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.

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