"The D Word" is the big picture

This 52-minute documentary presented an accessible introduction to this common and commonly misunderstood disability

By J. Nini Engel

"The Big Picture," which was then under its original title, "The D Word," was shown to a large group of school psychologists at our national convention in Philadelphia in February 2012. Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz both attended the screening and conducted a lively question and answer session afterwards. This 52-minute documentary presented an accessible introduction to this common and commonly misunderstood disability.

The film presented the stories of students still in school and adults who struggled with dyslexia during their own school experiences. Individual vignettes were interspersed with expert commentary from the Drs. Shaywitz. It was interesting to hear of their work at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Incidentally, the center's website has wonderful information for students, parents and professionals. Short animations were humorous and informative.

James Redford, the director, was interviewed for the film and indicated that he made the film he wishes was available when his son was diagnosed with dyslexia. His son, Dylan, is one of the individuals with dyslexia who appear in the film. Dylan is now attending Middlebury College. This film could be a valuable resource for parents and students. As a school psychologist, I have asked parents' permission to explain dyslexia to their children. Invariably, the children express relief upon learning that they are not "stupid," and that many famous and successful people struggled with the same learning issues. They begin to perceive that it is possible to have both dyslexia and great creative potential.

The film was engaging and well paced. As a school psychologist in an elementary school, I would consider using it for a parent information meeting and then open up the session for questions and discussion. I could also see using it for students from about fifth grade on up, to aid in understanding of their own learning strengths and struggles. A minor quibble would center on the lack of lower income students shown in the film and younger children still struggling with diagnosis and reading. Overall, this film is a very positive addition to the film resources available in the area of learning disabilities.


J. Nini Engel, EdM
Countryside Elementary School
Mt. Laurel Township Public Schools
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054