Success and the Gift of Dyslexia by Carol Goodrow
Thumbelina, Mrs. Mouse and her 3 babies, running races in the corridor
"The definition of success is not measured by heights obtained but by obstacles overcome." Bruce Jenner
Bruce Jenner was a champion, a champion in the spirit of the ancient Greek games. He was the model of the well-balanced athlete, one that was great enough to be on the box of Wheaties that sat on your parents and grandparents' breakfast table for years. Bruce Jenner had won the 1976 Olympic decathlon games smashing his own world records. Many people call decathletes the world's greatest athletes, for their event is really a two-day track and field multi-event which includes: 100m, long jump, shotput, high jump and 400m on the first day and 100m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500m on the second day. That's ten competitions.
These games brought Bruce a gold medal, a new life of opportunities and fortune but mostly they helped Bruce realize his gift. Bruce says that he first really realized he had a gift when he won these games, but the gift he is speaking of is not one of athletics, but one of dyslexia. This was what Bruce called his greatest gift, the one that drove him to be a gold medalist.
To be sure, dyslexia's gifts are sometime hidden to the child, for dyslexia is first discovered when children enter school and begin to learn to read and write. Since these children must learn differently than their peers, school can be frustrating, and sometimes devastating. Bruce feared school, was called lazy by his teachers, and spent his time daydreaming. It was hard for him to learn to read, and his dyslexia was not discovered until a savvy school doctor recognized that he was dyslexic. Bruce found the early grades in school as being torturous and he can't remember a teacher who inspired him.
And the greatest gift? It was the need to overcome obstacles, the obstacles of his low-self esteem which he developed by feeling inferior to the students who got top grades and learned to read and write effortlessly.
"If I had not been dyslexic," Jenner told KidsRunning "I would not have won the Olympic decathlon games. Dyslexia made me outwork the next guy. But it was a side effect of dyslexia, my self-esteem-my perception of myself, which was my biggest problem of all; bigger than the perceptual problems of dylexia itself, and if I had not been dyslexic, I wouldn't have needed sports."
Jenner continued, "When I won the Olympic games, no one knew I had a problem. The only tough time I really had was in school with my esteem. Look at successful people. They all find a niche in life. Dyslexia was my gift for it made me different and special. If I hadn't had dyslexia, I wouldn't have needed sports."
Advice for children with dyslexia? "Just find your niche in life. Look at dyslexia as a gift. Don't worry about it. You won't die from it."
After the games Jenner went on to be a smashing success in life. He is a husband and parent of ten children, a millionaire, a sometimes host on the Good Morning, America TV show, a recipient of many awards including: the Sullivan Award, Olympic Hall of Fame 1986, Connecticut Hall of Fame 1994, and one of the U.S. Jaycee's Ten Outstanding Young Men in America and voted Father of the Year. He's been in movies, has authored books one of which is Finding the Champion Within. And the list goes on and on.
While Bruce Jenner may still have some trouble reading (he had to study the scripts for Good Morning America, many times, make crib notes, highlight key words in order to use the 'teleprompter') he has no trouble with speaking. He is an outstanding, motivational speaker and sports commentator, who also finds the time to promote our youth by being involved with the Special Olympics, and National Dyslexia Research Foundation, and so much more.
Today, we know a lot more about dyslexia than we did in the days when Bruce Jenner was in school. We can diagnose, prescribe and teach children, but we still need to take care that our students don't fall through the cracks, and as Bruce's story demonstrates, we need to help our children look for the champion inside, while we encourage them to use their gifts. Here's a quote from Shizuka, one of our young visitors, for all of the teachers out there who are dedicated to our young people of today. "The mediocre teacher tells,The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." William Arthur Word
Please visit the links below to find out more about Bruce Jenner and the decathlon. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book Bruce for a speaking engagement. And visit the IDA to find out more about dyslexia.
brucejenner.com Bruce Jenner's Web site
decathlonusa.org Decathlon Web site
interdys.org International Dyslexia Association
The top drawing is by Timmy, 8 years old.