Tag Archives: Dyslexia

Interviews with Dyslexic Students at the Texas Book Festival

Every year, the Texas Book Festival gathers authors and book enthusiasts together in Austin, Texas, to celebrate reading for entertainment and knowledge.

Unfortunately, reading can be a challenge to dyslexics, and this year’s festival included a documentary film, Embracing Dyslexia, and presentation from director Luis Macias to help others learn about dyslexia.

Ms. Mandy Tucker, Assistant Head of Lower School at Rawson Saunders, invited me to join her, students from Rawson Saunders, and Mr. Macias to talk about their experiences about dyslexia.

I jumped at the chance and met them on October 26 on the grounds of the Texas Capital. Here’s the first interview in this dyslexia video series from the Texas Book Festival.

Finding out that you’re dyslexic when you’re seven years old

Emmett, an eighth grader from Rawson Saunders, noticed that he was different from other students in his class. He needed more time on tests and had trouble spelling. He felt different from the other students, and this led to him being diagnosed with dyslexia when he was seven years old. When he first learned about it, he freaked out, but his mom reassured him, and then he became relieved to know that his learning difference had a name.

It’s not until kids get into reading and spelling do they notice that they’re different than other students. I realized the same when I was younger. I remember watching a PBS Arthur program where one of the characters who was smart had dyslexia. I turned to my mom and asked, “Is that what I have?” My mom said, “How would you feel about having that?” And I said, “I would be happy.” So then my mom smiled and said, “That’s what you have.” And then I went back to watching Arthur. 🙂

Austin vs. New York City

Attending Rawson Saunders has helped Emmett feel good about his learning difference. He feels at home with other dyslexic students. It’s a big difference from his old school in New York City. Rawson Saunders in Austin offers academic language therapy (ALT), which helps with the reading and spelling parts of dyslexia. It’s also greener in Texas!

At school, Emmett learns best through visual learning and class discussions instead of individual work. He also has no time limits on tests.

To dyslexia and beyond

Watch my video interview with Emmett where he candidly shares his experiences with dyslexia, his challenges, and his favorite subjects: science, math, film making, writer’s workshop, acting, and more! When he’s older, Emmett wants to be a scientist with NASA, Space X, or other companies that want to explore space.

Emmett reassures other dyslexic students that they have a gift, and with his talents, Emmett is well on his way to be the next Columbus in the Milky Way.

Your friend,


Filed under academic language therapy, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Embracing Dyslexia, Luis Macias, Mandy Tucker, Rawson Saunders School, Reading, Texas Book Festival

KUT series on dyslexia in Austin

Ben Shrader talks about dyslexia in his Sound of Reading film about Learning Ally.

Ben Shrader talks about dyslexia in his Sound of Reading film about Learning Ally.

During National Dyslexia Awareness Month, KUT, our Austin NPR station, broadcast a series of interviews about dyslexia, and I was invited to be part of the series after they saw my Sound of Reading film about Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic).

I had a nice time talking with KUT reporter Ms. Kate McGee about my experiences with dyslexia, and how dyslexic students have to work hard and take an active role to get the right accommodations they need for learning. If they don’t get the help they need for everything that involves reading, including writing and math, students could crash.

After donning headphones, we talked for more than 30 minutes in the KUT studios, which was near the KLRU studios where I had an interview a few months ago with Central Texas Gardener about my work to help educate kids of all ages about invasive species.

One of the hardest things dyslexic students need to do is come to grips with their dyslexia. When I was younger, I didn’t want to be known of as a dyslexic, but as I found things that I liked and was good at, I felt better about myself. Once dyslexic students recognize that they have talents and challenges that other students don’t have, they’ll have great success in life.

Here’s my interview with KUT:

Additional KUT interviews about dyslexia and dysgraphia:

Thanks Ms. McGee and KUT for the chance to talk about dyslexia and help encourage dyslexic students to know that they’ll have success in life.

Your friend,


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Filed under Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Kate McGee, KLRU, KUT, Learning Ally, National Dyslexia Awareness Month, NPR, The Sound of Reading

The Sound of Reading: Austin Teen Creates Film for National Dyslexia Awareness Month

The visually impaired and dyslexic face many obstacles in life. The ability to acquire knowledge through the printed word, a skill that accomplished readers take for granted, stands out as a constant challenge.

Fortunately, the staff and volunteers of Learning Ally provide audio versions of textbooks and other printed materials to those with learning differences, giving them the opportunity to learn and be successful.

The Sound of Reading chronicles the educational challenges faced by the visually impaired and dyslexic and their journey to success as they discover and use the audiobooks provided by the Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic).

National Dyslexia Awareness Month

In celebration of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, October 2013, I want to share this movie with you. I filmed this movie earlier this year.

You face many challenges in life if you have dyslexia, like me, but there are many resources that can help you learn and be successful with the strengths that you have.

Featured blog posts about dyslexia

Learning Ally resources

Dyslexia resources around central Texas

My thanks to the wonderful students, parents, and Learning Ally staff and members who volunteered to be part of my film. Your time and help means a lot to me, and I hope The Sound of Reading will help show the challenges that dyslexic students face and how they can achieve success with audiobooks from Learning Ally.

Your friend,

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Filed under assistive technology, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Learning Ally, learning disabilities, National Dyslexia Awareness Month, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, The Sound of Reading

The 1 in 5 Initiative: Learning Ally Creates a Site for Dyslexics by Dyslexics

As I have shared with you in the past, I have very severe dyslexia, but luckily, I also have Learning Ally. For years now, I have used Learning Ally’s audiobooks, which has made it so much easier for me to keep up with my textbooks for school, as well as being able to listen to all sorts of books just for fun.

Learning Ally has a great website with lots of audiobooks and resources, so if you haven’t checked it out, be sure to soon. (The have a great iPhone and iPad app that I use to listen to my textbooks.) But now Learning Ally has even more to offer. They’ve started a new site called The 1 in 5 Initiative.

Their site is all about dyslexia. But it’s even more than that. It’s an interactive site where you can do all sorts of things like create blog posts as well as videos about yourself and your experiences with dyslexia. My “Commander Ben’s Dyslexia Story” video is also featured on their Being the one stories page.

Oh! I almost forgot…you may be wondering…Why do they call the site “1 in 5”? That’s because it is believed that 1 out every 5 people has some form of dyslexia.

So be sure to check out the 1 in 5 site soon. I think you’ll really like it.

Your friend,


Filed under Dyslexia, Dyslexic, iPad, iPhone, Learning Ally, Learning Ally app, The 1 in 5 Initiative

Commander Ben Talks about Invasive Species and Dyslexia at Rockdale Intermediate School

Commander Ben talks to 350 enthusiastic students about invasive species and dyslexia at Rockdale Intermediate School

Commander Ben talks to 350 enthusiastic students about invasive species and dyslexia at Rockdale Intermediate School

Last month, I had one of the greatest experiences in my life when I went to talk about invasive species and dyslexia to 350 third through fifth graders at the Rockdale Intermediate School.  Dr. John Pruett, of the Milam County Master Naturalists, coordinated the event as part of the Milam County Nature Festival, which took place the next day on Saturday, April 13.

When I arrived at the school, Dr. Pruett met me at the entrance and then I checked in and got to meet Principal Kathy Pelzel and Ms. Susan Boyd, ACE Coordinator for the school. Before the start of my talk, I joined the other Milam County Master Naturalists, including Ms. Joyce Dalley, in a conference room where we chatted about invasive species, nature, and other fun stuff.

At 2:00 PM, Dr. Pruett introduced me to a cafeteria room full of excited students. They gave me an enthusiastic and thunderous round of applause as I took the mic.  I was humbled…and nervous!  But once I started to speak, I relaxed and had a wonderful time. They were a great audience!

Commander Ben talks about his "Ecesis Far Far Away" video and the invasive species Elephant Ear.

Commander Ben talks about his “Ecesis Far Far Away” Video and the invasive species Elephant Ear.

I talked to the kids all about invasive species, the Invasive Hunter Academy, my blog, my videos (and showed a few of them!), and my experiences with dyslexia.  With each video, I talked about the characters that I played and the invasive species that I featured. It was a lot of fun.  It was especially rewarding when the kids laughed and laughed while watching my The Amazing Invasive Hunter Man video, part of my Battle with Invasive Species video series.

After my talk, the kids had some great questions for me…including…Was I nervous? (Yes) How old am I? (14) What’s my favorite animal? (Dog – especially my dog Obi-Wan) What’s my favorite color! (blue, but green for plants too) And what are some of the toughest invasive species in Texas? (Giant Reed and Hydrilla)

Ms. Susan Boyd, Dr. John Pruett, Ms. Joyce Dalley, and Commander Ben show off their invasive hunter skills.

Ms. Susan Boyd, Dr. John Pruett, Ms. Joyce Dalley, and Commander Ben show off their invasive hunter skills.

Thanks Dr. Pruett, Principal Pelzel, and Ms. Boyd for inviting me to talk to the great students at Rockdale Intermediate School. I hope the kids had as much fun as I did. I know they’re going to be great future invasive hunters!

Your friend,

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Filed under Amazing Invasive Hunter Man, Battles with Invasive Species, Dyslexia, In an Ecesis Far Far Away, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, John Pruett, Joyce Dalley, Kathy Pelzel, Milam County Master Naturalists, Milam County Nature Festival, Rockdale Intermediate School, Susan Boyd