Though up to 20% of students are dyslexic, many pass through school unidentified, misunderstood and performing below their potential. Paradoxically, these disorders are often found in highly intelligent, creative minds, and can also be seen as a gift, because many people with dyslexia naturally think outside the box and see the big picture, finding alternative solutions to problems that others might not see.
Directed by James Redford, THE BIG PICTURE: RETHINKING DYSLEXIA is a personal, touching and sometimes humorous look at this developmental reading disorder, offering a broader and clearer view of the minds of people with dyslexia. Spotlighting a cross-section of individuals, including Redford’s own son, Dylan, and featuring interviews with notable dyslexics, including investment pioneer Charles Schwab, business magnate Richard Branson, high-profile lawyer David Boies and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the film reveals how an individual’s unique strategies for coping can help lead to success in life. The documentary, which had its world premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, debuts MONDAY, OCT. 29 (7:00-8:00 p.m. ET/PT) during National Dyslexia Month, exclusively on HBO.
Redford set out to make the film he wished his family could have seen when his own son Dylan was diagnosed as dyslexic after encountering many problems through his early school years. A life-long educator, Dylan’s mother, Kyle, had been excited to start teaching her son as he began to grow, noting, “I’d taught every single subject, and I couldn’t wait to teach my own son… And boy, I got slammed really early on.”
There were early signs that Dylan might have the reading disorder, such as not learning the alphabet or writing his name, but when Dylan was in first grade, the word dyslexia was avoided, as it was rarely used to label someone so young. When Kyle poised the question to the woman testing Dylan, she responded that it was “way too early [for a diagnosis]. We never diagnose for dyslexia until third grade.” It is now widely understood that early diagnosis and intervention are not only possible, but critical to prevent learning loss and low academic self-esteem.
Problems persisted and Dylan was finally diagnosed in the fourth grade. He had to explain to his classmates why he’d be leaving for the majority of the day to attend a specialized learning program. Dylan wisely realized that “it’s better for people to understand what I have than… be left in the dark, and then be left to make up their own conclusion.”
Dylan struggled with many tasks, from remembering locker combinations to reading out loud, but ultimately his specialized reading instruction, hard work and persistence paid off: Not only was he accepted to Middlebury College, but also made the honor roll his first year there.
Among the other courageous individuals featured in the film are:
Skye, a dyslexic sixth grader who used to dread school, but thrived after she enrolled in a school that specialized in treating dyslexia and taught her how to “crack the code” of reading. Upon Skye’s diagnosis, her father, Dr. Tyler Lucas, a surgeon, realized that he too had unknowingly been struggling with dyslexia his entire life.
Allison, a Columbia University grad student who was not diagnosed until she was 23. Persistence enables her to meet the challenges of dyslexia.