By LaNaye Reid
The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning
Ben Foss, Ballantine Books, New York, 2016, www.benfoss.com. 336 pages. ISBN 978-0-345-54125-3.
The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan examines the emotional, social, and practical aspects that accompany a diagnosis of dyslexia. The book seeks to shift the mindset of parents of individuals with dyslexia, and individuals with dyslexia themselves, away from a perspective of being handicapped by deficits to that of being empowered by strengths through information, accommodation, and advocacy.
Foss recounts his own journey in the book’s introduction, laying the foundation for the remainder of the book. He was identified as having dyslexia as a young child, and the belief that he was somehow defective created such a powerful sense of shame that he hid his dyslexia through much of his academic career. He eventually recognized the strengths his “disability” brought, and he earned a JD/MBA from Stanford Law School, worked in the Clinton White House, and invented technology for the Intel Corporation. Today he is an entrepreneur, activist, and founder of Headstrong Nation.
The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan is divided into three parts. The first section, “Know the Facts,” centers on finding a child’s profile of strengths and attitudes through two questionnaires that map onto corresponding star-shaped charts. These are relatively simple tools that encourage parents to embrace a child’s dyslexia and to see strengths instead of deficits. This section also dispels myths surrounding dyslexia.
The second part of the book focuses on empowerment through self-advocacy. Foss guides parents through the emotional journey of coaching a child to self-advocate and not shy away from his or her dyslexia story. This section also includes the nuts and bolts of legal rights and useful accommodations.
The book concludes with the importance of building a sense of community so that individuals with dyslexia meet other citizens from the “nation of dyslexia,” as Foss metaphorically calls it, and restates the consistent theme of the book: Dyslexia brings with it its own blend of strengths and does not equal brokenness.
One of the key attractions of the book is that it does not read like a textbook or how-to manual, but instead answers the question of “My child has dyslexia—now what?” with optimism and hope. As a result, Foss creates a compelling narrative that blends his own journey with dyslexia with the stories of others, adding practical information and strategies for empowering children to be self-confident and self-advocating. This is an ideal read for parents who struggle with the day-to-day reality of having a child who struggles with school and the resulting issues caused by poor self-esteem.
LaNaye Reid is a member of the Dyslexia Connection Editorial Board. She is an educator with eighteen years’ experience in the public school system as a teacher, dyslexia therapist, and intervention specialist. She currently serves as the president of the Dallas Branch of IDA, where she uses her leadership skills to collaborate to promote education, awareness, and advocacy for individuals with dyslexia and related disorders.
Mrs. Reid received a Master’s of Educational Leadership from Dallas Baptist University and a Master’s of Education from Southern Methodist University, as well as a graduate certificate from Southern Methodist University’s Learning Therapy Program. She is a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) as designated by the Academic Language Therapy Association.
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