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CreativeParents Interviews Jill Lauren: Success Stories of People with Learning Differences

Jill Lauren M.A., author of That’s Like Me ! is a learning specialist who has worked with “amazing kids and adults” to help them succeed in reading and writing.

That’s Like Me!, published by Star Bright Books, profiles successful children and adults with learning disabilities. It was chosen to receive the 2010 Margot Marek book award from the New York Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. This award goes to the most outstanding book written for parents or children on the subject of dyslexia or related learning disabilities.
Jill Lauren’s first book, Succeeding with LD (also published by Star Bright) provides encouragement and suggestions to those struggling in school and beyond.

CreativeParents: What was the inspiration for your books?

Jill Lauren:
The inspiration to write books about children and adults who learn differently arose during a conversation I had with a young student named Margaret who was in third grade. Margaret, a happy child, had been bummed out for weeks. I had a feeling why.

I asked her if she knew why she needed extra help with me in the Resource Room. She explained that she had a “learning disability.” I was surprised that she knew the term. When I asked, “What’s a learning disability,” she responded, “I don’t know. My parents didn’t tell me.”

CreativeParents: What did you say to Margaret?

Jill Lauren:
I began explaining how some smart people have trouble taking in or giving out information. ‘Smart people having trouble learning’ is a difficult concept for anyone to grasp. So I told Margaret about people such as Cher and Tom Cruise, who were very popular at the time. Putting a face on LD comforted her. Margaret is the one who said “This should be in a book.” I dedicated Succeeding with LD to Margaret.

CreativeParents: When do kids with learning challenges usually notice that they are struggling more than their peers?

Jill Lauren:
Third and fourth grade are the years when kids who learn differently often start to wonder whether or not something is wrong with them.

CreativeParents: What is the main goal of That’s Like Me!?

Jill Lauren:
The primary goal is to help kids feel that not only are they “normal,” meaning there are lots of other people like them, but also to show them that being smart and having a hard time in school can actually coexist.

CreativeParents: How does knowing this make a difference?

Jill Lauren:
With this knowledge, kids can begin to accept their academic challenges and learn how to work hard with the proper support. The individuals in That’s Like Me! also share tips and techniques for how they dealt with their LD, which may be helpful to readers.

CreativeParents: Any tips or clues about what people who succeed have in common?

Jill Lauren:
Everyone profiled in the book found a hobby to explore that fostered a sense of pride and accomplishment, and readers are encouraged to do the same.

CreativeParents: What are some examples?

Jill Lauren:
A love of animals led one of the people profiled in That’s Like Me! to become a veterinarian. He learned to read as an adult, after his daughter noticed he made up the words to her bedtime stories. He went to college, and then to veterinary school at the age of 40.

Of course now learning differences are generally diagnosed earlier, and many of the people profiled in the book are elementary and high school kids who describe what it’s like to break tasks into steps, and persist -- even when the going gets tough.

Overall, the messages are to accept and understand one’s learning profile; work hard to face the challenge of school; and find a hobby to explore. These are three keys to empowering kids – and adults.

CreativeParents: What do parents and teachers need to know about kids with learning differences?

Jill Lauren:
Parents and teachers need to understand messages about empowerment because they will be the ones to guide children with learning differences. I think parents who are just learning what a learning disability is themselves will find That’s Like Me! hopeful. There are lots of people with LD who have done amazing things, and the key is to support kids both emotionally and academically.

Teachers who have children with learning disabilities in their classes can gain a better understanding of the struggles such children experiences by reading the profiles in That’s Like Me!. My hope is that teachers will be inspired to provide the patience and encouragement needed, along with the proper academic support. Since kids with LD are sometimes targets of teasing, a teacher can share some of the profiles with his or her class in order to teach kids a more compassionate way of viewing their peers who struggle in school.

CreativeParents: What has been the feedback on That’s Like Me!?

Jill Lauren:
I’ve heard lots of great stories. One first grade teacher told me about a mother who read the book to a first grader who’d just learned he had dyslexia. The boy was thrilled to find out that there were people just like him in a “real book.”
I’ve also had wonderful feedback from therapists who put That’s Like Me! in their waiting rooms.
Jill Lauren has trained teachers around the U.S., and worked with many school systems. In her private practice in New York City she works with students with learning differences. Parents can upload their children’s stories and photos onto her
website at



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