Important causes need a champion. Michael J. Fox has done wonders for raising awareness and money for Parkinson's disease but despite many success stories, and with respect to Henry Winkler and Richard Branson, dyslexia has never had a real public face, until now. Ben Foss has quietly become dyslexia nation's Head of State by parlaying remarkable success in his academic and professional life into a second career as leading advocate for the dyslexic learner.
Foss was identified as dyslexic at the age of eight and tried to hide his disability for years. Still, he found ways to succeed, earning a prestigious scholarship to Stanford University in California. He did whatever it took to succeed, faxing his term papers home to his mother to have her read them back to him, so he could find and fix his spelling errors.
Over time he found that hiding his reading impairment took a terrible toll on him in terms of effort, energy and emotion and decided to move beyond shame, embrace his dyslexia and integrate it with his self-concept. It was a process he found emotionally and physically liberating.
At the same time he embraced text to speech technology (mostly audio books) as his way of reading, a process he now aptly calls 'ear reading', recognizing that literacy can come through any or our five senses.
It clearly worked, because Foss has gone on to work at the White House, invent the Intel Reader for text to speech, found a non-profit for dyslexics called HeadStrong Nation and in 2013 published his first book: The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child's Confidence and Love of Learning.
October 2013, as part of Dyslexia Awareness Month, the Dyslexia Reading
Well interviewed Foss about his new book. You can ear read the
interview below or eye read the interview here.
"Privately I thought I was a bad person, that I was the only one who could not read or spell well. To say that it took me years to unwind those shameful feelings is a gross understatement."
"I've been able to accomplish my goals because I have integrated dyslexia into my life, not because I overcame it."
"The real truth is that there is no disease."
"There are three types of reading: ear reading, eye reading and finger reading (braile)."
"Focusing on eye reading overlooks the real goals of education, which are learning, independent thinking, and mastering the ability to make new connections in the world of ideas."
"The key to my happiness occurred when I stopped trying to change my brain and started changing the context around me."
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Photo Credits: Headstrongnation.org; Random House Books.