Parents Education Network e-Newsletter September 2008


Welcome to a new school year with PEN! We'd like to take just a few minutes to let you know what PEN has planned for 2008-2009.

Included here are details of our Speaker Series line-up for the coming year and of our unique and exciting, student-centered conference in April 2009. We also have a report on our Awareness Night with the San Francisco Giants on Monday evening during which SAFE Voices and other students appeared on the field, and their video was viewed by thousands. We ARE making a difference!

We are extremely pleased to announce the publication of the book written and produced by SAFE Voices, Read This When You Can. This extraordinary compilation of stories and essays by SAFE members is the first of its kind in the country; Jonathan Mooney promises it “will help thousands of young people to celebrate, not pathologize, themselves. This book will change lives.” Please see a review of the book below by member Mary Pat Hough. The book will be on sale through our website and at events as soon as we have more copies printed!

Finally, we have an article contributed by Laura Roe, mother of a participant in SAFE Voices' Eye-to-Eye training, describing the wonderful impact of mentoring, and a few important announcements.

Speaker Series 2008-2009

We have a wide-ranging and informative Speaker Series lined up this year, starting off with Joan Bisagno, Ph.D. on The Transition to College for Kids with LD/ADHD this Friday, September 12 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. This event is almost fully booked - get more details and register online here.

Click here to download the full Speaker Series schedule for 2008-2009.

Annual Conference

Save the Date!

We are very excited to announce our Annual Conference 2009, which we believe will be the first LD event of its kind:

THE LD REVOLUTION: Shifting the Conversation
... brought to you by students in the know.

This will be a conference by students, for students featuring student panels and student-centered workshops. Parents and teachers are also welcome! Partnering with us for this event are Jonathan Mooney and David Flink, co-founders of Project Eye-to-Eye, who will speak and participate throughout the day. They, along with the students, are integral to our planning of this event.

When: Saturday, April 25
Where: To Be Determined

Save the Date!

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Giants Night

PEN kicked off the new academic year with our annual LD Awareness Night with the San Francisco Giants. Students from SAFE Voices and Charles Armstrong School took part in the homeplate ceremony, and the Public Service Announcement video produced by SAFE Voices was broadcast on the big screen during the game. There was also a PEN information booth on the promenade level.

PEN had over 350 attendees present, including groups from Schools of the Sacred Heart, Charles Armstrong School, and Red Hill Academy. Thanks to the SF Giants and all who helped make this night a success!

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SAFE Voices Book Review

Read This When You Can: Stories and Essays by S.A.F.E. Voices

Review by Mary Pat Hough

Read This When You Can is a collection of stories written by 20 or so high-school students about their experiences and thoughts growing up with learning differences. The foreword, written by Jonathan Mooney, challenges parents, professionals and the educational community, to “start talking about what is right with kids who learn outside the lines” rather than seeing learning differences as “deficits” or “problems to be cured.” He notes “[E]ach of these young writers and activists ground their experience of LD/ADHD within a non-deficit strength-based model. Their gifts and the gifts of LD/ADHD fly off the page.”

These teen narratives range from the satirical to the sad, poignantly describing each author’s journey from feeling inadequate and “other” to feeling confident, self aware, competent and successful. The emotion is palpable. The painfully honest revelations, at times, almost too much to bear. Some themes recur over and over: observing that school was “easy” for others, learning to read late, feeling different and separate from peers, searching for some measure (any measure) of success in school and the huge investment of time and energy in learning.

In addition to these intimate, personal accounts, the book contains essays on topics such as 'Accommodations for Kids with LD/ADHD' and 'Alternatives to SAT Testing.' The book closes with a long list of famous people with dyslexia and other learning differences which illustrates that success is well within reach of those who learn differently.

Jacqui Shine, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, and a project volunteer coordinator at 826 Valencia Street agreed to lead these students members of S.A.F.E. Voices through the process of writing and publishing a book. SAFE Voices is a student-organized branch of PEN and is comprised of approximately 50 students from Bay Area public, independent and parochial schools. 20 of the S.A.F.E. Voices student members contributed to this compilation. 826 Valencia Street, Jon Mooney and Jacqui Shine made this book possible by lending their support in the form of location, editorial assistance, adult volunteers and literal and figurative nourishment, to accomplish this unique effort.

This is a must read for parents, teachers and professionals. Read This When You Can is the first book of its kind which tells the journey of growing up LD/ADHD from the high school student’s perspective. It contains unconventional wisdom delivered by unconventional learners and is a gem that you will want to read over and over and share with everyone close to you. This book offers insight and advice to those who are raising LD/ADDHD children about the road to coping and managing the LD educational experience.

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Project Eye-to-Eye

What Can a Dyslexic 4th-Grader Grow Up to Be?

by Laura Roe

What can a dyslexic 4th grader grow up to be? A really cool dyslexic teenager! And probably anything else he sets his mind to. But that would be looking into the future unnecessarily; you may as well discuss middle age!

Laura's son Zev with mentor Sam at Project Eye-to-Eye
Project Eye to Eye didn't really make my life any easier. My dyslexic son still took forever to do homework, spending nearly half of that time getting the chair and lighting just right, but it made my life happier, and it made my son more optimistic. We got a peek at the future, and it was promising. And for once there was a fun, enviable activity on Zev's schedule, not just the burden of more tutoring while other kids got to do Kung Fu.

The children and their older mentors did art projects together and had supportive, informative and fun conversations, but I started to grasp the unexpected benefit of participating in Project Eye to Eye when Zev told me that he can't wait to be a mentor to a younger kid. Only then did I realize that the mentors were getting as much out of the project as the mentees.

How nourishing to be needed, admired and looked up to! Zev's struggle with dyslexia would make him uniquely qualified to help someone in a way few people could, because he is dyslexic. I also came to appreciate the term "learning differences" for the first time. What sounded like one more San Francisco excess of political correctness, was actually a lesson: the bigger lesson was to know, understand and blossom in your differences! This is so obvious this summer as we watch the Olympics! The gymnasts look nothing like the water polo team, so why do we expect everyone to play the same mental sport?

I do want my son to try every "sport", but when something stirs his passion, I want him to know how to work with his unique strengths and weaknesses, with insight, skill and compassion, to achieve his goals. Project Eye to Eye affords a laboratory for teens and younger school children to hold up mirrors to one another and explore and learn those unique learning abilities/differences, and maybe make sure they are still looking cool at the same time!

*Check out details of Project Eye to Eye's information night below!

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  • Project Eye to Eye is having an information night in San Francisco on Tuesday, September 16. David Flink, co-founder and National Program Director, will be there with participating students, so come along to learn more about the project and how you can start a chapter in your area or at your school. The meeting will take place at Presidio Hill School at 3839 Washington Street from 5:15pm to 6:00pm. For more information email

  • We'd like to remind you that PEN membership fees have gone up, for the first time since the founding of PEN five years ago. Annual membership for individuals is now $35, and lifetime membership $350. The fee schedule for School Membership can be downloaded here.

  • Don't forget to check out other organizations' upcoming events on our website.

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PEN e-Newsletter September 2008
Thanks to Mike Gunn for photography.