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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Swimming for Dyslexia

Happy to help support Dean on his last swim leg!
My husband Mike and his Mom have recounted the stories of his 1970s childhood when he was diagnosed with dyslexia and she would sit down with him at the kitchen table to try and help him read.  Back then, the advice given was simply "try harder" or "get new glasses".  Needless to say, it was a frustrating and tearful experience for both.  Just like we now know a lot more how to optimize performance in endurance sports, there are now much improved methods for helping dyslexic children to succeed.

A Vineyarder, Dean Bragonier, who also suffered as a child has taken up the cause by founding NoticeAbility, a non-profit that according their website was "Inspired by the neuroscientific discoveries presented in The Dyslexic Advantage, NoticeAbility’s curricula provide authentic inquiry experiences in vocational subject matters that capitalize on the neurological strengths of students with dyslexia: entrepreneurship, engineering, architecture and the arts."  To gain publicity for his cause, he spent the last month swimming the 50 mile circumference of Martha's Vineyard, 2 miles at a time.

I've become intrigued with marathon swimming lately after picking up a freebie book at the library about Lynne Cox, who at age 14 swam the channel between Catalina Island, CA and the mainland and went to break the English Channel record at age 15 in 1972 and again in 1973.  She then went on to accomplish many other swimming firsts, including swimming the 2.3 mile In the Bering Strait between Alaska and the Soviet Union in 43 degree F water in 1987 as a means to bring the two Cold War countries together.  She allowed for a lot of ground breaking cold water temperature experiments to be performed on her and ultimately became the only person to swim 1.22 miles in Antarctica's 32 degree water!

So after reading this, plus following two other stories this summer about one 63 old swimmer who attempted to swim the 14 miles from Martha's Vineyard to Nantucket in one shot (he unfortunately had to abandon his attempt with 3 miles to go) and a 28 year old swimmer who swam 25 miles from Cape Cod to Nantucket in just over 12 hours this summer, I became intrigued with Dean's story and followed his video blog ( )

Dean finished his swim on August 16 and invited the community to join him in the last swim leg along scenic State Beach, my favorite place to swim.  I opted for the 1.25 mile swim (after a 36 mile bike ride!) and while I couldn't keep up with him, I had people cheering me on along the way.  I finished around 50 minutes, which beats my Vineyard Tri 1.2 mile swim last year by 22 minutes (albeit the Tri was much tougher conditions!).

It's perhaps no surprise that people who have had to overcome dyslexia go on to overcome other aspects of adversity and become successful in their careers and endurance athletics.  NoticeAbility’s website says that 35% of entrepreneurs, 40% of self-made millionaires, and 50% of NASA employees have dyslexia.  But there is a flip side:  35% of children with dyslexia do not graduate from high school, and 50% of adolescents in juvenile detention centers and 60% in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers have dyslexia. 

Just like the proper coaching methods make all the difference in athletics, the same is true with dyslexia, which is why Noticeability is making a difference to unlock the potential of students with dyslexia.

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