The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss
A GROUNDBREAKING BOOK ABOUT DYSLEXIA
NOT TO BE MISSED
Read today’s review by Mary Natwick for a parent’s perspective.
Ben Foss’ book, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan (Ballantine Books, Hardcover, $27), has been out only a month, and already it has changed someone’s life.
The subtitle of the book is “A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning.” Well, that part’s wrong. It renewed the parent’s confidence, and her love of learning. But mostly, the rest of the book is right on.
Ben Foss, a prominent dyslexic as well as a dyslexia activist and entrepreneur, has given dyslexic people and those who care about them a precise and powerful map for successfully navigating this print-heavy world. For the past 11 years, I’ve been researching everything I could find about dyslexia to help my severely dyslexic son who is now 15. I’ve trained as an academic language therapist to provide tutoring. I’ve been his eyes and his scribe. But nothing I’ve learned in thousands of hours of research has given me insight into how to get him to academic independence.
That’s why, if I ever meet Ben Foss, I will kiss his feet. I’m weary of seeing my son as disabled. He’s bright, curious, and the most emotionally intelligent person I know. After nine years of tutoring, he reads at the seventh-grade level, but fatigues so quickly that in a couple pages, he reads as many words incorrectly as correctly. He doesn’t consistently remember how to spell his own last name. What to do?
Foss says there’s a point at which learning “eye-reading”—moving your eyes across the printed word—has diminishing returns. A dyslexic person does not become un-dyslexic. Brain research shows that the structure of a dyslexic brain is different in several ways from that of a “normal” reader. So, while it’s beneficial to become functionally literate, someone with severe dyslexia will never read fluently enough to say, read a tort law, as quickly as a normal reader. Foss should know. He has a law degree as well as a master’s in business administration.
So, what to do? This is where the beauty of technology comes in, and where The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan explodes with practical information. Foss has trained himself to comprehend audio—he calls this “ear-reading”—ramped up to 400 wpm (words per minute). That’s faster than a normal reader can “eye read.”He explains how to use the text-to-speech option, and control its speed, on Macs, PCs, and even on iPhone/iPads. Using text-to-speech, a dyslexic person can “ear-read” virtually every bit of text a computer can display (only exception: words in images). Foss mentions specific document-scanning software and explains how to take notes for later studying.
Even more difficult than reading for dyslexics is converting their own thoughts into printed words. Believe me, speech-to-text software can be difficult enough to drive both a student and his tutor to tears. Foss has several tips to help make the speech recognition process easier. He also, bless his heart, shows his own first draft of this book’s introduction. It’s ugly, and that gives me hope. If Foss can take that mistake-strewn first draft and turn it into this beautiful, well-written, typo-free book, I can picture the possibilities blossom for my son.
Yes. Finally I can see a time when my son can independently access all the knowledge he’s interested in. I can see that someday it will be possible for him to write that novel that he insists is in his head just ready to explode.
Unless, of course, he changes his mind. Perhaps he’ll want to go to law school or get a master’s in business administration.
Read an excerpt from Foss’ book at The National Center for Learning Disabilities by clicking here.
Mary is a writer, a former homeschool mom/tutor,
and has trained to be an academic language therapist.
Her severely dyslexic 15 year-old son loves to “ear-read”
audio books, and reviews them at bookskidslike.net.
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Please watch this Youtube video of Ben Foss.