexia ruled

    If you think about it , in pre-literate societies, I bet dyslexics ruled. Especially those with superior interpersonal skills, great memories and innovative thinking. There is such a significant chunk of the population that has dyslexia, that it could be considered a human variation especially considering the emerging genetic research identifying 'dyslexia' genes. The 'disability' only emerges when children get thrust into a school system that favors certain skills over others that are less testable. My dyslexic son can't wait to get out of the school system so that he can use all the assistive technology and get on with all the things he wants to do it life.

    August 29, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. S. Tomasello

    My god, he writes just like my son who is in the 10th grade. It breaks my heart everyday knowing that my two sons struggle everyday with dyslexia. I will definitely check out the intel reader. Thanks.

    August 29, 2011 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Sarah

    I can't tell you which is left or right but I sure can tell you which way is North, South, East or West even without the sun. I can't button a shirt without buttoning it 3 or 4 times before I get it right. Tieing my shoes has always been a battle even when I do get them on the correct feet. I can't run even if was to save my life. To read 10 pages in a book, I'm looking at 30-45 minutes gone, an hour if I'm waiting to understand what I'm reading. I'm fairly good writing as long as I can use the backspace or spell check (which I'm not useing now to see how many red squiggles I get.). I can't listen to a fast talker because my brain puts everything said into a picture so I understand it better. If I can't see the picture at the end, I will walk away from the conversation not understanding a thing that was said. Even though reading/proofreading can be my enemy, speaking is the hardest. I can see a picture of what I want to say but find the words to express that and actually say them in the correct order is the toughest for me. With writing I can put my jumbled up sentences in order before giving my note/email to the recipient.

    The funniest experience I've had with people not understanding me is once I made a mistake on a invoice at work. I recieved a call saying that the number I wrote down doesn't mach the recones they have. I asked fot him to repeat the number and just by hearing him say them I knew I had the last two numbers mixed. "Try changing the last two numbers." I told him. "Yep, that's right. It's right here." I told him sorry about my dyslexia, it gets harder to "control" when I get fatigued. I was told, "That's not a laughing matter, people really do have that problem." "Yeah, tell me about it. It ruins at least have my day!"

    I'm thrilled to see so many comments from parents stating how they've helped their kids. My mom would say things like: What hand do you write with? That's your right hand. Make an L with your finger and thumb. That's your left. Yeah, never worked. And don't ask em to concentrate on my breathing, I'll hyperventalte.

    August 29, 2011 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. disgruntled dislexic

    this will change the fuchure!

    January 4, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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  50. James Pressley

    Thanks for the article I am 53 and have struggled with dyslexia all my life. I just got on my computer and typped help with dyslexia and this article came up so glad my wife could read it to me please I am interesed in the Intel Reader can you tell me how to find this product and the cost. Thanks looking forward hearing from you.

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