Saturday, September 17, 2016

Jay Leno's advice to a dyslexic boy

Jay Leno’s Advice for My Dyslexic Son


The author’s son, Aidan Colvin, met Jay Leno before a performance this spring in Fayetteville, N.C.

“Jay Leno here, calling for Aidan.”
This was the voice I heard when I picked up our home phone one day in April.
“One second,” I said, trying to sound natural, as if people like Jay Leno called our house all the time. I banged on Aidan’s door and whisper-shouted, “It’s Jay Leno!”
The call was not entirely out of the blue. We had met Mr. Leno the previous night for 10 minutes right before his performance in Fayetteville, N.C., about an hour from where we live. Bill Kirby, a writer for The Fayetteville Observer, had sneaked in my 16-year-old son, Aidan, to meet him when he heard about Aidan’s project. Over the last year, Aidan had written letters to successful dyslexics asking if they had any advice for a dyslexic high school student like him. He had written to Jay Leno three times.
“Did I answer?” Mr. Leno had asked him.
“No, but that’s O.K.,” Aidan had said.
Dyslexia, a neurological difference that impairs the ability to read, often greatly impairs performance in school.
Aidan had started the project in a moment of despair right after getting back his spring grades in ninth grade. They were disappointing. They didn’t reflect how hard he had worked. We were standing in his room at the time. I had pointed to a poster he had tacked up over his desk of successful adults who have dyslexia. “I wonder how they made it?” I had said.
“Probably smarter,” he had answered.
“You could ask,” I had said.
And so, over the last year, he had written to 100 successful dyslexics. Ten responded. Dr. Delos Cosgrove, a surgeon and chief executive of the Cleveland Clinic, was the first. He started his letter, “Dyslexia is an advantage in the fact that it makes us think more creatively.”
The second person to write back, the economist Diane Swonk, said among other things, “Success is the process of learning from failures, and I had more learning experiences than many.”
The sculptor Thomas Sayre said, “It appears that most dyslexics are improvisers. We have to be.”
Not one letter denied the challenges that come with having a significant learning difference. Instead, each letter provided the perspective that can only be gained over time. They all said, in their own ways, “Kid, you’re going to be O.K.”
My son pinned their letters up. He looked at these letters when preparing for a test or writing a paper or recovering from a bad grade. It would be nice to say that they provided the perfect antidote. They certainly did help, as did his academic accommodations. But midway through the year, his teachers called a meeting to see if anything more could be done.
It was fortuitous that the writer John Irving’s letter arrived around then. In it, Mr. Irving wrote, “You need to give yourself more time; it takes you longer to do things than it takes your friends. So what? If you do it well?” It helped to know that Mr. Irving, himself, had taken an extra year to finish high school. He graduated in 1961, when accommodations for disabilities were far less common. Aidan decided to do the same.
We are each born with different strengths and weaknesses, and learning to live with these is part of every life. What is regrettable is that often, far too early, the path some of us choose is shaped more by what we can’t do than what we can.
But back to Jay Leno.
By phone, he told Aidan many stories, including one in which his high school guidance counselor had recommended that he consider the training program at McDonald’s. Mr. Leno paused and chuckled. He obviously hadn’t listened to the guidance counselor. In fact, he went on to say, years later, he had invited this very guidance counselor to “The Tonight Show,” where he introduced him and they both laughed about that misguided advice.
The lesson Mr. Leno was trying to impart, I think, is that at the end of the day, Aidan is the one in the driver’s seat of his life. He can choose to follow or ignore any guidance offered. Mr. Leno also shared that the path he chose was not always easy — for a period early in his career, he slept in an alley in New York City at 44th Street and Ninth Avenue — while doing standup five or six nights a week for little pay.

Over the course of this past year, through conversations like this one and the letters he received, Aidan didn’t discover the secret to success for dyslexics. If anything, he discovered that there was no secret — except persistence, humor, improvisation and grit.
Was the project a waste of time? Far from it. Had he not had dyslexia and been in distress, Aidan would never have reached out for advice. He would never have connected with Mr. Leno or others who offered valuable insights, including the poet Philip Schultz and the explorer Ann Bancroft. He would not have written a book about this experience. And that book is opening doors he could never have imagined.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Photo of F.S.U. Football Star Sitting With Boy Eating Alone at School Charms Internet

Travis Rudolph, center, a Florida State University wide receiver, having lunch with the sixth grader Bo Paske at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Fla., on Tuesday. Credit Michael Halligan, via Associated Press
Travis Rudolph, a star football player at Florida State University in Tallahassee, is no stranger to the spotlight. He is famous for his award-winning athleticism, catching high and running far as a wide receiver.
But it was Mr. Rudolph’s action off the football field that earned him national attention this week when, visiting a local school on a good-will visit with his teammates on Tuesday, he made a simple gesture.
He sat down at a lunch table.
In a moment captured on camera and shared widely on social media, Mr. Rudolph saw a boy sitting alone in the cafeteria at Montford Middle School.
“So I asked him could I sit down and have lunch with him,” Mr. Rudolph said in an interview with “Fox and Friends” on Thursday. “And he said, ‘Sure why not?’ ”
The boy introduced himself. His name was Bo Paske. He was a sixth grader.
“And the conversation went from there,” Mr. Rudolph said.
Although Mr. Rudolph, 21, did not know it at the time, Bo has autism and often eats lunch by himself, according to the boy’s mother, Leah Paske, who wrote about the moment and published the photograph on Facebook on Tuesday. Since then, the image of the football star eating pizza while seated opposite Bo has became an example of how a small act of kindness can go big.
Mr. Rudolph, Bo and Ms. Paske have since been inundated with requests for interviews with national media organizations, appearing on news programs and in newspapers. Ms. Paske’s post has been shared more than 13,000 times, and the photograph has been circulating on Twitter, including on the account of Autism Speaks, an advocacy and support organization, from where it was retweeted nearly 600 times.
“I did not even recognize that it will be this big,” Mr. Rudolph told the Fox show as Bo sat next to him and his mother sat on the other side of her son. “Everybody is the same, and one man can make a difference.”
original article
I hope this boy has many more people he eats with

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Efforts to reach Mr. Rudolph through a family member were unsuccessful on Thursday. Ms. Paske did not immediately return emails and phone calls seeking comment.
The story also shed light on some of the challenges that face families coping with relatives who have autism spectrum disorder, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as a group of developmental disabilities that can cause social, communication and behavioral challenges in about one in 68 children.
Ms. Paske said in her Facebook post that she was sometimes “grateful” that her son had the condition.
“That may sound like a terrible thing to say, but in some ways I think, I hope, it shields him,” she wrote. “He doesn’t seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone.”
She said that she asks him questions about his school experience every day.
“ ‘Was there a time today you felt sad?’ ‘Who did you eat lunch with today?’ Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody. Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He is a super sweet child, who always has a smile and hug for everyone he meets.”
She said that a friend of hers was at the school on the day that Mr. Rudolph and his teammates visited.
“I am not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten,” Ms. Paske said on Facebook. “This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”
During the interview on Thursday, Ms. Paske recounted how anxious she had been as Bo attended middle school. As she spoke, Bo occasionally looked up at her and reached over to touch her arm whenever he saw that she was distressed.
Bo said that it was “amazing” that Mr. Rudolph had chosen to sit down with him, adding that the player had even signed his lunchbox.
Asked how the encounter had made him feel, Bo said, “It was kind of like me sitting on a rainbow.”

Microsoft Previews Office Accessibility Enhancements

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2016-08-27 Print this article Print

New features include improved Editor functionality that assists users with dyslexia, a high-contrast mode in Excel and an expanded Accessibility Checker.

Microsoft is working on new features that make it easier for people with dyslexia and the visually impaired get work done in its Office productivity software suite.
Among the new capabilities that the software giant is releasing this quarter across its Office ecosystem is an improved Editor tool for Word. Announced last month, Editor tackles writing flaws like wordiness, redundancy and other issues that typically slip by the software's existing spelling and grammar tools and diminish the quality of one's writing.
According to John Jendrezak, accessibility lead and partner director of program management of Microsoft Office Engineering, early users with dyslexia are already reporting an improvement in writing with Word. The company has more tweaks in the works, he added.
"More Editor enhancements are coming in the next few months for Word on PCs—all inspired by the needs of people with dyslexia and beneficial for everybody. In particular, Editor will make it easier to choose between suggested spellings for a misspelled word. Synonyms or definitions will be shown alongside suggestions and it will be possible to have both read aloud," wrote Jendrezak in a blog post.
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In Excel Online, users with visual impairments will be able to interact with their spreadsheets with less eyestrain on Windows PCs with high-contrast mode enabled. The browser-based software now boasts more visible cell-selection outlines and charts that adhere to a high-contrast theme's colors, among other improvements.
SharePoint Online has been updated to work better with Narrator, Windows 10's built-in screen reader. The SharePoint home page features headings that aid navigation and new "search as you type" capabilities that integrate search results into the screen reader experience. SharePoint Document Libraries now can audibly report on actions like file uploads and task confirmations using Narrator.
Narrator isn't the sole focus of Microsoft's efforts to improve Office text-to-speech capabilities. In May, the company announced that it was also working on enhancing how its Office 365 apps for iOS and Android work with the assistive technologies found in those mobile operating systems, namely VoiceOver and TalkBack.
Microsoft's Accessibility Checker for Office, under the Check for Issues option in Office apps (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) for Windows, has made its way to the Mac and the Sway app. The company plans to extend the feature to the web-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint as well as Outlook for Windows and Mac, announced Jendrezak.
Earlier this year, Microsoft made new executive appointments in a renewed accessibility push that affects it entire product and services slate.
On Jan. 20, the company announced it had named Jenny Lay-Flurrie, chair of the Disability Employee Resource Group at Microsoft, as its new chief accessibility officer. She replaced Rob Sinclair, who went on to head the Microsoft Windows and Devices Group's accessibility initiatives. Lay-Flurrie reports to Susan Hauser, corporate vice president of Microsoft's new Business and Corporate Responsibility unit, also established in January