It’s been one of the great privileges of my life to help teach and inspire kids who learn differently. When Jeff Allyn and I started the Thomas Allyn School (now The Chartwell School) for kids with dyslexia, Sean was one of the first six nervous founding students. They were looking for a new beginning and so were we.
Too often, kids who simply learn differently aren’t taught in the right way. Giving them explicit, multi-modal teaching that teaches them the logic, structure and predictability of language makes reading and writing possible for them. For Sean it was life-changing.
It was easy and natural for me to stay in touch with Sean over the years. As my career continued, Sean graduated high school, and then Arizona State University. Sean and I stayed in touch. When he was at ASU I visited him so I could pay off a long-ago and still unpaid spelling bet. I had a long- running wager with my students, a kind of nerdy one I’ll admit. But it was fun and nobody had ever solved my riddle. Until Sean. The bet’s payoff was a BBQ ribs lunch. Seeing him in college and paying off that debt just before he completed his degree in computer graphics was awesome for us both!
Fast forward. A few years ago I wrote a story for another young student of mine who was struggling with anxiety in addition to his dyslexia. It’s not uncommon for bright kids with learning differences to develop anxiety. I decided to write a story about a turtle and a bear who worry and fret and who struggle to come out of their shell and den. And, who overcome.
When I decided to publish, I knew I needed a great illustrator. Of course I thought of Sean. After he agreed to help, I realized, “holy mackerel” there’s no one better suited for this than Sean. He knew the journey my characters were facing. And in his illustrations I saw the same whimsical humor and intelligence I’d noticed and loved so long ago.
“This is a match made in heaven!” I thought. Sean was thrilled to get back to what he loves, illustrations and creative work. We love working together and are often shaking our heads and full hearts.
When our first book, “A Light Within” received the designation of # 1 New Release,” we couldn’t believe it—except we could, we can. And now, we’ve completed a second book, “A Light Within My Dyslexia.” This one’s an adventure story to help develop grit and resilience in spite of obstacles.
There you have it. Our story within the story.