Daniel Vance - Disabilities

You may have heard Nelson Lauver speak on the radio. His syndicated radio program, American Story Teller Radio Journal, has been heard in homes across America. Yet you may not be aware Lauver has his own amazing story of conquering a learning disability, dyslexia.

The International Dyslexia Association defines it as a lifelong, neurological “language-based learning disability” affecting reading, spelling and writing. Words in a sentence may run together and printed words or individual letters may appear reversed.

“My story is the story of millions of Americans,” said 46-year-old Lauver in a telephone interview from his northeastern Pennsylvania home. He excelled in first grade, he said, mainly because reading and writing were limited to one or two words at a time. But in second grade? “My teacher asked me to read out loud in front of the whole class. Suddenly, I was the kid stuttering, stammering, and mispronouncing words. Somebody in the classroom chuckled and before you knew it the rest of the class was laughing. She never called on me to read out loud again.”

He quickly lost his confidence. To compensate, he thought if he tried harder he could read better. So he locked himself in his bedroom at night to “practice and practice” reading and writing. He still couldn’t earn passing grades.

His third grade teacher for one six-week period re-wrote his name up on the blackboard daily the exact way he had written it that morning, and the teacher and kids would call him that name all day. It was humiliating. Instead of “Nelson,” he might be “Lensno.” Finally, he lost his temper and threw his textbook at his teacher.

From then on, he decided he would be a “bad” kid rather than a “dumb” one. Teachers and principals at his rural Pennsylvania school, thinking he was being disobedient or lazy for not reading well, began beating, choking, collar-grabbing, and slamming him against lockers to force results. This didn’t work, of course. The worst maltreatment came in a month-long “remedial math” class in which Lauver and others were paddled viciously every time they gave wrong answers to math problems.

Even though he couldn’t read, teachers kept promoting him through to graduation. After becoming self-employed and going through a divorce, what happened to Lauver next at age 29 can only be described as a miracle. Read more next week.

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