“What you learn, once you know about children and adults who are dyslexic, is that they can be very smart. They think in different ways, they’re creative, but they can’t read quickly. So in our current society when you can’t read quickly, that’s a disability. But if you have something like Learning Ally that can read to you, then you show your ability. So it’s a magical way of transforming a disability into ability. And I don’t know of anything that can do for a child and his family what being able to listen to books does. And my own feeling is that children who are struggling to read should be given this wonderful gift early on. Because their friends are reading books and talking about them, or even newspapers, and this child is left out when they could participate if only they could hear it. So my whole goal is trying to encourage schools and parents to be aware of Learning Ally and to make sure that children have the benefit of that because it makes a huge difference.
I think Learning Ally is a perfect name because it’s just what it is, it’s your friend, it’s your supporter. It doesn’t do it for you, but it allows you to do it and that’s what an ally is all about. So I couldn’t think of a more appropriate name and it is your ally, it’s your Learning Ally and what could be better.
We had a student at Yale who hadn’t used assistive technology like Learning Ally. And then once that student learned about it, I always say to her, ‘We should have before and after pictures of you.’ She just looked like a happy person and developed such confidence in herself! When before it wasn’t fair to her because all of that intelligence, all that motivation, all that creative thinking was hidden because she was struggling so with each word that was in print.
I think with dyslexia you do have a weakness, it’s getting to the sounds, the spoken words, you may have word retrieval problems and read slowly. But that doesn’t mean how you think. And you can think very differently, very creatively. And if you look across so many professions, people who have made a difference, people who have solved the problem, they’re more often than not dyslexic.
I think in our work, The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, has two major components. One is science, and that is continuing to look at the brain using wonderful technology, and also to better understand what are the influences on reading, what is creativity all about. But our mission particularly as physicians, you know we talk about translational medicine…and in our minds, what that means for dyslexia – remember, it affects one out of every five—that’s a lot—is to make sure that all this wonderful science is translated into policy and practice. And part of that practice is to make sure that students who can think quickly, but can’t read quickly, have assistive technology like Learning Ally.”