Walk … for all of our dyslexic brothers and sisters

By most folks’ yardstick, my younger brother, Bobby, had about five strikes against his ever living a very successful life. Oxygen-deprived at birth, the “blue baby” then needed a blood transfusion due to a blood incompatibility with our mother’s blood type. At age 2, he barely survived being run over by a truck while sitting in his stroller in our long farm driveway, leaving the hospital with permanent facial injuries. At age 3, he got lead poisoning from eating paint chips off our barn. Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where my mother eventually took him for evaluation due to his being “slow,” diagnosed him with “minimal brain damage,” which told the family absolutely nothing. Any of his previous hardships could have caused that, and likely all contributed to it.

One of his more serious impairments was not diagnosed until he was far too old to benefit from therapy. Bobby was dyslexic. In the early ’60s, that meant he was “retarded” because he couldn’t get the hang of reading. Some of my worst childhood memories are of my parents calling him “dummy,” punishing him because he just would not (it never occurred to them that he “could not”) read the same paragraph the same way twice, without error. By his eighth stumbling try, they were infuriated and Dad’s belt came off. They bought him reading glasses, cajoled and punished the heck out of that boy. He spent countless hours at our kitchen table stumbling over words, warned not to get up until he read them all aloud without error – while I, an excellent reader, was mentally screaming the simple list of words for him. My stomach clenches just remembering those sessions.

So I do have an admitted soft spot for children with dyslexia, because my brother was never given the understanding or the tutoring that might have changed the entire course of his life. I saw him crumple inside himself, losing all self confidence – not because of his irregular facial features or even due to his learning disability, but because he was not a dummy. He was just an otherwise normal little boy who couldn’t learn to read. Letters moved as he tried to hold them in his line of vision. They turned around. He would look at an N and then copy it as a mirror image. He read with a visual stutter, if you will, that other people were blind to.

Patricia Eldred didn’t know that when she wrote me an impassioned little email asking me to let readers know that the Children’s Dyslexia Center-Madison is accepting registration and pledges for its fourth annual fundraising walk. She creatively framed her request for coverage: “Charity walks may not immediately seem to be of interest to the business community, but preparing our future workforce certainly is, and we can’t afford to lose promising potential leaders to school failure. The Children’s Dyslexia Center-Madison provides an invaluable service by tutoring kids with dyslexia at no cost to them or their families, helping them to succeed in school and in life. As you can imagine, more kids need help than the Center can currently serve, and the annual walk is one of the major sources of funds to support the work of the Center, and pay to train and employ tutors. Any mention you could make of this worthwhile cause in your In Business column would be much appreciated. Thank you.”

“Taking Steps Against Dyslexia” will take place on Saturday, May 18, 2013, with registration at 7:30 a.m. at the Shelter House at Henry Vilas Park (702 South Randall Ave.). The 5K walk will start at 8:30 a.m. Registration fees are $15 for adults and $5 for children under 12. The walk will also feature several family-friendly activities. All funds raised will support free tutoring services for children with dyslexia in the Greater Madison area.

The Children’s Dyslexia Center-Madison is one of 50 Scottish Rite Masons’ Children’s Dyslexia Centers across 15 states helping children overcome learning difficulties. The Madison center opened in 2001 and offers one-on-one tutoring to help students meet their full educational potential in reading, writing, and spelling. It serves students between the ages of 7 and 18 at no cost to them or their families, teaching students to become independent, lifelong learners and to gain both skill and confidence in their ability to succeed in school. (Continued)


All tutors are certified in the Orton-Gillingham model, a multisensory approach that uses phonetics to emphasize visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles to read, write, and spell. Children are taught how to process language and how to read all over again. Progress is made in small, readily quantifiable steps.

To register for the walk, sponsor the event, or learn more, contact Dale Holmen at 608-241-4751 or holmendd13@att.net, or visit www.walkfordyslexia.org.

Patricia, this column is dedicated to sweet Bobby, who died a few years ago from complications after being resuscitated after nearly freezing to death in a field due to a diabetic seizure. If that man-boy didn’t have bad luck, I swear, he never had much luck at all. But we can change perhaps another little boy’s or girl’s future path with the help of well-intentioned, better educated people like you. You’ll want to thank me for writing this but no, don’t. I thank you for the opportunity to learn more about the Children’s Dyslexia Center and your work.

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