I recently attended the graduation ceremony for our dyslexic students, and it was especially moving. The students seemed even more excited than usual to be moving on to their new schools. Maybe it was the gorgeous weather or the fact that there were a record number of graduates.

I think, however, that it was due to our inspiring commencement speaker, Mr. Britton Burdette.  Mr. Burdette is not only an alumnus but also a successful businessperson and an articulate advocate for dyslexic children. He spoke to our children with the ­­­­­conviction that comes from personal experience. Britton told our children that they would face obstacles along the way, and that their paths would be difficult. Dyslexics, he said, would always need to work harder than everyone else to accomplish their goals. They would need to maintain a strong work ethic in order to be successful.

The good news, he said, was that dyslexics possess unique talents that take them far in life. They have creativity, imagination, problem solving skills, and an ability to think outside the box. These gifts enable dyslexics to go beyond the ordinary and become visionary leaders who push the envelope and devise creative solutions to whatever obstacles come their way. Sally Shaywitz of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity says it well: “Dyslexia is surrounded by these strengths of higher cognitive and linguistic functioning, reason, conceptual abilities and problem solving.” She goes on to say that: “ . . . what has become obvious . . . is not only that dyslexics can be, and often are, brilliant, but that many develop far superior abilities in some areas than their so-called ‘normal’ counterparts.”

You don’t have to look far to discover dyslexics who have offered unique solutions to the world’s problems. This number includes such successful professionals as investor Charles Schwab, Paul Orfalea, creator of Kinko’s, John Chambers of Cisco Systems, Apple founder, Steve Jobs and author John Irving. Chris Warren, in a 2008 article, discusses a 2007 study by Julie Logan, professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London. She reported that more than a third of the American entrepreneurs she surveyed said that they were dyslexic. Logan found that “dyslexics, because they face difficulty navigating their way through school, often develop the kind of skills they’ll eventually need to launch and grow their own businesses . . . the dyslexic who has had to overcome problems to survive at school has much experience in this area.”

Britton Burdette came to our school in first grade as a non-reader. His family and teachers celebrated when, at the beginning of his second year, he was able to read a complete sentence. A complete sentence . . . something that his former peers were able to do easily in kindergarten. But what a cause for celebration! Britton was reading. This wonderful young man went on to be very successful in undergraduate, and graduate, school. He is now an accomplished businessman who continues to find unique and creative solutions in his work.

Britton concluded his talk by telling our students that, when faced with the opportunity to hire for open positions within his company, he always chooses the dyslexic. He said that he spoke of his dyslexia in every college essay and job interview. Celebrate dyslexia . . . it truly is a gift.

It’s summertime! Ideas to support your dyslexic student

What can you do this summer to help your dyslexic child? First and foremost, continue the help your child is receiving, or get them help if they are not. Orton Gillingham (“OG”) tutoring is the best prescription for dyslexia remediation. It is the research-based method that provides multisensory remediation in a structured, sequential, diagnostic manner.

If your child already has an OG tutor, make sure that they continue their tutoring over the summer. Dyslexic children need systematic repetition in order to maintain the skills they learned during the school year. A month or two off can mean great loss of skills learned. For help finding an OG tutor in your area, contact The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.

Provide a literature-rich environment. Select high-interest books to read to your child. Dyslexic children often have gaps in their vocabulary development, and reading or hearing books read aloud helps them fill in those gaps. Talk with your child about what you are reading, and ask questions to check their comprehension. Discuss unfamiliar words with them and make sure they understand the meaning of these words. Encourage your child’s love of books by providing digital access to audio books. Learning Ally is a wonderful resource for audio books; these books allow children to read along as the book is read aloud.

Other suggestions by Schenck School teachers include keeping a journal, asking a grandparent to be a pen pal, encourage swimming . . . great for left/right coordination and stimulation of sensory receptors, have your child practice spelling words using shaving cream and a hard surface, and play classical music in your car to stimulate brain function.

Finally, have fun and enjoy your child. Give them opportunities to explore and develop their strengths. Plan valuable family time . . . those wonderful family memories are golden and help you through the rough patches when your child faces tough academic times.

Have a wonder-filled summer with your creative child!