Something’s Not Right
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SOMETHING'S NOT RIGHT
by Nancy Lelewer
Book review by Donald W. Mitchell, one of Amazon.com's "Top 10 Reviewers" and co-author of the Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution.
The Power of a Mother's Determination, August 11, 2008 The National Institutes of Health estimate that 15 percent of all people have learning disabilities. I suspect that the number is actually closer to 40-50 percent, if you include difficulties in a specific area (just in reading, math, sequencing or spatial problems). My estimate is based on how many people have trouble performing in one or more areas, even after many years of schooling and effort. For example, about 35 percent of the people in our state read in English below the 8th grade level in proficiency.
Yet as a society, we tend to act as though everyone learns easily and effortlessly. That makes life tough on the parents and children who are having problems learning. They find that they do not always get the help and emotional support they need. Once discouraged, one can end up accepting performance below one's capability.
If you are not learning disabled or do not have anyone in your family who is, this book will be a real eye-opener. In one family, three of four children have serious difficulties. The fourth goes on to excel at Harvard. Yet with great determination, endless effort, enormous imagination, and unending commitment, a mother is able to make progress. Some will discount her progress because she obviously had lots of financial resources. This book should be a wake-up call to all of us that we need to do more to support such families, especially when they do not have these financial resources.
If you or someone in your family does have learning disabilities, this book will be poignant. You will feel the pain more directly. On the other hand, I hope you will grasp the book's encouraging message: Someone out there can help you or your child. But be prepared for many backward steps, side steps, and delays.
The book mostly focuses on Brian's problems, because he was the most severely affected. As a young child, he had trouble saying words in recognizable form. With endless energy, he was a nonstop buzz saw. He was constantly hurting himself by running into things, and creating disasters. He was slow to learn almost all of the standard motor skills and to toilet train. Learning was almost impossible for him.
Eventually, Brian's mother comes to learn that he has no peripheral vision, has trouble conceptualizing except by touching things, needs physical sequencing to grasp order, and requires having things broken down into their simplest elements. She stays the course until these diagnoses are made, and Brian goes to the right school (after many somewhat right and many wrong ones).
In this book, you'll encounter the independence, tradition, wishful thinking, bureaucratic, communication, disbelief, and procrastination stalls. Nancy Lelewer proves to be a champion stall buster, and the family goes on to prosper. After he children were older she learned to develop educational games, do learning research, and write this book, despite some learning disabilities of her own. Unfortunately, her marriage did not survive all of these difficulties the children experienced. I suspect that that is not uncommon.
The book ends with some sound prescriptions for making progress: Early diagnosis; understanding; appropriate remediation; concrete, practical tools; encouraging/reminding person to help; and possibly medication. You will also find a list of organizations that may be able to help.
I hope everyone will read this book. The awareness the book creates will help open our eyes to the need for more individualized diagnosis and instructional methods if we are to tap the full potential of everyone!