My Journey With Dyslexia
Bill Allen, Founder & CEO, Magical I Am
In 1963, at age 7, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Not much was known about it then and both the headmaster at Brandan Hall, a learning disability school, and an expert learning disability therapy doctor, Dr. Ginsberg, lacked the confidence in the diagnosis or how to treat me. My dyslexia correction consisted of a “three year” treatment (sound familiar) with tons of eye exercises as well as rote and drill consisting of phonics and phonemes. When I entered fourth grade, I was supposedly reading at fourth grade level.
I was able to get through high school and college primarily because my mother, who was a History major and an English minor, basically wrote my papers for me. Needless to say, there was a lot of pain and frustration for both of us.
At college, besides my mother’s continuing help, I had my girlfriends write for me. I remember my last college girlfriend being totally shocked at my inability to put a string or two of complete sentences together. Despite my continuous struggles I managed to do reasonably well in college by finding ways around the system (typical dyslexic behavior). Again, I often relied on others to write or edit my papers. I didn't know it at the time, but whether it was elementary school, high school or college, anxiety was always an issue which lead to self-medicating with recreational drugs consisting mainly of alcohol and marijuana.
I have since learned that marijuana and other hallucinogenic drugs induced disorientation. We dyslexics have enough trouble maintaining brain integration/orientation without the recreational hallucinogenic drugs my peers and I toyed with. Alcohol is the drug of choice for dyslexics. Despite all my issues, I managed to graduate from college with a 3.0 average and spent three quarters on the Dean's List at The University of Georgia and Georgia State University.
I knew on the day that I graduated from college that I could not write a simple business letter. I was still petrified to speak in public and the thought of it and, of course, the actual act of public speaking was more than embarrassing. BTW… those were two things I always assumed I would be able to do upon graduating from college.
In 1996, at the age 42, I had a thriving residential real estate business. I was always a good “salesman,” with strong social skills that enabled me to get others to make up for my lack of reading and writing skills. But being good at selling did not prevent me from suffering bouts of depression. After my real estate assistant quit, I entered into my fourth depression and it was a deep one.
Through a number of serendipitous events during a two-week period, I was led to the Davis book, “The Gift of Dyslexia”, and miraculously, within 72 hours of completing the book, I found one of the two people living in Atlanta (population 3.5 million in 1996) who had been through this program.
"I knew on the day I graduated... I could not write a simple business letter."
"I came back ready to take on the world. Then reality set in."
At the time, I had a wife and two kids, ages two and four. A heated discussion took place between me and my wife regarding me going to California and spending money we did not have so I could take the Davis program. The argument ended with me saying, “I'd like to see my children get married. I have had four, beyond brutal, devastating depressions, and at this rate, if I don't find a solution for what is going on, I am not sure I'll see those two dates.”
The week-long Davis dyslexia correction methodology resulted in me learning/knowing the root cause of my mood disorder issue and how to “tame the dragon,” the mind’s eye, and the mastery of abstract words and symbols. I had “crossed the Rubicon” saying to myself that no child should have to go through school like me by creating an unhealthy dependency on others for The English language, i.e., reading and writing.
So, I came back charged and ready to take on the world. Then reality set in. I didn't know it at the time, but it would take 23 years and numerous disappointments (so many rejections that I can't begin to count) along with numerous failures to find a way to get my message out to the masses.
I spoke with several dyslexia schools in Atlanta but to no avail. Most importantly, my conversation with one leading school ended with the founder saying, “we can get the dyslexic to read; it is just getting those dang words down on paper that is so difficult for the dyslexic.” The reason for this is simple…writing is so difficult for the dyslexic because when the dyslexic writes, they have to choose… thinking about each and every word they put down on paper. In other words, the dyslexic is constantly thinking in terms of meaning and because of the very nature of abstract words, which have no three-dimensional meaning, reading and writing with abstract words symbols is an exercise in futility.
I continued to pursue my vision of helping kids and worked as a Davis facilitator for seven years. This led me to develop and co-author the “Learning to Read Program” with one of my current Magical I Am™ partners, Marcia Hart. I believed in this learning methodology so strongly that I used my savings to self-fund the 13-volume structural graphic pop-up 3-D art books with electronic voice, which debuted in 2006. We sold over 200 programs… not what I would call successful. Yet those who had purchased our program did succeed. Years, and sometimes in over a decade later, I received numerous college graduation invitations from my students from the following schools: The University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, University of Mississippi, Coast Guard Academy, The Citadel, Louisiana State University, The University of South Carolina and The University of North Carolina.
All Roads Led to Magical I Am™
Adversity, when embraced with perseverance and persistence, usually leads to something far greater than one’s initial expectations. I knew I was on to something…but there were several facts that continually gnawed away at me. 99% of dyslexic children do not get the treatment they need. There are a number of reasons why, but the main reasons are costs and time. Current dyslexia schools and programs are extremely expensive and time consuming, therefore many parents are unable to get the needed help. In addition, our educational system is unequipped to diagnose dyslexia in young children, often labeling them “problem children” or “ADD.” Children who fail to get treatment can be left behind by society, unable to find work, unable to “fit in.” The percentage of dyslexics in our juvenile systems and prisons is significantly higher than in the general population. There needed to be a solution that would be affordable to the vast majority of families dealing with dyslexia. Magical I Am™ is that solution.
Magical I Am™ is the product of years of perseverance and persistence that has led to a product whose three-dimensional creativity and simplicity is exponentially greater than I ever envisioned possible while being affordable to anyone that has access to a smart phone or tablet. What the Magical I Am™ team has created is far greater than I ever dreamed possible. Since 1996, I’ve dedicated myself to ensuring that your child won’t have to go through what I, and millions of other dyslexic and reading challenged children, have gone through– “An unhealthy dependence on someone else for the English language.”
My lifelong journey has led to Magical I Am™ so that your child can thrive, and our society can benefit from the ever creative out-of-the-box thinking of the dyslexic mind’s eye and mind.