For most people, watching a documentary is an easier way of picking up information than reading a book. For many dyslexics, this format is an ideal way to learn more about themselves, and connect with others who face similar challenges.
These are four documentaries that helped me the most in coping with my dyslexia.
Actor In and Director Of Like Stars on Earth
Like Stars on Earth (Taare Zameen Par)
This Indian film follows a boy, Ishaan, as he transitions from a life full of trouble to discovering his strengths could send him soaring above his difficulties. His problems all stemmed from his inability to complete his schoolwork or take part in classes due to undiagnosed dyslexia. It wasn’t until an unconventional art teacher spotted the familiar patterns in Ishaan’s writing and recognized the young boy’s artistic talent that things began to look up for him.
Although the characters are this wonderful little movie are all fictional, the movie makers had based them and the story off of the experiences of dyslexic individuals throughout India.
Even though I’m a born and raised American, I felt a powerful connection to what the little boy went through. A lot of it was exactly what I had experienced growing up. There were a few moments that brought tears to my eyes, because the story telling had captured those experiences so well.
This film did an amazing job of demonstrating the natural creativity that many dyslexic individuals exhibit, and how much good concentrating on those areas does. It also shows the unique pain of being unable to perform in a traditional setting, the fallout resulting from repeated failure and the exclusion felt by those who don’t fit in.
Visually, it’s an absolutely beautiful movie. Song and animation demonstrated the boy’s rich internal world and its sharp contrast to what everyone wanted him to be brilliantly. This is also the first film in Bollywood history to use claymation in the credits.
I personally enjoyed the music, and its sole dance number, but my husband didn’t care for those aspects. If you’re not a fan of that type of story telling, prepare to fast forward through a few scenes.
Like the majority of movies I’ve seen, it neglected other issues faced by many dyslexics, like procedural and short term memory deficits.
The storyline was a little clichéd, too. There are so many stories floating around where one particular teacher saves a struggling student, that I feel kids might expect someone to come save them, when that rarely happens.
Those small problems aside, I think it did a great job of portraying emotion involved with the unique experience of an individual with dyslexia.
Embracing Dyslexia - The Full Film
Released in 2013, by Luis Macias, this documentary is about sharing the stories of people who live with this type of neurology. The film features interviews with dyslexic people in various points in their lives, from students to adults who are leading successful professional lives.
Embracing Dyslexia does an amazing job of demonstrating the emotional impact of how people treat dyslexics when they’re younger and the strengths it gifted them with. It also highlights how important it is to get intervention early in life. At the end of the film, he includes some extremely good suggestions about how to improve the culture in which our children grow up.
There were a few things I didn’t care for in this movie, but they didn’t really take away from the overall value of the film.
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I would liked to have seen a little attention given to the other aspects of dyslexia, like procedural difficulties and its effect outside of school, instead of only concentrating on early difficulties.
I also didn’t care for how it pushed one particular method of tutoring instead of offering examples of other tutoring methods if that one wasn’t successful. Not all children are the same and one particular teaching technique won't work for everyone.
On a story-telling level, the documentary relied heavily on interviews in one setting instead of offering peeks into how the interviewees incorporated dyslexic strengths into their lives.
Shortcomings aside, I suggest taking a look at this film, if you have the time to spare. Better yet, it’s offered by the filmmakers at no cost.
Don’t Call Me Stupid
Fans of British television might recognize Kara Tointon from her role on East Enders. What they may not know is that she’s dyslexic. In an effort to further dyslexia awareness, she filmed a BBC documentary by the name of Don’t Call Me Stupid.
Throughout the film, she addresses the lesser known problems that come with dyslexia, such as memorization and organizational skills. She also visits a school that specializes in teaching students with dyslexia.
This documentary is unique in that it addresses the problems of the adult dyslexic. People tend not to realize that dyslexia never goes away, and its effects linger throughout a person’s life. However, Don’t Call Me Stupid demonstrated opportunities grown dyslexics may not realize they have.
The few issues I had with the film were that it didn’t go into expenses involved with the therapy, or how to find proper therapy for adults. Those two concerns may be non-issues in the UK, since they have such a different medical system than the US.
The other thing I’m not fond of is that it’s hard to find off of YouTube. That’s a shame, since this is such a good documentary for adults and teenagers with dyslexia.
Trailer for The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia
The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia
This HBO documentary combines interviews with dyslexic students, their parents and adults who have dyslexia, like Richard Branson, a surgeon, politician and lawyer. Their stories offer a little more hope for people currently struggling with the darker side of this neurology.
It was wonderful to see people of all ages represented, and to see how it affects people in unexpected ways outside of the classroom. Two of those ways that hit a cord with me was the impact of poor quality of handwriting, and how frustrating combination locks on lockers are. I still have nightmares of being unable to get into my locker in high school.
It was also great to see the various tricks people developed to cope with their weaknesses in order to supplement their strengths. The short term memory problems many dyslexics tend suffer from was touched on when Mr. Branson brought up how he makes lists of ideas during board meetings, so he doesn’t forget them later.
There were a few things that bothered me, though.
One is the reliance on sad music. It works in some cases, but in this one, it just made the difficulties highlighted seem over dramatic. I also wasn’t that fond of how dyslexia was regarded as a medical problem instead of a different brand of neurology. To be fair, that probably has more to do with how it’s viewed by society at large than how the people who were interviewed felt.
Although there’s no such thing as a perfect documentary, these four films do wonderful jobs of addressing different aspects of the unique struggles people with dyslexia face on a regular basis.
The Big Picture on DVD
This Dyslexic's Handwriting
© 2014 Emilie S Peck
Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on March 09, 2014:
Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I can imagine that it's very hard to help kids through school when dyslexia's involved.
My parents didn't fully understand what I needed, even though my dad was dyslexic himself. I don't think any of my teachers really understood dyslexia, either. To be fair though, the multi-sensory approach was only a concept when I was in school, and the only other option was phonics.
Anyway, I'm so glad you liked this hub. Seeing the stories of people who have succeeded in their lives in spite of the blocks society put in front of them because of their dyslexia has really helped me out, too. It's also encouraging to see more documentaries coming out.
There's a brand new one, Dislecksia: The Movie, that looks promising. I don't think I'll get to see it for a while, though.
Anne from Spain on March 09, 2014:
This subject is very close to my heart because my daughter and granddaughter are both dyslexics but like you have received the help they needed to overcome many of the problems they faced. Getting help for my daughter was very difficult but with perseverance we managed to get this when she was in the latter end of her junior school years and also when she went to high school. I can only say that with the multi sensory approach and teachers who understood her difficulties ( not all of them did ) it was like a light bulb suddenly came on in her head and she advanced in leaps and bounds and left her dad and I speechless with what she attained.
It´s sometimes very hard for parents of dyslexic children to grasp just how much they are going through and I must confess that before she was tested and we were told she had learning difficulties even I thought she wasn´t trying when I tried to help her with reading and it wasn´t until I took her to see a play written and performed by a young lady with dyslexia that I realised the enormity of what my child was going through, the play reduced me to tears but also in lighter moments laughter. I also felt great shame in not being more understanding and patient during our reading lessons together.
Thank you ES for this hub, anything that can help and bring light to the subject of dyslexia has to be worth exploring even if only to let the dyslexic know that they are not alone and to give them examples of those who live with it but still manage not to let it hold them back, for me that alone has to be worth it´s weight in gold. Hope is a great thing.