Friday, May 1, 2015

The Big Picture: An Excellent Documentary About Dyslexia

Misconceptions about dyslexia abound. To name a few: many people mistakenly think that dyslexia is a problem with visual perception (it isn't), that dyslexia is characterized by letter reversals (it isn't), or that dyslexics either can't perform well in school (they can) or must not be very capable (they are). For anyone curious about dyslexia, we highly recommend the film The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.

The Big Picture is a documentary that debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Both critics and viewers have applauded the film for what it teaches about dyslexia, but its director James Redford (son of Robert Redford) was after more than just good reviews. For him, and for his family, the topic of the film is a deeply personal one. Redford's son Dylan is dyslexic, and Dylan's journey through high school and into college is one of the story lines the film explores.

Redford weaves together interviews with a variety of experts on dyslexia. Some, like several young people and their parents, know a lot about dyslexia because they live with it. Others study dyslexia, with the esteemed dyslexia authorities Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, featured prominently among them. And interviews with staggeringly successful dyslexics, from Sir Richard Branson to Charles Schwab, lend credence to the Shaywitz's insistence that dyslexia does not indicate lack of intelligence or potential.

In fact, acclaimed attorney David Boies believes he wouldn't have achieved such success in his career if not for his dyslexia. He is able to speak extemporaneously with ease because he's been forced to practice for most of his life; he can't rely on written notes. And he trained himself to be an exceptionally focused listener. Most skilled readers know they can always review handouts later if they miss important information when a lecturer is speaking, but Boies's difficulty with reading made this nearly impossible. Both of these skills were critical in making him one of the most successful attorneys in the country.

The Big Picture is a must-see for both kids and adults who live with dyslexia, whether they struggle with it themselves or are part of the support network. It is informative, insightful, and inspirational and, at just under an hour's running time, it's digestible even for younger viewers. Visit the film's website to download the film or to purchase the DVD.

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