Learning challenges are no obstacle for playwright LaDerrick Horne
Motivational speaker LeDerick Horne was nine years old when he was first labelled “neurologically impaired”.
Even today as an adult he struggles with spelling, reads at a sixth grade level and has a hard time with basic arithmetic, like adding, subtraction and multiplication.
Despite his learning challenges he graduated with honours from New Jersey City University, with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, and has become a successful spoken-word artist and playwright.
Mr Horne is currently on Island seeking to educate and empower students at Bermuda College, the Berkeley Institute, CedarBridge Academy and Dellwood, Whitney and Sandys Middle Schools as part of the Learning Disability Association of Bermuda's (LDAB) annual conference.
He will also perform some of his poetry, touching on his personal challenges and experiences, at the Chewstick headquarters on Court Street tonight from 5.30pm.
Mr Horne is one of two speakers on the Island this week, challenging students to look beyond negative labels and reach for the stars.
Author and public speaker Jonathan Mooney, who has a similar tale of overcoming learning challenges and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is set to lead two workshops in the Mount Saint Agnes Academy auditorium tomorrow from 9am until 4pm. (For more information see sidebar.)
Mr Horne said: “I hope the young people realise that there are many possibilities out there for them. Also, with what the [LDAB] is doing here to help with young people's confidence, I want to show them they are not alone.
“Both parents and students have this tremendous fear they are the only ones going through this, but one of the most powerful things that we can do is find community.
“The goal with me being here is hopefully to help further the community building that the LDAB is doing in Bermuda.”
Mr Horne said it's important for people with learning disabilities to know it doesn't “mean you're dumb or stupid”.
He said many of the world's greatest minds have overcome similar obstacles.
“There shouldn't be any shame attached to it and we want to break down the stigmas surrounding learning disabilities.
“We want to let the eductors know the full possibilities their students have, despite their learning disabilities.”
As a teenager, Mr Horne said he struggled through school and regularly encountered challenges with spelling and punctuation.
“I was hesitant to pick up a pencil and even write,” he said.
But through remedial classes and guidance from one of his teachers he started to experiment with poetry; he learned not to focus solely on the grammatical errors and just write.
“I would wake up in the middle of the night and write poems,” he said. “Then in 1996, when I graduated from high school I started writing and had the pleasure of going to open mics and being part of an artistic community in Central New Jersey.
“I used to organise a number of open mics and shows. What I found was the artistic community proved to be one that is extremely accepting so it was wonderful to find a home within that space.”
He has been writing ever since and produced two poetry collections set to music: 'Rhyme Reason and Song', and 'Black and Blue'. Both are available on iTunes. Through poetry he gained heaps of confidence; it also provided him an outlet to express himself.
Mr Horne, who leaves the Island tomorrow, uses these new skills when he speaks to young people in schools across the US. He said passing on this message is one of his passions in life.
Author and motivational speaker Jonathan Mooney is on Island to help re-educate the public and break stigmas attached to learning disabilities.
He will be hosting two workshops tomorrow in the Mount Saint Agnes auditorium, as part of the Learning Disabilities Association of Bermuda's annual conference.
The first seminar will take place from 9am until noon and aims to give parents and teachers useful strategies to help students with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).
Many times traditional school settings label these young people for their academic failures, not recognising they may have a different set of cognitive gifts.
This leads students down a devastating spiral of academic failure, learned helplessness, and low self-esteem, said LDAB chairman Catherine Sousa.
Mr Mooney is expected to speak honestly about “the systemic and cultural barriers to normalising these unique learning styles” and empowering parents with “applicable strategies to build a positive self-understanding in their labelled student”.
He will lead a second workshop, from 1pm until 4pm, that helps teachers and parents redefine how students think and learn and can become successful in the 21st century.
Mr Mooney will give concrete examples on how to best support students in their academic and professional pursuits.
The seminar is expected to “blend research and human interest stories with concrete tips that parents, students, teachers, and administrators can follow to transform learning environments and create a world that truly celebrates cognitive diversity”.
Tickets for the event are available at www.bdatix.com, All Wrapped Up in the Washington Mall and Fabulous Fashions in the Heron Bay Plaza.
Useful website: www.ldab.org.