Skip to main content

Our Golden Anniversary – Celebrating 50-Years Married to Dyslexia


I'm so pleased to feature this heart-felt and beautiful piece by my dear friend and fellow dyslexic, Stan Gloss.  Stan provides a glimpse of his "marriage to dyslexia" and shares his life's challenges as well as his most recent realization that dyslexia is in fact a gift.


A golden anniversary is an amazing milestone to reach in any relationship.  It is even more remarkable when your marriage is to Dyslexia.  Although this can be a challenging relationship, you can learn to work together to create success.  Please join me on my 50-year journey with Dyslexia.

My relationship with Dyslexia began in 1963.  My mother spoke to our family doctor, Dr. Gregory, because she was concerned that I was struggling in school with reading and writing. Initially he sent us to an eye doctor to check my vision.  After a comprehensive assessment, I was diagnosed with a “lazy eye.”  To treat this condition, a special screen was attached to our family’s 19” black and white TV set.  I had to wear huge glasses that swallowed my face like the ones from the first iMax movies. To see the whole TV screen, I had to concentrate on using both eyes, or half the screen went black. Even watching TV became work.  My eye did get stronger but my reading and handwriting did not improve.  In fact it got worse, and because of this, I began to fake asthma attacks to stay home from school to avoid feeling anxious and humiliated.

Next, my mom and I were sent to a Neurologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston. After a lot of poking and prodding and having to stand around in my underwear, my mom and a strange doctor talked about me like I was invisible.  From there, we were referred to the Reading Research Institute in Wellesley, Massachusetts.  At the Institute, I met Dr. Charles Drake, who would go on to establish the acclaimed Landmark School in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1971.  After a battery of psychological tests, he reported his finding to us. “You have Dyslexia.” With those words, Dyslexia became my silent partner.  Dr. Drake advised me, “Your relationship with Dyslexia is not going to be easy, but with hard work you will learn to flourish together.”  Dr. Drake should know, he was happily married to Dyslexia too.

Sadly, my teachers and principal had no concept of Dyslexia and refused to accommodate us.   For them, my diagnosis was just an excuse for being stupid and lazy.  Their answer was always, “just try harder.” I tried and tried and nothing changed. This became a frustrating, vicious cycle.  Albert Einstein best describes this pattern, “ Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” I quickly learned, it was best to try to keep Dyslexia “in the closet.” However, as the school years continued, I could no longer hide my Dyslexia.  Red marks slashed across my papers and kids giggled as I stumbled to read aloud.  Peering over the shoulder of the girl in front of me, I compared my small insignificant blue star to her giant golden seal.  I felt ashamed and defective.  Dyslexia and I wrestled and clashed through the school years and what resulted was a lot of scrapes and scarring.  I blamed Dyslexia for all my bad grades, a 714 combined on the SAT’s, and the rejection of every college I applied to except for my father’s alma mater. To say I was in a dysfunctional relationship was an understatement.  I hated Dyslexia, but a divorce for irreconcilable differences was impossible.

What do you do when it seems like the world is against you?  Where do you find the strength to keep going?  The key to my survival was finding mentors and advocates.  They coached me to stand strong when nobody else believed in me.  The two most important people were Dr. Gregory and my mom. On the one hand, Dr. Gregory was my mentor.  I became his little apprentice. I would spend time after school sitting on his knee while he stitched up cut fingers, looked under the microscope at blood cells and read chest x-rays.  When I was with him, I felt excited and smart.  On the other hand, my mom was my advocate.  She fought the school system every step of the way. When they tried to hold me back a grade or limit my future by pulling me out of the college track, they invited a battle that they would never win. My mom was an unyielding force, but I was still in the trenches.

To hold my ground at school, I had to sacrifice playtime for tutoring. Saturday morning cartoons were traded for tedious drills.  Strict nuns in their scary habits and shiny black shoes instructed me at the Cardinal Cushing Reading Clinic in Boston.  My reward for enduring the tutoring was riding the subway home alone from Boston.  For me the Boston subway system was an amusement park.  I bought my token from the man in the booth, inserted my coin, pushed through the turnstile and entered a magical wonderland of adventure.  I loved riding in the front of the trains and trolleys, imagining I was the conductor driving through the symphony of orchestrated lights. Between stops, I slid down the escalator handrails and raced back up the descending stairs.  Fresh-popped popcorn was a common treat at the Government Center T stop, as well as weaving between people to catch the next trolley. When I was in the subway, I was free, independent, and in control.

If school and tutoring was not challenging enough, Hebrew school and my Bar Mitzvah became an impossible burden.  After a long day struggling through school, I went home and traded my school books for Hebrew books. Mrs. Gutell whisked us away in her carpool to the next town.  Reading English from left to right was difficult, but reading Hebrew from right to left became my worst nightmare.  In my second year of Hebrew school, Dyslexia and I could not take it any longer, so we dropped out and my mother acquired a tape recorder and another tutor.  Mr. Copeland was a rather portly, older gentleman with suspenders who taught at MIT.   Each week he recorded a couple of new lines for me to learn and practice.  I listened to the recordings over and over again.  Eventually, I memorized my entire Bar Mitzvah and proudly delivered it in front of my family, friends and the temple congregation.  

I made my next breakthrough with Dyslexia my first year in college studying to be a respiratory therapist.  At the end of my first semester, I volunteered at my local hospital in the Respiratory Therapy Department, and this became my classroom.  Watching the respiratory therapists controlling the life support machines, treating asthmatics, and bag breathing patients during a “Code Blue” became my best way of learning.  Once I made the connection between the real world and what I was studying, there was no looking back for me.  I began to stop blaming Dyslexia for holding me back, and with that I moved forward - fast forward.

With these learning strategies in hand, together we completed Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and all of the coursework toward a Ph.D.  At 24, I was named the youngest Assistant Professor at Quinnipiac University. By 28, I was the Chairman of our Department. After that, I worked in the medical device market collaborating with Anesthesiologists. Now, I am CEO of my own company building the super-computers that scientists use to accelerate discovery.  For those who knew about my Dyslexia and me, they continually commented about and complemented our accomplishments. However, I still felt I was in a struggling relationship.

They say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. One day my sister shared a book call  The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain.  Drs. Brock and Fernette Edie’s words artfully reinforced that a relationship with Dyslexia is a blessing. For the first time, in my life, I fully accepted my Dyslexia.  It reminds me of a verse from the David Crosby song, Long Time Gone. "But you know, the darkest hour, is always just before the dawn.”  Now I reflect on my first fifty years with Dyslexia. A long time has gone, but the dawn has risen on my next fifty years.  Moving forward, I embrace Dyslexia as my amazing gift, and I hope my journey shows others with Dyslexia a path to acceptance and empowerment.

I hope Stan's story inspires you, too, to recognize the gifts in dyslexia.

Popular Posts

Back to School: Planning, Time Management and Organization Instruction

Many teachers can not fathom how apparently simple tasks such as using an agenda or turning in an assignment can be very difficult for some of their students.In fact, many students need comprehensive instruction and scaffolding to learn to plan, manage time, and organize.Executive functioning, which encompasses these skills is the last part of the brain to fully develop, and in actuality, does not reach maturation until students reach their early 20's.
How Hard Can it Really Be to Plan, Manage Time and Organize? I have to admit, when I first started working with students that struggled with executive functioning, I was surprised how challenging planning, time management and organization could be for some of my young, bright learners.What seemed to be clear and obvious was obscure, taxing and problematic for them.
These Students are Often Misunderstood: Instead of compassion and strategies, students that have difficulties with executive functioning are often intimidated, harassed and m…

Help for Struggling Readers: Creating Your Own Color Overlays

You can create your own overlays by using whole sheets or cutting strips of transparent, colored report covers, dividers or overhead projector film. 

Step one: Buy a variety of colorful transparent sheets.  You can use - color, transparency filmcolor, transparent report covers (plastic)color, transparent dividers (plastic)

All of these options can be found at office supply stores.
Step two:  Everyone is different.  Let your students try out the different colors and see which one they like the best. Step three:  For some students, keep whole sheets so that students have the option of changing the background color of the entire page of text.  Other students might like a thin strip of color, as it can help with tracking from one line to the next.  I make them a variety of lengths and widths, and often let students decide for themselves.  Note: The strips also make wonderful book marks. 
Step four (optional):  Place a plain sticker on the end of the overlay strip or the bottom of a whole sheet…

10 Free Ways to Improving Visual Tracking for Weak Readers

While reading, tracking across the page from one line to the next can be tricky when the text is small, but for students with dyslexia or weak reading skills, it can be a problem regardless of the font size. 
What Exactly is Tracking? Tracking is the ability for one's eyes to move smoothly across the page from one line of text to another. Tracking difficulties happen when eyes jump backward and forward and struggle to stay on a single line of text.  This results in problems such as word omissions, reversals, eye fatigue, losing your place while reading and most importantly it can impact normal reading development.  
Can Tracking be Improved? Tracking can be improved by strengthening eye muscles as well as getting your eyes and brain to work cooperatively.  There are three eye movements that need to be developed:   Fixations: The ability to hold one's eyes steady without moving off a target.Saccades: The ability to jump to new targets that randomly disappear and reappear in a dif…

Multisensory Teaching Accommodates the 12 Ways of Learning

Teachers are always trying to reach more learners and improve retention.  One of the best ways to do this is to employ a variety teaching methods.  This involves integrating the 12 ways of learning into instruction.  Here is an infographic that reviews the 12 ways of learning and provides some statistics on how learning improves when teachers implement multisensory instruction.

Here is an image of the same infographic that can be shared on Pinterest.

Here are direct links to:
A free Prezi on multisensory teachingA free video on the 12 Ways of LearningThe Eclectic Teaching Approach
I hope you found this to be informative and inspiring.  If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please leave a comment below this blog post. Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products an…

Following Directions: How Do I Teach this Skill?

Learning to follow directions is a crucial milestone in any student’s learning program.  It is the foundation of learning and difficulties in this area can impact a student’s ability to take notes, follow a sequence of steps, as well as show their knowledge on written assignments and even multiple-choice tests.

Even if a student is listening carefully or reading and rereading text, it doesn’t mean that they will succeed at following directions.  Weaknesses in attention, executive functioning, and language processing (both auditory and visual) can present as great obstacles for these students.  So what can be done about this?

We need to teach students how to follow directions.  They need to learn the subtleties of linguistic cues.  They need to learn to carefully analyze each word and then know how to decipher what it all means.

Whether it involves listening comprehension (auditory, receptive language) or understanding written directions (reading comprehension), there are a number of…

Remediating Dyslexia with Orton Gillingham Based Reading Games

Students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities often learn differently and require an alternative approach to learning basic reading.  What's more, these young learners are working full tilt while sitting in the classroom and by the time they get home and have to complete their homework, they are mentally spent.  As a result, tagging on remedial reading lessons to a cup that is already overflowing can be enough to turn these kids off to learning altogether.

How Do We Help These Students Learn the Core Skills Needed to be Successful Readers?
First, use a remedial program that is backed by time, testimonials and research.  The Orton-Gillingham approach to reading is a well-established and researched approach that offers a multisensory, sequential, incremental, cumulative, individualized, and explicit approach.  There are many programs that are available.  Click here to learn about a selection of these programs. Second, employ an individualized approach as each …

15 Ways to Nurture a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

How can we nurture resilient, active learners that embrace challenging academic material and become successful lifelong learners? Carol Dweck suggests that what we need to do is help students shed a fixed mindset and adopt a growth mindset. What's more, Dweck contends that developing a growth mindset will also result in less stress and a more productive and fulfilling life. 

What is a Fixed and Growth Mindset?
In a fixed mindset, students believe that their abilities are dependent on fixed traits that can not be changed such as intellect or talent. Individuals that think this way, often cultivate a self-defeating identity, feel powerless, and many struggle with a sense of learned helplessness. In contrast, students with a growth mindset accept that abilities and aptitude can be developed with persistence and effort. As a result, these individuals are not intimidate by failure, because they realize that mistakes are a part of the learning process. They continue working hard despite a…

Improving Spelling for Students with Dyslexia

Not all students require the same remedial process even though they struggle with the same academic difficulties.  Diverse combinations of cognitive processing weaknesses and deficits can unite to create the "perfect storm" that can cause challenges with reading, math, writing, spelling and more.  In fact, no two students have the same cognitive profile, so to provide the optimal solution, one needs to consider both a student's strengths and weaknesses when designing a remedial approach.  

Occasionally, I like to present the questions emailed to me from parents and teachers.  This week, I will share an email that I received from a parent in England as well as my response.

Email received: 

Hi there:
Love the website!
Our son (age 8) is dyslexic and we have been told that he has a good visual memory (so he can easily spot a correctly spelt word and can even easily distinguish the correct meanings of similar sounding words e.g. sea and see). However, he has poor memory retrieval…

Show Don’t Tell: A Descriptive Writing Game

Descriptive writing enables the author to paint scenes and characters in the mind’s eye of the reader. Like an artist, carefully selected, colorful words can convey vivid imagery, but only if the author learns to "show" and not "tell" the audience. Learning how to use illustrative adjectives, action verbs, graphic adverbs, expressive metaphors, vivid similes and showy personification is the key to writing engaging stories. What's more is it makes the process of writing a lot more fun!
Concrete learners or students that struggle with visualization or language processing can find descriptive writing difficult to learn. They can also find the learning process boring and tedious. As a result, I created a game to help make descriptive writing both enjoyable and memorable.
Show Don’t Tell & Show Don't Tell 2 Fabulously Fun Descriptive Writing Game, by Dr. Erica Warren at Good Sensory Learning, will walk you through the process. You will be amazed at the…