DISABILITIES

HOMEPAGE: www.danieljvance.com


By Daniel J. Vance


Here I am again writing about a man on a Wheaties box.

Recently I wrote about Bruce Jenner, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1976 in the decathlon. After that Olympics, along with being involved in many book and movie projects, speaking engagements, and awards ceremonies, his picture really did appear on the front of a Wheaties box, for seven straight years.

Jenner has dyslexia, which is a learning disability affecting perhaps ten percent of Americans. A person with it may reverse, invert or transpose letters, thinking that the word "dog" is really "bog," or that "felt" is "left," for example. And words in a sentence may appear to run together.

In a telephone interview, he said the best advice he could offer anyone with dyslexia was to find that “one special thing” in life to compensate for the learning disability, thus building self-esteem.

Jenner discovered his “one special thing” in fifth grade. He said, “In gym class one day they had chairs set up in the parking lot and I was timed running. I had the school's fastest time. People gave me pats on the back. I was better doing that than anyone else.”

He said he became involved in sports at such an early age because he “needed it,” meaning his ability to excel set him apart from his peers in a positive sense.

When it all began, he had no idea where it would take him. Then in the late '60s, his track coach at Graceland College urged him to train for the decathlon, a track and field event in which contestants compete at ten different sports, including the shot put, pole fault, javelin, 100 meter run, and 1500 meter run. The decathlete earning the Olympic gold medal usually is acclaimed the world's best overall athlete.

He said, “And if I'd been an average student or reader, I wouldn't have needed sports. As time went on, there was always this little dyslexic kid in the back of my head who'd try to outwork the next guy. It was part of the process of the makeup of me. I believe I wouldn't have won gold in the Olympics if not for being dyslexic.”

Jenner has been heavily involved in creating awareness for dyslexia. He works with the National Dyslexia Research Foundation and recently hosted a PBS television special on dyslexia.

For more, see danieljvance.com or www.brucejenner.com [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com]