Michael Guggenheim is a sixth grader at Los Encinos School in Encino, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Michael suffers from dysgraphia which is a learning disorder related to dyslexia and that severely impairs your ability to physically write with pen or pencil. There apparently is no cure for this condition, if you have it, you have it for life. However, there is a way to not only cope with this condition, but for a young student, a way to excel in school, and that is by typing. It seems that while the condition prevents one from handwriting, it does not preclude the ability to type. Michael first discovered this while in the third grade when he was allowed to use a laptop computer in the class room. Now Michael earns straight “A’s” in school, because he has acquired the skill and knowledge to type via the laptop keyboard.
So the first lesson we can take from Michael is that where there is a will, there is a way.
Being able to overcome his disability was not enough for Michael. He took it upon himself to share what he has learned with other kids that are afflicted with dysgraphia and worked out an arrangement with his school in which he is able to take some time every week to conduct class at a transitional learning center, teaching other kids how to type and how to use the laptop. Together with his parents he has started a 501 (c) (3) non-profit foundation named Splat Charity, “splat” being the acronym for “Showing People Learning And Technology“. Through SPLAT Michael has been soliciting donations of laptop computers, software and cash and he is using those resources to reach out to other victims of dysgraphia, and teach them how to use the laptops, and providing the collected laptops to his students.
Michael was profiled by the Los Angeles Times on January 7 of this year and the story was picked up by the media, world-wide. CNN and Good Morning America recently profiled Michael and he was recently presented with a Volunteer Service Award from Margaret Spellings, the United States Secretary of Education.
The second lesson that we can take from Michael is that each of us has it in ourselves to reach out and give a friendly helping hand to another human being, no matter our own inherent limitations.
A third lesson might be that the future may prove to be unlimited to our children, if we just give them the smallest amount of encouragement and allow them to exercise their imagination.
You can find Michael and SPLAT at his blog and learn more about his foundation and how you might be able to help.