Unlocking young minds to reach true potential

PHOTO: PlusLexia, Flickr CC
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

This time of year the men of my family gather around the big wood table up at the hunting shack to talk engines and tell stories. I do well with the stories, though I struggle with the engines.

My father knows motors well enough to diagnose and repair any type of machine. He once explained that his mind saw the whole engine in motion all at once. All he had to do was close his eyes to see a three-dimensional schematic. So, he could fix what was wrong. He might even be able to make it run better than before.

I close my eyes and I see words. The relationship between what I see and how to describe it came naturally to me. During elementary school grammar tests I never needed to know why subjects and verbs should agree. I could spot and write a good sentence by sight or sound. In short, I see prose the same way my dad sees engines. Fixing a bad fuel pump? Turning passive voice to active? Easy when you know how.

So, who’s smarter, me or the old man? Well, we used to disagree about that subject, but now we understand that we just have different strengths.

Every day I talk to people of all ages who describe in vivid detail how much they hate or hated school. These folks tell me they have no idea how I do what I do. The truth is I often can’t comprehend what they do for a living, either.

The human brain is a remarkable machine but the factory produces many different models.

According to the International Dyslexia Association 15-20 percent of the population is born with some kind of-language-based learning disability. Most people who have it have never been diagnosed. That means they probably just went through life assuming that they just weren’t good at school or, worse yet, that they were just stupid.

“So many people who are so successful in the world could barely get through school,” said Marianne Jylha. She’s the executive director of Great Minds Learning Center, a nonprofit organization that provides screenings and tutoring services for school-aged children and teens who struggle with learning.

Jylha says dyslexia makes it difficult to see patterns in the way words are spelled and pronounced. For instance, she explains that most children who learn the word “ball” quickly learn the word “wall,” because of the similarities. However, a child with dyslexia will have to learn each word separately, memorizing it by sight rather than by pattern.

Often these children fall behind in school and score poorly on tests. This leads some parents and teachers to believe that these students aren’t trying hard enough.

“Parents have to help teachers understand that the child is working hard but they need to learn in a different way,” said Jylha. “Adults need to be aware that kids are developing their self esteem and they need to find their strengths and figure out the way they learn. We must give them the opportunity to learn in a way that works for them.”

On Thursday, Oct. 24, Great Minds Learning Center will hold its third annual Trivia Battle fundraiser. For $25 you can participate in a fun night of trivia and snacks. The Trivia Battle runs from 6-8 p.m. at the Blandin Foundation meeting room in Grand Rapids. You can register with a team of six or register solo and join an existing team. Proceeds provide scholarships for kids who would benefit from specialized tutoring for learning difficulties.

You can learn more and register for the event at www.gmlc.co/trivia.

Full disclosure, I will be the volunteer emcee for Thursday’s Great Minds Trivia Battle in Grand Rapids. My wife formerly worked for the organization.

Jylha said the event is a chance to raise awareness of a problem that affects many people and probably was never addressed in older people.

“We might be able to help someone in their life just by learning about it,” she said.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

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