Interviews Jill Lauren: Success Stories of People with Learning Differences
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.
What was the inspiration for your books?
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.”
What did you say to Margaret?
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?
Third and fourth grade are the years when kids who learn
differently often start to wonder whether or not something is wrong with
CreativeParents: What is the main goal
of That’s Like Me!?
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?
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?
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
CreativeParents: What are some examples?
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 –
CreativeParents: What do parents and teachers need to know about kids
with learning differences?
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!?
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 www.jilllauren.com.
2009, Dr. Istar Schwager
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