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In Harvey's travels, he meets many dyslexics.
Pictured here is Reyn Guyer
with some of his family;they're all dyslexic.
We want to hear
dyslexics: In their own words
and then send us yours!
one American in seven has some degree of dyslexia. It's a condition
that makes it hard to learn to read the same way other people do. With
some special techniques, taught or self-invented, most dyslexics can
learn to function normally. And a lot of dyslexics are brilliant, talented,
and successful. In the comic documentary Dislecksia: The
Movie, dyslexic director Harvey Hubbell V — with
assistance from dyslexic writer Jeremy Brecher and several dyslexic
crew members – will present the latest scientific knowledge about
dyslexia and the experiences of dyslexics. Viewers will come to know
dyslexics — and those who teach them and study them — not
just as statistics or talking heads but as people. And they'll know
a lot about dyslexia: its causes, its effects, and what can be done
Dislecksia will give viewers a better understanding of
the condition. It will also give dyslexics and their families hope —
as well as a crash course in how to keep smiling.
(Dislecksia: The Movie is currently in post-production with a predicted 2009 release)
|Growing up, I was the apple of my mom's eye. I had a spring in my step and not a care in the world. Then I went to school. In 1966, when I was six years old in first grade, at Hawley Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I remember my teachers having a private meeting about me. “He can barely write his first name,” said Mrs. B. “I noticed he doesn’t know how to hold his pencil,” said Mrs. W. They didn’t know I was listening, or maybe they did and didn’t care. But I did hear them.
That was only the beginning of when I started to feel a little inadequate to my fellow classmates. On my report card, one teacher noted, “You’ll find Harvey an alert, cooperative, interesting, bright, happy child who contributes much orally to the class. He does exceptionally well on a one to one basis, but is completely lost in group instruction.” My mother knew I was smart, but most teachers did not see that, and my mother worried a lot.
|My parents had me tested to find out what was wrong. In second grade, they found out I was dyslexic. Little was known back then about what to do with a dyslexic. Testing continued on me, year after year. Testing never ends when you are dyslexic. I learned to read outside of the school system through a series of one-on-one tutors. In 1977, I graduated from Newtown High School. My class rank was 275 out of 325 students. Perhaps I should add that I just barely graduated. Of course, the teachers had passed me along to get rid of me, but I had few skills to survive in the real world.
During one of my attempts to go to college, it was confirmed that I was not college material. My English professor excused me from class permanently when he learned that correct spelling and grammar didn’t exist in my writing. My ideas were not judged, but my lack of structure in writing was. “Those skills should have been learned prior to entering college classes! You may be excused now, Mr. Hubbell,” he grumped.
Years later, it became apparent to me that I was born at the wrong time to get help with dyslexia in school. It wasn’t until 1975, a few years before I graduated from high school, that the first laws were passed to identify students with learning disabilities and to support their rights to education. It was too late for me. At sixteen years old I was already considered damaged goods. I felt that my teachers and others did not understand me. If I had been born later, maybe I would not have had to go through all of the pain and struggles that I experienced in school. Instead, I would close my eyes and daydream. I'd bury my face in my arms on the desk and invent movies.
Being a visual thinker, I gravitated toward the film industry. For years I worked on any TV show, feature film or commercial that would have me. Sometimes I worked for just food, shelter and even clothing. Eventually, through hard work and determination, I started telling my own stories through movies. It turned out that people liked them, and I got some awards. So I made more films and got more awards, some of which turned out to be Emmys.
|In 2003, my crew and I decided it was time to make a film about dyslexia and show how things had changed since I was in grade school. We were anxious to get answers to all of the questions swirling through my head. What are educators doing today? How do students with dyslexia get treated in school now? Since nearly one in seven students has a form of dyslexia, teachers must have new ways of teaching, and the world must be a better place…right?
Our movie started in New York City interviewing people on the streets and asking the simple question, “What is dyslexia?” Quickly we learned that most people have no idea what it is. Some even thought it was a sexually transmitted disease; others thought it was a condition where people do not sleep. Public awareness on the subject was low. It didn't take long to discover that the same apathy on the subject was the norm within multitudes of school systems. Although many are making changes to help dyslexics, too many aren't doing anything at all. There are even school systems that are in legal battles with parents who want their dyslexic children educated. Instead of paying for teachers to learn new methods to teach dyslexics, schools are using their funds to oppose parents and advocate that they are doing “enough.”
|Ever since I met Editor/Producer Eric Gardner I knew I wanted to work with him. Eric is one of the best filmmakers that I know. In his spare time, when he is not working on the TV show Survivor, I roped him into shooting and writing with me. Research on the topic started in depth with longtime writer, fellow dyslexic and Fulbright Scholar, Jeremy Brecker. We wanted to find the best of the best in the field of dyslexia, but would they talk to us? So we researched and interviewed experts in their field. My schtick was carrying around a plastic brain, telling them that I was dyslexic and that I had to make this film.
Eventually, either for their amusement or their sympathy, they gave me their support. Together, we built an advisory board. We talked to the people at the IDA (International Dyslexia Association), including their past and future presidents. We met with educators and brain scientists, both traditional and maverick (including one who used to be a monk), who were studying how students learn to read. We also found schools on the cutting edge that were operating specifically for dyslexic students, like the Foreman School and Kildonan Schools. Furthermore, we met moms and dads, advocates for their dyslexic children, challenging public school systems to do more.
|We met with the brilliant people at the Haskins Laboratory at Yale University who are studying the science of the spoken and written word. Georgetown Imaging was on our "to do list," as they are brain scanners, who of course had to check out my dyslexic brain and explain what they knew about dyslexia. We learned of important scholars in the field of dyslexia such as Dr. Gordon Sherman and the late Roger Saunders. The experts introduced us to Peter Wright, Wrightslaw Special Education advocate, who is teaching parents how to advocate for their children and get the Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that they deserve. And sadly, we learned that not so much had changed since I was in high school.
It is my mission to raise awareness on the topic, and to help dyslexics to get the education they need by offering the movie as a tool for advocates who work to get laws changed. Why is it that some of the most brilliant people in history including Einstein, Thomas Edison, Beethoven, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Schwab, Walt Disney and Picasso are thought to be dyslexic? We recognize them for their brilliant ideas, and they were lucky; they somehow found a way to get their ideas out. Yet many of today’s dyslexics never make it to success. Right now in America, one in five adults are functionally illiterate. That's 60 million people - equal to the entire population of California and Texas combined. Eighty-five percent of the prison population in our country reads below a sixth grade level.
Dyslexics may feel insecure about themselves because of poor reading or writing skills. How many Einsteins have we squashed? Within our rapidly changing times, it’s time for the world to recognize cerebral diversity and allow dyslexic people their rightful place in society, instead of ridiculing them for their weaknesses.
Harvey Hubbell V
Dislecksia: The Movie will be a comic documentary, but it has a
serious purpose. It will give viewers a better understanding of the
condition itself, the problems it makes for individuals and families,
and the programs that are needed to deal with it. It will help dyslexics
and their families get the assistance they need. It will give them hope
— as well as a crash course in how to laugh at their own condition.
While estimates vary somewhat, reading disability is a massive problem.
An in-depth study by Yale University concluded that dyslexia affects
one out of every five children. A survey by the US Department of Education
found that nearly 38 percent of fourth graders had not achieved even
basic or rudimentary skills in reading. An estimated four-fifths of
all learning disabilities are reading disabilities.
The individual, social, and financial costs are almost beyond calculation.
Kids who don't learn to read face frustration, humiliation, and battering
of their self-esteem. Many adopt counter-productive responses, from
getting sick when they have to read out loud to becoming "class
clown" to hide their embarrassment. They drop out of high school
at double the rate of other kids. With limited reading skills, poor
education, and damaged self-image, many dyslexics are set up for a life
of frustrated hopes and limited opportunities. They are blocked from
utilizing their talents to realize their aspirations.
The costs to society are equally devastating. The ability to read
is a prerequisite for contribution to society both as a worker and as
a citizen. Yet our communities and workforce are filled with adults
who cannot read — a recent study estimated one million non-readers
in the New York City workforce alone. Many are talented people whose
potential contribution to society is lost because of their disability.
A disproportionate number of those with reading disabilities fill our
juvenile detention facilities and prisons.
The good news is that these tragic outcomes can be almost completely
forestalled. As the many highly successful dyslexics demonstrate, even
those with severe dyslexia can learn to function at high levels that
take advantage of their full range of talents.
If they receive the right kind of help early enough, all dyslexics
can improve their reading and most can learn to read with competence.
Yet most dyslexics are not identified until third grade at the earliest.
Only a small proportion — less than one-third — receive
treatment. Often the treatment they receive is inappropriate and/or
If treatment is delayed, the brain becomes less malleable for rerouting
neural circuits and treatment therefore becomes more difficult. Children
who don’t learn how to read fall further behind their peers because
they miss out on additional reading practice. For many, the pain and
shame of failure instill an aversion to even trying.
These consequences are unnecessary. They can all be corrected by means
of changes in public knowledge about and attitudes toward dyslexia.
Indeed, many experts in the field of dyslexia believe that changing
public awareness of what dyslexia is and what can be done about it is
the key to eliminating this unnecessary scourge. If those at risk for
dyslexia could be identified, diagnosed, and provided the special instruction
they need, the “problem” of dyslexia could be largely eliminated.
The mission of Dislecksia: The Movie is to provide
a critical tool for creating that public awareness. It will educate
a wide public on what dyslexia is — not a sign of stupidity as
so many believe, but of a need to learn in a different way. It will
tell parents of dyslexics what they can do to ensure that their children
are properly diagnosed and given the kind of instruction they need.
It will help schools understand what they need to do to identify those
at risk for dyslexia and to provide the instruction that will allow
them to learn. It will help educators gain support from parents and
the community to provide what dyslexic kids need. And it will help dyslexics
themselves understand that they have the potential to learn successfully,
but that they have to learn in a different way.
Almost everyone in America has a dyslexic in their family, has friends
and colleagues who are dyslexic, or is dyslexic themselves. I hope that
after seeing this movie, every one of them will say, “Now I know
why Tommy can't read — and I know what to do about it."
I've assembled a team to produce Dislecksia: The Movie
that I believe can do justice to the serious mission of the project
while creating a show that people will watch just for the fun of it.
Dislecksia: The Movie will be produced by Captured Time
Productions, a creative team of documentary makers with its own production
facility in Litchfield, Connecticut. Founded by my wife Andie Haas Hubbell
and myself in 1992, Captured Time has won more than 50 awards at major
film and video festivals.
As the producer & director, I’ll draw on my past experience
making “documentaries with a difference.” My Electronic
Road Film, for example, portrayed a trip I took across the country
discovering the diversity — and sometimes downright wackiness
— of my fellow citizens. Telluride IndieFest Director Michael
Carr called it “The best ‘grassroots’ depiction of
current American values.” It won an Emmy for “Outstanding
Entertainment Program.” My Loop Dreams provided
a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a low-budget feature movie.
It won Emmys for "Outstanding Entertainment Program", "Individual Achievement
for Directing", and "Program Writing" as well as the New York Festivals’
Gold World Medal for Comedy.
The co-producer will be my wife Andie Haas Hubbell. She has won five
Emmy awards for documentaries like The Roots of Roe (on
the history of abortion and contraception law in the US) and Global
Village or Global Pillage? (on responses to globalization).
She’s recruited such stars as Sharon Stone, Brooke Shields, Drew
Barrymore, Katharine Hepburn, Jason Robards, Peter Coyote, Edward Asner,
Ellen Burstyn, James Whitmore, Joanne Woodward, and Ann Archer to appear
in her programs. Many of her programs have been broadcast on public
television. In 2001 the Connecticut Film Commission named her “Connecticut
Filmmaker of the Year.”
The writer will be Jeremy Brecher, PhD. He’s an historian and the
author of a dozen books — as well as a fellow dyslexic. He serves
as Humanities Scholar in Residence at Connecticut Public Television
and Radio and has been Fulbright Research Scholar at the University
of Otago. He has scripted and/or helped produce twenty documentaries.
He is the winner of several Emmy awards, two Edgar Dale Screenwriting
Awards, and the Silver Gavel Award of the American Bar Association.
He has worked with the Hubbells for more than 15 years and shared with
them the New York Festivals’ Gold World Medal for Comedy.
Eric Gardner, our lead Editor and one of our Producers, has been working
in the film and video world for 25 years. He has edited shows such as
The Real World and currently edits Survivor.
Eric was the Director-Producer-Editor for his independent feature Under
The Influence, which stars Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction,
Usual Suspects, The Mask) and won several awards including the
Grand Jury Prize at Big Bear Lake International Film Festival.
Dislecksia: The Movie will be guided by the best available
expertise in the field. Some of America’s leading dyslexia researchers
and educators have agreed to review this proposal. I hope and expect
that many of them will agree to become formal advisors for the project.
Dislecksia: The Movie will be distributed by broadcast
and cable TV, videocassette, DVD, and streaming video on the web. Every
effort will be made to connect viewers to organizations and resources
that can be helpful to dyslexics and their families. The movie will
be accompanied by a Viewers Guide and a website that will provide additional
information and references to the many excellent materials on dyslexia
that are available in print and on the web.
CEO / President, Roserock Films
Founder, The Dyslexia Foundation
Director, Communication by Design Consulting
Emerson Dickman, Esq
Attorney At Law, President of the International Dyslexia Association
Guinevere F. Eden, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Georgetown University Medical
Center; Director, Center for the Study of Learning
Financial Consultant & Venture Capitalist
Kenneth Pugh, PhD
Senior Scientist at Haskins Lab; Research Scientist,
Dept. of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine
Sylvia O. Richardson, MD
Past-President International Dyslexia Association; Past President
of American Speech and Hearing Association; Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics
and Distinguished Professor of Communications, University of South Florida
Roger Saunders (Deceased 2006)
Past-President International Dyslexia Association
Gordon Sherman, PhD
Executive Director, Newgrange School and Educational Outreach Center
Sally Smith, Prof (Deceased 2007)
Founder/Executive Director, Lab School, Washington, DC
Founder, Sonday Systems; Educational Consultant Fellow, Academy of
Orton Gillingham Practitioners and Educators
Gordon Wallace, PhD
Emeritus Faculty, The Citadel
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