Literacy & Learning Disabilities
Advocate & Speaker
Despite our dislike of labels and stereotypes, judging the proverbial book by its cover is still very much alive. For those who suffer from illiteracy or learning disabilities, society is quick to judge.
Being the parent of a child with a learning disability can be terrifying when you are a scared dad living under a veil of denial and fear. That was me.
Then I got off the bench. Although having absolutely no idea how to start, I knew I had to take action. So I became a literacy tutor and began volunteering at an adult literacy organization in Chicago to gain the tools to help my son. I volunteered at his grammar school, working with other kids and tutored adult learners with a variety of learning disabilities. It all started because of one very special child, Oliver.
Sadly, Oliver was not alone. There are 36 million adults in the United States who lack basic literacy skills. Many of these adults are learning to read for the very first time in their lives because of undetected learning disabilities that made it difficult for them to learn. These adults cannot get jobs, read street signs or help their own third grade child with their homework. Now they struggle through life embarrassed and ashamed, hiding their secret.
I eventually wrote a book, Hot Dogs & Hamburgers, which shares my story of how compassion for my son with a learning disability led me on a personal journey that began at home learning how to teach him to read. I found a gift from my son along the way that took me on an unexpected and life altering path where I found passions; to teach adults to read and to eliminate adult illiteracy one person at a time, and to be an advocate and public speaker to help parents, educators and those dealing with learning differences. My goal is to share the challenges and triumphs I experienced at home and in the classroom and remind us all that in education and at home, students don’t care how much you know, unless they know you care.
To parents and educators of those with learning differences, I offer you this; interdependence is the most important word in the Parent-Educator relationship. Parents must be present and involved in their children’s education. It is not the sole responsibility of teachers to understand and educate our children.
To educators I have these words; ‘Bring it every day’. If parents and teachers work together toward the common goal of helping children with learning disabilities, as the ladder in the graphic on this page depicts, there are no heights to which our children cannot soar.