Review of "The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia"
With an emotional message and a bright glimmer of hope “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia” takes parents, educators and those with dyslexia down a path that leads to optimism by highlighting a wide range of dyslexia success stories. The journey is not an easy one for anyone involved, there are tears, pain and shame tied to this “learning disability” that can never truly be resolved. But while there is no cure for this reading handicap there is hope and where there is hope, there is “life.”
Reading is a huge part of life, beginning at earlier and earlier ages, reading is considered fundamental, and rightly so. But what if you, your child, or your student, just can’t read? No matter how much they try, no matter how many experts “help” the child with the latest, newest researched method, they still cannot decode those shapes printed on a page in any efficient way. As a parent your hopes could be shattered, at least the hope of your child ever excelling academically, much less the ability to perform the kinds of things others take for granted, like deciphering the directions on the side of a box of microwave popcorn. As a result, not only do career options and hopes begin to fade away, but also the ability to perform the basics of day to day living that require the fundamental ability to read. With these day-to-day struggles, parents and students alike can easily give up their dreams and painfully resign themselves to ever shrinking expectations for their future.
“The Big Picture” suggests something other than this depressing outlook for the future, it suggests that while dyslexia does present enormous challenges and even failure, those students who persevere can and do succeed. While some people may view dyslexia as a learning disability, one dyslexic surgeon featured in the documentary, views it as a “learning ability”, because in his struggle with overcoming and compensating for his dyslexia, he proved himself to be more than capable of learning, in spite of the challenges. This experience would ultimately shape and define his life as a true student in succeeding against the odds.
The lives highlighted in the documentary present an emotional picture of rejection, upset and naysayers. When the dyslexic surgeon featured in the film was in grade school, he was laughed at by a teacher after mentioning his hope of becoming a doctor. Another dyslexic student was told by an evaluator that she would never succeed in a great number of academic fields though she later managed to attend a prestigious college and continue on to graduate school. She acknowledges that the road to success is a hard one but that her love of learning helped her to persevere against the odds, that, and the truckload of flash cards that she credits as her secret study weapon.
California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome discussed how he accepted failure again and again, yet kept getting back up and trying again, perseverance was also his method of triumphantly overcoming dyslexia.
Yale Neuroscientist Sally Shaywitz, the author of “Overcoming Dyslexia,” explains that while dyslexics need to accept that they will always struggle with reading, they also have a great many strengths, such as the ability to think out of the box, think creatively and solve problems, among others. Shaywitz also explains that the latest brain research in the field of dyslexia reveals that there is a section of the brain that can never easily decode letters and that reading never becomes natural, it will always be a struggle, but with support, understanding and hard work dyslexics can succeed. It is believed that dyslexia is hereditary and effects 1 out of 5 people, and there are numerous stories of parents learning of their condition only after the diagnosis of their child.
High profile attorney David Bois, explains that since dyslexics quickly learn that they have to compensate for their handicap, they become resourceful, relying on thinking and memorizing while consistently working harder, and that when all is said and done, these skills, rather than reading skills, are the true foundation of success. Challenges and struggles DO make us stronger as human beings, and by overcoming these struggles dyslexics can, in the end, shine.
Although unable to read until the third grade, and a slow reader to this day, Boies learned to compensate for his dyslexia by developing outstanding powers of concentration and a keen memory. According to Time Magazine, he has an “uncanny ability to recall a key fact, legal citation or piece of contradictory testimony at moments of the most intense pressure.”
In order to succeed, many of the dyslexics featured in the film talked about having to spend a lot more time studying by reading materials, sometimes twice, using cue cards, giving themselves more advance time to study for a test and needing more time to complete it. Fortunately, schools are increasingly trying to accommodate these special needs. Studying and learning through reading, simply takes longer for those with Dyslexia. Listening to books on tape and taking lots of notes are a few other methods that assist dyslexics in being successful students.
While “The Big Picture” shines a bright light on the possibility of success for dyslexics, in spite of the struggles, many dyslexics do fail, do give up and lose hope though this outcome was not touched on in the film. The stories in this film are the exception to the rule and there is a great deal of pain attached with dyslexia. This film works to remove the stigma that is attached to dyslexia by presenting these individuals as positive contributors to society and most importantly, offering hope for the future of students struggling with this “learning ability.”
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