“Only I Can Understand”

By Benny Cohen
age 11

Only I can understand
how it feels to read in front of my classmates
and be terrified to make a mistake.

Only I can understand
the reason why it takes forever to read a book
when my classmates take a week.

Only I can understand
the words I write on the paper
that no one else can read.

Only I can understand
what it is like to read a question
when the words words jump page jump around the page.

Only I can understand
what it is like to work for hours
when other kids work for 30 minutes.

Only I can understand
ridiculous puzzles, absurd equations, extreme math, and the meaning of science
because my brain sees things in a different way.

Only I can understand
what it feels like to be judged for needing help.
Kids who need help are not dumb but only I can understand.

I can understand
because I am Dyslexic.

Because I am dyslexic,
I can understand a lot of things
that only I can understand.

Ben at age 13; he wrote the poem above at age 11

Editor’s Note: You might notice a few words repeated mid-poem. When YCDC queried the author, we learned that the errors were written unintentionally, but Ben left them in as part of the poem because it just made sense to him to show them.

Clearly Benny has a lot of people who saw his talent and championed for him, including his mother Erica. She writes in…

Benny Cohen is a…talented Dyslexic. He is often described as a clever, inquisitive student with higher level thinking skills. As a toddler Benny wasn’t overly talkative but he was a true explorer. He touched, rearranged, dismantled and rebuilt everything around him. In Kindergarten, Benny wrote his name from right to left and by 1st grade he was writing words in mirror image. Benny could answer questions about any topic that was discussed in class and his mathematical gift put him above the 99%, however, Benny could not read by the end of 2nd grade. The school he attended labeled him with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD), however, to understand Benny one would need to understand Dyslexia.

Like most Dyslexics, Benny did not learn to read using traditional methods. He was trained using the Wilson Reading method in 3rd and 4th grade. Although Benny learned to decode and recognize words, he continues to have difficulty blending their sounds and he relies heavily on learning through listening and participation. His inability to spell, read fluently and his consistent mispronunciation and omission of words didn’t allow him to participate with his cognitive peers at the elementary school level so an assistive technology evaluation was requested prior to middle school in order to level the playing field.

Benny is now in 8th grade and his public school has provided him with a Mac Book Pro laptop loaded with Co-­‐Writer, Adobe Reader, Learning Ally, and most recently Google read & write. In addition he utilizes Audible.com for any books he is interested in reading and he uses iCal and the cloud as an assignment notebook. Benny brings his computer to all of his classes and he types his assignments in Google docs so they are accessible. Benny still needs a lot of time to type and edit his work, but with assistive technology Benny is a successful Dyslexic and he is accelerating academically. He is currently on track to be placed in Physics Honors and Trigonometry Honors next year as a High School Freshman.

Benny has grown to be a leader through his active role in the Broadcasting club, co-founding the Math club and most recently getting a teacher to sponsor and guide a Model UN club at the Junior High level. Benny has been invited to speak on various occasions about Dyslexia and he is dedicated to educating his peers, teachers, and the community about Dyslexia. Benny’s ultimate dream is to one day attend an Engineering and Physics program at the college level and receive a degree that will allow his gift to flourish. He understands the obstacles he is faced with and he continues to tackle them with a full glass.

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