If the truth is told, numerous people could write a letter very similar to the one that I wrote to my brother, Sam. I am now a man on a new mission—an urgent one. My mission is to help liberate thousands of people from experiencing the pain and agony that Sam experienced daily while growing up in Conway, Arkansas, as a struggling reader. Thanks to my brother Sam, I am waging a war to eradicate illiteracy one child at a time.
When we think about Sam and others who have a disability, we picture someone who is physically impaired. Merriam-Webster defines a disability as “a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions.” A disability substantially affects a person’s life activities, and some disorders may be present from birth and/or manifest themselves anytime during a person’s lifetime. Someone with a physical disability can be easily seen with the naked eye, and people instantly form an opinion based on what they see. This opinion might be that the person is unable to walk, talk, see, etc. When you recognize someone as having a physical disability, your mind formulates either a positive or negative judgment.
Learning Disabilities (LD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are so prevalent in our world today. A high percentage of time, you maybe interacting with someone with such a disorder, and you’re not even aware of it. Unfortunately, someone who has LD or ADHD is hard to detect with the naked eye—it’s harder to identify the signs and symptoms. However, usually, your speculation about this person’s behavior can be directly related to his or her challenge. You can quickly judge them unfairly or even discriminate against them. Such a person is perceived as being “normal,” thus you likely have the same expectations of this person as you would with anyone else. In the school system or the workplace, there’s no simple way to tell if this person needs to be treated differently just from your mere or occasional observations.
Often, people with LD or ADHD are miseducated, mistreated, and misunderstood. These people are the epitome of Sammy. They are miseducated in the school system because teachers aren’t adequately trained to recognize their learning challenges, and therefore, no remediation takes place. In the workplace, they are mistreated because of their subpar job performance due to their inability to comprehend or stay focused; therefore, they are likely overlooked for job promotions and/or even fired. Such people are misunderstood in our society because society tends to see their irrational behavior and pass judgment on them instead of seeking to understand that person. We tend to gloss over these people, leaving a trail of criticism and/or hurt feelings.
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 15 to 20 percent of Americans have a learning disability and other learning disorders. (How many people are affected/at risk for learning disabilities? 2016) Thus, if the U.S. population is 300 million people, then 15 percent or 45 million people could have LD or ADHD. Meaning, 1 out of 6 people that you encounter daily could have a learning disorder. (2017 World Population Data Sheet 2017) In our world, this group of people is ostracized and usually left behind to further drown as underachievers. Some may even fall through the cracks and end up in our penal system. An LD or ADHD is not a dismal disorder.
Beginning, struggling, or on-grade-level readers need the practical skills to cope with the increasing demands of the local, state, and national testing to graduate from high school and matriculate into college or the working world. Schools are ineffective regarding offering simple, not to mention specialized, programs for nonreaders who aren’t on their grade level due to an undiagnosed or diagnosed learning challenge, low socioeconomic conditions, and/or behavior. Creating a culture of reading isn’t easy. However, simple solutions do exist, requiring a willingness on the part of the teachers, administrators, and school governance to develop and implement intervention programs that provide teacher training, creatively adjust the school’s schedule, and buy student materials, all with ample time and on a small budget.
Using my knowledge and 30-plus years of experience, along with my team of experts at Triple A Educational Services, Inc. (TAES), I’ve adopted guidelines to implement a service delivery model for reading during or after school. TAES serves as an advocacy group and has developed bestpractices implementation models of reading to support schools as well as any organization’s after-school program. The goal of TAES’s service delivery model is to provide support programs at every school and enable parents to live in a community with a school of their choice that embraces and values all students. TAES believes it begins with students learning a research-based reading program that enables them to thrive as good readers.
My primary objective is to shed light on how people who learn differently and those who live or work with them can turn this adversity into victory and problems into opportunities, thus creating winners even in losing situations.