* “Choose Strength Not Shame”

Choose Strength Not Shame.  That’s the title of a tremendously inspiring TEDx session presented by Ben Foss, entrepreneur, author, and yes, dyslexic. I would assume he falls into the category of twice exceptional.  I think he might say he doesn’t want to be categorized and has learned to leverage his strengths.

Foss talks candidly and humorously about his dyslexia, starting off with an MRI depicting his brain as he attempted to read.  The focus of his presentation is shame, not dyslexia, but he uses his disability to explain how dyslexia is “the perfect storm of shame.”  He quotes Gershon Kaufmann, PhD, on shame: “Reading disabilities match in intensity the level of shame associated with incest.”  No surprise there for parents and teachers of kids with dyslexia.  Foss lists three reasons that a reading disability can create a lifetime of shame.  FIrst, its diagnosis usually comes at a vulnerable age for developing children.  While their peers are successfully navigating the world of reading, dyslexic kids are failing.  Second, kids at that age are going to define themselves as lazy or stupid without sufficient explanation.  As Foss puts it, their self-view (shame) is made harsher by misunderstanding the true nature of their learning difference.  Finally, peers and the school will reinforce this shameful view by mocking and labeling, respectively.

So what’s to be done?  Foss provides one example of dealing effectively with shame in the video above.  He also writes about how to raise a shame-free dyslexic kid in his book The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning.  I have a copy and can’t wait to read it!

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