Dyslexia can throw all kinds of extra challenges in the path to success, but it doesn’t by any means have to lead to failure. That’s the point Director James Redford makes in the film THE BIG PICTURE: RETHINKING DYSLEXIA, which is premiering in Atlanta next week.
Redford’s own son was diagnosed with the developmental reading disorder. That son, now an adult, is profiled in the film, along with other notables with dyslexia including investment pioneer Charles Schwab, business magnate Richard Branson, high-profile lawyer David Boles and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. The film offers a personal, touching and sometimes humorous look at the disorder.
I was able to speak one on one with Redford recently. Yes, his father is Robert Redford, and that made me wonder whether that was a blessing or curse for the famous actors’ grandson when he was diagnosed. James told me regarding his son, “My family is very privileged but the Redford thing was a detraction. You already feel different from other people as a dyslexic and having a famous grandfather is another thing to differentiate you. To put a cherry on top, you’re a redhead. The real advantage was my wife was a lifelong educator and knew how to seek out experts and outside help.”
In dealing with the dyslexia, Redford pointed out, “There are effective remediations if the family has access to them, but there is never a way around the elbow grease. If they put in the work, they’ll see results.”
Redford knows first hand about the heartache of dyslexia and the possible results.
He told me about one of his son’s most painful memories as a third grader, being sent to a kindergarten class where he was asked to read aloud and then was corrected by the kindergarteners.
His son is now almost 21 and in college in Vermont. He’s a fine arts major with a minor in history. He’s the General Manager of the school’s radio station. Redford points out his son has also worked with Illumination Entertainment in LA (and still is, from afar). He describes his son as ambitious, bright, capable.
Redford wants parents of children with the disorder to understand “there are a series of gifts that come with dyslexia, hard-earned gifts. You have to take the long view. If your child perseveres, he’s going to develop an extraordinary muscle, an understanding that life isn’t always fair, but if you work hard and develop your own coping mechanisms, you’ll become adept and skilled with technologies that can help.”
Redford says this movie is supposed to show parents that there’s light at the end of that tunnel, explaining, “It’s not going to be easy but there’s every reason your child will grow into a happy adult.”
The film is being premiered in Atlanta on October 2nd at an invitation-only event. It will air on HBO on Oct 29th . Ultimately there will be an educational DVD for parents and teachers which will roll out in early 2013. You can find out more information at www.thebigpicturemovie.com.