Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's easier to be the bad kid than the dumb kid

Yesterday, I learned something new about an old friend, something out of line with his character. Polite, funny, warm, caring, and empathetic, my friend David Flink is a force to be reckoned with in the LD movement - all that, I knew. What I found out, and what completely surprised me, was that he was sometimes a troublemaker in school. Easier to cause a disruption than face reading aloud, Dave spent his share of time out in the hallway in elementary school. "It's easier to be the troublemaker, the bad kid, then to look dumb in school," he said. The sad part is, he's right. Troublemakers immediately find a community, or at least a responsive audience; the "dumb" kids?  Not so much. 

I originally met Dave at a conference his organization, Eye to Eye, ran with Intel several years ago. Dave is magnetic, personable, and tells an important story. He takes very little credit for his work, but the story he tells is the story of the dyslexic and ADHD community. A story hidden for years by neglect, shame, and a lack of common sense. Sound negative? No more, Dave promises. That's not Dave's style nor are we in the darkness any longer.  Identified with dyslexia and ADHD in the 5th grade, Dave shares his lifetime of experience living in the LD world.  Interestingly, Dave identified very early on in elementary school, even before he was identified LD, his desire to find community - a community of like-minded and differentiated thinkers.

Bright and early yesterday morning, I hopped on the Metro-North train to attend the Everyone Reading conference in New York City.  Dave was the keynote speaker.  While some of his stories are no longer new to me, I'm always riveted by them. What is it about dyslexic storytellers?  One of the underlying themes of his talk, however, was something I had not registered before: that lifelong quest to find his community.  I knew community building, and empowering the next LD generation, was one of Dave's main objectives in co-founding Eye to Eye (which is an incredible organization, both for the mentors and mentees).  What I did not register before was the feeling of loneliness he experienced that helped drive him toward that end.  Even the troublemaker, who gets a few moments on stage, ends up, alone, out in the hall. 

Dave is hilarious, and his stories are funny and uplifting.  Invigorating.  He focuses on a positive message, and the future.  I'm not going to share his stories here, however, for two reasons: 1) I would not do them justice; 2) his new book, Thinking Differently: A Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities, is full of stories and experiences directly from Dave himself.  It will be out late summer, but you can pre-order it on Amazon right now.  Besides those two reasons, some of you may be lucky enough to hear him tell the stories in person (and we'll be hosting Dave here at EHS this fall), and I wouldn't want to ruin it for you.

1 comment:

  1. Dave sounds like one who was able to pounce on his strengths. Tragically, many in our community end up on the road toward self-medication in search of their community. They never feel they belong. Of course they soon find their own already coping with a world not built for them through alcoholism and addiction. I speak from personal experience. I am fighting for a better world for my son who is struggling just as I did. Therefore, a large part of my advocacy on these issues is a commitment to help build a world that rejects a one-size-fits-all approach to most things, learning especially, and instead embraces and accommodates our wonderful, diverse, differences.