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HBO Documentary: The Big Picture Rethinking Dyslexia

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia shows how the disorder can be both rewarding and challenging. The documentary airs on HBO on October 29, 2012, during National Dyslexia Month!

James Redford directs this touching, occasionally humorous, and incredibly personal film

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Even though 20% of students are dyslexic most of them are unidentified, misunderstood, and end up performing below their actual potential. Oddly enough, disorders similar to dyslexia are usually found in intelligent, creative minds and can be seen as a gift because it allows these individuals to think outside of the box and see the bigger picture, finding new solutions to problems that others may not find.

From HBO:

Directed by James Redford, THE BIG PICTURE: RETHINKING DYSLEXIA is a personal, touching and sometimes humorous look at this developmental reading disorder, offering a broader and clearerview of the minds of people with dyslexia. Spotlighting a cross-section of individuals, including Redford’s own son, Dylan, and featuring interviews with notable dyslexics, including investment pioneer Charles Schwab, business magnate Richard Branson, high-profile lawyer David Boies and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the film reveals how an individual’s unique strategies for coping can help lead to success in life. The documentary, which had its world premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, debuts MONDAY, OCT. 29 (7:00-8:00 p.m. ET/PT) during National Dyslexia Month, exclusively on HBO.


About Dylan:

Redford set out to make the film he wished his family could have seen when his own son Dylan was diagnosed as dyslexic after encountering many problems through his early school years. A life-long educator, Dylan’s mother, Kyle, had been excited to start teaching her son as he began to grow, noting, “I’d taught every single subject, and I couldn’t wait to teach my own son…And boy, I got slammed really early on.”

There were early signs that Dylan might have the reading disorder, such as not learning the alphabet or writing his name, but when Dylan was in first grade, the word dyslexia was avoided, as it was rarely used to label someone so young. When Kyle poised the question to the woman testing Dylan, she responded that it was “way too early [for a diagnosis]. We never diagnose for dyslexia until third grade.” It is now widely understood that early diagnosis and intervention are not only possible, but critical to prevent learning loss and low academic self-esteem.

Problems persisted and Dylan was finally diagnosed in the fourth grade. He had to explain to his classmates why he’d be leaving for the majority of the day to attend a specialized learning program. Dylan wisely realized that “it’s better for people to understand what I have than…be left in the dark, and then be left to make up their own conclusion.”

Dylan struggled with many tasks, from remembering locker combinations to reading out loud, but ultimately his specialized reading instruction, hard work and persistence paid off: Not only was he accepted to Middlebury College, but also made the honor roll his first year there.

Other people profiled:

Skye: A dyslexic 6th grader that once hated school, but began thriving once enrolled in a school that specializes in treating dyslexia and taught her how to “crack the code” when it came to reading. Skye is interesting because you also get a chance to hear her father, Dr. Tyler Lucas’ story about how he realizes that he has been struggling with the same problems as his daughter his entire life.

Allison: Despite being a Columbia grad student she was not diagnosed until the age of 23.

Bonnie: Currently a successful attorney, Bonnie admits that college was easier for her because there was only one exam and she ahd time to read and understand things properly.

More About The Big Picture:

Redford punctuates these personal stories with commentary by Drs. Sally and BennettShaywitz of The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, who explain the most recent medical and scientific findings. Dr. Bennett Shaywitz uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify a neural signature for dyslexia and demonstrates the cognitive basis of the extra time needed by dyslexic readers on high-stakes standardized tests.

Dr. Sally Shaywitz conceptualized the “Sea of Strengths” model of dyslexia, which emphasizes an array of higher critical thinking abilities and creativity found in dyslexic children and adults who struggle with written language. She explains, “You may be dyslexic if you read slowly and with much effort. But you’re often the one to solve the problem. You can’t spell and have messy handwriting, but your writing shows terrific imagination. You have trouble remembering dates and names, but you also think out of the box and grasp the big picture. Youhave difficulty retrieving and pronouncing spoken words, but you also have an excellent vocabulary and great ideas.”

Underscoring this point are British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, billionaire businessman Charles Schwab and noted attorney David Boies, who share their own struggles and triumphs with undiagnosed dyslexia. As with Skye’s father, it is often the dyslexic’s willingness to work harder and longer at a task, and the ability to approach things differently that yield such positive results. Dr. Lucas emphasizes that dyslexia should not be referred to as a learning disability, but rather a learning ability, in that it encourages deeper thinking.

The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia uses a mix of animation and figurative language to help show what it’s like to have dyslexia.

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About the author: Dom and Ash

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