A Life Fueled by Passion: An Interview with David Flink, Founder, Eye to Eye
In 1998, Brown University student David Flink founded Eye to Eye, the only mentoring movement for young people with learning disorders in the country. Since then, Flink has gone on to become reognized as one of the nations formost leaders on the fronter of the new learning rights movement. He is the author of “Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Disabilties” and a featured keynote speaker around the country and internationally on topics relating to learning disorders.
What do you speak about when you travel across the country?
At this point there’s a broad range of topics I speak about. I talk about learning disabiltiies and how to make schools better for our kids. I also speak about entrepenuership.
Talk about your own learning disorder and how you managed to get through Brown University?
I was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia in 5th grade. Before I was officially diagnosed, I had trouble in school and was labeled the “bad” kid. I figured it was easier to be that kid than the dumb kid. Suddenly, when I was diagnosed, I had these words to describe myself. I say that if your child is diagnosed with an LD that it is a much better label than the ones they’re hearing such as ‘crazy’ or ‘stupid.’ I changed schools in 6th grade to The Schenck School, which was the only school in Atlanta that taught kids with LD’s. The only difference between the two schools was that one saw me for everything I was and the one I left didn’t know to see me.
Brown is a great enviroment for people who have learning disorders. I felt really comfortable asking for accomodations and I found my voice. I understood what the proper accomodations were. I also created independent studies around that passion.
What brings you the most joy about running Eye to Eye?
I wake up excited to come into the office because I know that through Eye to Eye kids are getting mentored. It’s the mentorship that I never had. I wish that when I was in 5th grade there had been a cool college kid around the corner who said “Hi, I have Dyslexia, let me tell you how to get through school”. The best I had was Tom Cruise… but Tom Cruise isn’t here. I needed some here. Now we are affecting the lives of thousands of people every day. That’s what motivates me.
What are some devices or programs that you find particularly helpful for those with LD’s?
The iPhone is a wonderful piece of technology. Of course, it’s not marketed as such but I think it’s very intuitice and create a lot of easy tools that can compensate for all weaknesses. Siri is helpful for spelling. There’s also a setting you turn on that will read anything on the screen out loud for you. There’s also a reminder feature that is location specific- if you tell the phone places you go often it can remind you about things based on that location.
What advice would you give for a young person living with a learning disorder?
I have three pieces of advice:
Have a sense of self and own you identity. Do things you love and that make you feel good and that challenge you.
Be comfortable being an advocate for yourself. Your parents should not be the ones asking for help; you should.
Think about accomodations that are based on your gift. Ask for asset based accomodations.
Your first book was a huge success. Can you tell us about your second book in the works?
I was curious to see how people with LD’s succeded. I’ve been fortunate to meet an extraordinary tapestry of people. I met David Guggenheim, a New York Police Officer and a celebrity chef – all of them have Dyslexia and they’re all succeeding. So I’m going to see what are the themes and similarities that allowed them to be succesful. It’s going to be about working in the real world with an LD.
Any parting words?
I want respect for those with LD’s. Our society demands different things for those with LD’s and we can’t afford to leave them out. It’s too big of a group to forget about. #