Originally published Nov. 6, 2014.
First-hand experience often allows someone to help others struggling through the same issues, acknowledges 17-year-old Huntington County resident and dyslexia awareness advocate Scott Forsythe.
Diagnosed with dyslexia early in life, Forsythe found over time that there were many resources made available to parents and teachers working with dyslexic children, but very little support or tools for the children themselves.
"It seems like an obvious thing to support the kids who are actually dealing with it," says Forsythe, "but I think that one of the issues is that a lot of the people who have the authority and ability to set up these support systems aren't necessarily thinking about what the kids are going through. They don't necessarily have perspective on that."
Forsythe, who has a keen interest in computers and technology, started his first dyslexia awareness website for children at age 11. He recorded all of the information in his own voice so that the children visiting the page could listen to a real person reading back to them rather than the mechanical voice of other text to speech software.
Later, he established other websites and also began reaching out through social media.
At age 15, he earned his Eagle Scout rank for his research on dyslexic-friendly children's literature and the contribution of recommended dyslexic-friendly early readers to the American Library Association.
But Forsythe does not only support the dyslexic community from behind the scenes. He also speaks at various conferences centered on teaching others about the tools useful in overcoming the learning differences associated with dyslexia, leads a support group and tutors on an individual basis.
"I spoke at the International Dyslexia Association's Solutions Saturday conference at Indiana Wesleyan University in Indianapolis on March 1, and I spoke at the #C4 (Connect, Collect, Create and Collaborate) conference in Carmel on July 8," Forsythe says.
He's also the main organizer of the annual Dyslexia Symposium held at the Allen County Public Library. On Oct. 11, he joined other speakers in discussing tools and technology available to dyslexics.
The support group meets on the second Thursday of every month from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the main branch of the Allen County Public Library and is open to all children and teens in the surrounding counties struggling with dyslexia.
"Sometimes, we just want to talk about fun things, but a lot of the time, we need to discuss something that has happened," says Forsythe. "Sometimes, it's informative as opposed to just issues."
Now, the support group has caught the attention of others in different cities and even different states.
"The awareness of having support for the children is starting to catch on," Forsythe says.
He says he has been in contact with the Dyslexic Institute of Indiana in Indianapolis and was invited to help that organization develop its own comparable support group for dyslexic students.
Dyslexia is a genetic condition. While symptoms of dyslexia vary greatly by the individual, they follow noticeable trends.
"People with dyslexia tend to be better at dealing with abstract concepts or theoretical concepts, especially when they're younger," says Forsythe. "More than half of NASA employees are believed to be dyslexic. They are actually specifically chosen because of their spatial reasoning and problem solving skills."
Another common, yet little known, symptom is a well-developed vocabulary despite difficulty with literacy and an exceptionally high vocabulary with reading fluency.
"That is something that a lot of people misunderstand," says former lawyer and current stay-at-home mom/teacher Cheryl Forsythe. "They assume that if they're dyslexic that they are forever doomed.
"Most kids that have dyslexia have at least average IQ, if not above, and that makes it, I think, even more frustrating them."
One in 10 individuals is affected by dyslexia, but testing for dyslexia is often delayed.
"Contrary to popular belief, you can test a child much earlier than third grade," Cheryl Forsythe says.
"Awareness, knowledge and education on dyslexia will lead to more kids getting diagnosed and the treatment that they need to succeed," says Scott Forsythe. "It will help them be more understood by their peers, their parents and the public. Ultimately, it will help them feel better about themselves."
Resources for working with and through dyslexia are plentiful and can be found in libraries or on the Internet, he notes.
"Google Calendar is great for the disorganized," says Forsythe. "Smart pens are great for everyone, especially high school or college students. Windows 7 actually already has a version of speech-to-text software. Reading rulers are simple, easy, inexpensive and can be incredibly helpful."
Reading rulers can be made out of a transparent plastic material and individually tailored to the needs of the each child. The format features bold underlines or cutouts to emphasize the text or line that the child is attempting to focus on.
"Be careful when you pick out textbooks," says Cheryl Forsythe. "Watch the font. Sans serif fonts are better than the real fancy or cutesy fonts. You want things that are very clean. It should be neat. The textbooks should not be cluttered."
"I prefer e-books (over physical books) because you can change the font, format and the background," Scott Forsythe adds.
Many famous inventors, scientists and leaders are believed to have had dyslexia, he says. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, the Wright brothers, Walt Disney, Leonardo da Vinci, Richard Branson and George Washington are a few examples he cites.
"Dyslexia isn't a problem," says Forsythe. "It is a difference in the way that the brain works and sometimes that difference is really powerful and useful and helpful, sometimes to an absurd extent when you look at some of these people."
Along with dyslexia advocacy and support efforts, Scott Forsythe has written two books, "Computer First Aid" and "Dyslexia for Kids." He serves on the Teen Advisory Board for the American Library Association, and has participated in 4-H, Syfy Club, homeschool co-ops, various book clubs, the Writers Guild, the Galley Program and other groups.
For more information, support and tools for learning with dyslexia, contact Scott Forsythe at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit dyslexickids.net/ or follow Dyslexic Kids on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and Wordpress.
Complete caption: Dyslexia awareness advocate Scott Forsythe (left) speaks with individuals about dyslexia symptoms and assistive technology after the annual Dyslexia Symposium held at the Allen County Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 11. The theme for this year’s conference was “tools and tech for students.”