Learning Wonders

Topics: Reading
Spielberg quote on dyslexia

I’ve debated writing about this for several years. I haven’t wanted to reveal too much about my young son that he might not want me to say.

But something about losing my mother has made me brave. And the more I research and learn about how to help my kid love learning, the more I know I need to share with others. And that there is nothing about learning differently for any of us to be ashamed about.

People with gifts I don’t have started attracting my attention many years ago.

school bus

In the early eighties, I rode the school bus. Because we stood at the same stop, I talked to a boy in my class I’ll call Ronald Lapinski. It was only when no one else was around–when we were not in our separate corners of the fourth grade universe–that we had a reason to talk. Or the space to connect with one another.

If I noticed Ronald in class it was because he was having a hard time. Reading was not his favorite thing to do. Behaving well was not his favorite thing to do. The teachers constantly told him to sit down and do his work.

I prefered to do all my work without being told and stayed up way past bedtime reading Little House on the Prairie with a flashlight under the covers as a rebellion.

But when we stood at the bus stop, he would tell me what he really enjoyed doing when he wasn’t trapped at school. Ronald lived to take radios apart and then put them back together. Or take apart whatever other mechanical thing he could get his hands on and then put it back together.

When he described the wires and gadgets involved, I remember feeling amazed that anyone could do such a thing. And a part of me wondered how I would do at school if my grade depended on this skill. I knew I would be at the bottom of the class if the SRA booklets involved electronics. I might not even be well-behaved if my teachers forced me to do something so foreign to the way my brain works.

It’s something I still think about. A good percentage of the students I work with now are like Ronald Lapinski. They are attracted to the trade programs and not to the English classes I teach. And, as I said, my son is much more like Ronald than he is like me. Even though I’ve gotten him help with letters and I hope he feels much more at ease than my bus stop friend did in school, I still long to help him find ways to shine. Subjects that come more naturally to him and that his school values.

Because of my research and my mission to help him, I’ve discovered a whole world of dyslexic people with gifts like Ronald’s and others. 

Jamie Oliver is a famous chef who floated through school feeling ‘thick.’ He says at the end of this video that “we’ve got a massive problem in this country with under-mentored under-loved kids that don’t see that you could be good at something very simple and turn it into a life’s work that you enjoy…that makes you want to get out of bed with a spark in your eye.”

Here Steven Spielberg talks about how he was teased for being dyslexic and two years behind his peers in school. He says he made The Goonies based on his own group of friends with various disabilities.

Oliver and many others are questioning our reliance on a traditional school system created 500 years ago around reading, writing, and arithmetic to the exclusion of most every other subject.

This is a huge thing for me to consider. I love to read. I love to write. I blog for God’s sake. I even have a whole book and resource list on this subject because that’s how I roll. (I will post it for you soon.)

But I’ve come to a point where I am willing to share the feeling of success–the spark in the eye–with the chefs, the filmmakers, and the mechanically gifted.

And I’m willing to share this with them early on. Kindergarten is not too soon.

Yes, I may believe this more strongly now because of my son. But my mother always said having daughters expanded her world and made her see things she might not have experienced otherwise.

It looks like my son is doing the same for me.



About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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