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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

Jun 21, 2017

Summary & Ideas for Action

Susan Barton is the Founder and CEO of Bright Solutions for Dyslexia. Susan shares the story of her inspiration to start Bright Solutions for Dyslexia 25 years ago, when dyslexia was largely unknown, and information about it was hard to gather and share. Over the years, over 200,000 families have contacted Susan for help. She provides an overview of the effect of dyslexia on one’s ability to learn, and how it is important to see it as a learning difference; not a learning disability. Through her talks around the U.S., she educates parents, teachers, and professionals on how to reach these students to give them the advantages they need to excel in life.  


Key Takeaways

[2:25] Jim describes how Susan played a transformative role in the lives of his family and son. Jim’s son had undiagnosed dysgraphia and dyslexia, and so did Jim, as he learned after researching why his son couldn’t write. Susan keeps records of all requests for help, about 200,000 so far. Jim first contacted Susan at Bright Solutions for Dyslexia in 2007.

[7:57] Susan explains her interest in dyslexia. Susan does not have an education background, and never taught in a school. Susan started in computers. Her bright, lovable nephew Ben struggled badly in school. He failed kindergarten. He qualified for Special Education in first grade. In third grade, the family was in a panic when nothing was working. All the family’s resources were devoted to helping Ben.

[10:14] Ben’s self-esteem plummeted and he became a mean, angry, sullen, and withdrawn teenager, at high risk for dropping out. In 10th grade the school told his parents that not all kids were meant to read, despite his IQ in the gifted range. One teacher told them he might have dyslexia, but if so, it’s too late to help him at his age. That was the first time they had heard of dyslexia.

[11:58] After weeks of crying, praying, and looking for alternatives, they accepted the school’s recommendation to send Ben to a voc-ed school, to learn to support himself. Having no idea how hard it would be to find the answers, over 25 years ago (pre-internet), Susan began her journey to help Ben. She started at the library; they didn’t have much, but she found an adult literacy program seeking volunteers.

[12:56] Susan volunteered. At the first volunteer training session, Susan told Ben’s story, and learned that the center was one of six adult literacy programs in California, devoted solely to adults with dyslexia. She was at the right place. Susan eventually took a full-time position there, leaving her good-paying computer career, because of her passion.

[13:49] After four years Susan switched from adult literacy to clinics that worked with children after school. She learned a lot about the school system and IEPs, and found that the problem isn’t dyslexia. The problem is they aren’t training teachers and parents about it, and to teach for it.

[14:19] Susan knew there were millions of children affected, and it was ruining their lives, without resources to help them. So she decided to leave the clinic and start Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, a free information resource center. All day long they answer phones and emails, provide webinars, videos, interviews, etc., to try to spread the word so children can be taught. 20% of children have dyslexia.

[17:23] Susan explains why dyslexia is not an invisible condition. You just have to be familiar with the traits. Jim looks back at his life, and sees so much that is explained by dyslexia, including the extra care he takes in writing, and why he doesn’t write by hand. Jim also notes that in people with dyslexia, there is engagement of both sides of the brain, allowing great empathy and great logic at the same time.

[22:16] Susan addresses self-confidence in relation to learning. She tells parents to spend one hour or more finding and growing their child’s gifted areas for every hour spent working with their weak skills. There are 14 key areas where children with dyslexia do better than others. Parents need to encourage these strengths. Confidence comes from being successful. Schools do not focus on these strengths.

[23:58] In the business world, leaders should focus on strengths. StrengthsFinder, by Tom Rath is a good resource. Finding five good things to tell someone for every criticism is helpful for confidence. You build your understanding of yourself, and how you fit into society, when you are five to eight years old. If you are feeling left behind at those ages, it will affect your life, if someone doesn’t help you work through it.

[26:32] Susan is an effective communicator. Her audience is dyslexic, and she treats everybody as though they have it. She gives the big picture first, gets their attention up front, gives lots of examples, and writes cleanly and clearly with simple language in short sentences. She spends a lot of time practicing, making the wording shorter and more direct, before she records a video or speaks publicly.

[35:33] Susan finds education to be the most effective tool to fight ignorance. She gives free talks all over the U.S., and the people who come to those talks are the people who are curious and concerned. If they care enough to come to a three-hour talk, she can reach them. They will go back and try to make change in their school. Susan won’t retire until she knows the children are being taken care of well.


Facebook: @SusanBartonDyslexia

Twitter: @DyslexiaBarton

Website: BrightSolutions.US for free dyslexia information and videos



Phone: (408) 559-3652 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT