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.
[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sullen, and withdrawn teenager, at high risk for dropping out.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
[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
[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.
Website: BrightSolutions.US for free
dyslexia information and videos
Phone: (408) 559-3652 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT