Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge, from William Morrow Publishing , for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it
“You must try harder.” David Flink, 34, heard those words over and over again growing up in Atlanta — from his teachers, from his father — as he struggled against dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Slowly, he learned to embrace himself as a “different thinker,” and a new world opened.
>Today, as many as one in five children and adults in the U.S. have learning and attention issues. In 1998, Flink co-founded Eye to Eye, a nonprofit group that sends college students with those challenges into schools, mostly middle schools, as mentors in 22 states as a way to break the cycle of shame.
Drawing on his experience and those of other families, David Flink, the leader of Eye to Eye—a national mentoring program for students with learning and attention issues—enlarges our understanding of the learning process and offers powerful, innovative strategies for parenting, teaching, and supporting the 20 percent of students with learning disabilities. An outstanding fighter who has helped thousands of children adapt to their specific learning issues, Flink understands the needs and experiences of these children first hand. He, too, has dyslexia and ADHD.
Focusing on how to arm students who think and learn differently with essential skills, including meta-cognition and self-advocacy, Flink offers real, hard advice, providing the tools to address specific problems they face—from building self-esteem and reconstructing the learning environment, to getting proper diagnoses and discovering their inner gifts. With his easy, hands-on “Step-by-Step Launchpad to Empowerment,” parents can take immediate steps to improve their children’s lives.
Five questions for David Flink (from an interview by the Associated Press):AP: What did you go through growing up?
Flink: I didn’t find out I had dyslexia and ADHD until fifth grade. I was failing in school, in many ways failing in life. My self-esteem was in the toilet. I was getting into trouble all the time. It was easier to be the bad kid than it was to be the dumb kid. Most kids, by the time third, fourth grade rolls around, were starting to learn to read and I had no literacy skills at all. My mother was a teacher. Her feeling was, ‘I’m an educator. I’m an attuned parent. How did we miss this?’
AP: What has changed since you were a kid?
Flink: There’s been a conversation happening in the media for probably the past 10 years saying, ‘Oh we’re over-diagnosing’ and all that stuff. From my perspective, we’re not over-diagnosing. We’re getting better at diagnosing. I see that as a huge, huge win. If a kid can get diagnosed in first grade, their life is so much better. I spent the first five years of my schooling thinking I was stupid. AP: What would you like parents to know when faced with learning and attention challenges in their kids?
Flink: First, they’re not alone. A lot of times when families understand their kids have a learning disability it’s a moment of isolation. They think they shouldn’t tell anybody. They think it’s something to be ashamed of. We’re identifying kids faster, but we’re still systematically shaming families and kids for no reason. There’s some really easy, tangible tools they can implement, but it requires being past that shame. Simply being taught to learn a different way, for example. It can be listening to books on tape rather than reading them with your eyes. It’s a simple shift in pedagogy and it freed me to enjoy not only a whole world of literature but a whole other sense of self.
AP: Can teachers, schools and parents do more?
Flink: Say a kid has been diagnosed, and in a public school system they receive an IEP (Individualized Education Program). Nine times out of 10 I will see kids refuse to use the things that are outlined in that IEP because they’re ashamed of it. One example is a kid who’s dyslexic, who’s a slow reader. They get extra time on their tests. They will refuse the extra time. They feel like they’re going to be stigmatized, bullied. A kid needs to realize that probably 20 percent of the class is going to have some kind of accommodation and think getting this accommodation ‘is not because of me but because they’re choosing to test me in this format.’ And that’s where the power of the parent is. My father had the exact same learning disabilities that I did but he hadn’t come to grips with it. He said, ‘Look, I got through school by running through walls.’ When I realized that it was OK to learn something in a different way, school opened up for me in a way that it didn’t for him. AP: Did you know anyone else like you in school?
Flink: Recently I went to an old friend’s wedding. My work with Eye to Eye had become very public. Many of my classmates who I hadn’t talked to in years came up to me and said, ‘Oh, I have dyslexia, too.’ I was, like, ‘What?! Why didn’t we talk about this?’ We struggled in silence as opposed to being empowered together.
Courtesy of William Morrow Publishing
This is a great book to help you determine IF your child might need testing, for what issue (David REALLY explains the different types of ADHD for example, that skew traditional thought of what it is), and then what types of testing you need done, and what to do once the testing is finished. I really liked his section on working with teachers, to have them understand and work with your child's learning disabilities. I know from experience, that the RIGHT teacher will not only understand, but seek ways to help your child, and you will see your child blossom in ways you didn't think possible!
That section is really helpful, as some schools/school districts don't have the help available that they are supposed to or that your child needs. Knowing your legal rights and the accommodations available for your child is part of parenting a child with learning disabilities. You are your child's strongest advocate, and in many cases, without your insistence, your child may not get the assistance they need.
The book is very easy to read, and I recommend it to anyone who thinks their child might have a disability, or who already does, as it offers greater suggestions and insights!