COLUMBIA, SC – September 26, 2008 – Henry Winkler, the renowned actor and role model for kids with dyslexia, spoke to students from Sandhills School Monday regarding his personal struggle with dyslexia and how he turned his “learning difference” into an advantage for life. Sandhills School specializes in teaching children with dyslexia and ADHD and is located in Columbia, SC.
“You are special, and you can achieve anything,” Henry Winkler tells a Sandhills student.
Mr. Winkler was asked by a student, Did you go to a special school like Sandhills when you were in school? His response was, No, we did not have schools like Sandhills at the time. You need to thank God, thank your parents and your teachers for a school like Sandhills and for people that understand you.
Unfortunately, for most children with dyslexia, their learning difference goes undiagnosed and they often become embarrassed in traditional schools and ultimately lose self-esteem. Mr. Winkler told the children not to “give in to negative thoughts, just change them to something positive. Never put a period at the end of a negative thought. If you do, it becomes a sentence. Then you form a paragraph, then the paragraph becomes an essay, and the essay becomes part of your life. Winkler, whose dyslexia was not diagnosed until he was 31, said his difficult childhood was probably part of the reason for his success, as he had been determined to get over it.
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that dyslexia affects 15% of the US population.
Winkler told the students that although he is best known as an actor, director and producer, he felt that his greatest accomplishment was co-authoring the Hank Zipzer series of books about the “World’s Greatest Underachiever.” After a lifetime of struggling with dyslexia, Winkler put pen to paper in 2003 with co–author Lin Oliver and recreated himself as Hank Zipzer, a smart fourth grader with learning difficulties but a great sense of humor and adventure. The books are loved by the Sandhills students because they can identify with Hank’s challenges.
Winkler encouraged the students to be proud of themselves and their hard work, and shared with them that his struggles with dyslexia ultimately made him strong and determined. As a result of learning to compensate for his learning differences, he developed the attitude that he could face any adversity with a positive attitude. His message was strong and clear: “If you believe it, you will be it, and you can achieve anything.”
Sandhills School is a non-profit, independent school for first through ninth grade students with average to above-average intelligence who have been diagnosed with a learning difference. Sandhills is one of ten schools in the nation accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. Orton-Gillingham is a well documented, proven approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling to children with learning differences. Upcoming educational events at Sandhills include: A Walk in Your Child’s Shoes – What it’s Like to be Dyslexic, Neurological Underpinnings of Dyslexia, Helping Children with Executive Functioning Skills, Diagnosing Learning Differences, and Technology that Helps students with Learning Differences.
For more information, please visit www.sandhillsschool.org or contact Sandhills School at (803) 695-1400.