113 – Business Coach Jim Vaselopulos Talks of His Son’s Dyslexia & Discovering His Own
In this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, guest and entrepreneur Jim Vaselopulos talks of the challenges faced by people with Dyslexia, including his 20-year-old son, Spyros and himself. It’s an illuminating discussion about a condition that affects more than 15m Americans from all walks of life. That’s all on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Contact Jim at Jim@rafti.com
Find out about Susan Barton’s work with Dyslexia at: https://www.dys-add.com
See her introductory video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcpyR_K5X_k
Learn about the Orton-Gillingham Academy at: https://www.ortonacademy.org/resources/what-is-the-orton-gillingham-approach/
Check out Jim’s The Leadership Podcast at: https://theleadershippodcast.com/home-page/
Check out Jim’s LedX talk on leadership: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poF3NAN_mLY
Dad to Dad 113 – Business Coach Jim Vaselopulos Talks of His Son’s Dyslexia & Discovering His Own
Jim Vaselopulos: I said, wow, we need to find a place where, you know, we can get our son evaluated or get tutoring. And I sent an email. It was probably like 2:00 AM. By this time we’d read so many articles on this stuff. And I sent an art. Uh, I sent an email to Susan Bart and I’m like, Oh, maybe we’ll hear from her tomorrow. And literally within five minutes, I sent her this note. I said, we live in this sleepy little town in the North suburbs of Chicago called Lake Zurich. We’re looking for a tutoring center somewhere near us for dyslexia, where we can have our son tested. Do you have any recommendations that are within 50 miles? So she’s out in, I think California somewhere. She sends us an email back in five minutes. She’s like, Oh Jim pleasure to meet you. You’re in luck. There’s one just up the road on Quentin road, you know? Um, and it’s called the pine road. Dyslexia solutions was literally, it was almost as if like God put his hand on us and said, I’m going to help. But it just, it was amazing.
Tom Couch: That’s Jim Vaselopulos, speaking of his son, Spiro who’s dyslexic and Jim’s our guest on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast. Here’s our hosts, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad to Dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a Dad to Dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help, we’d like to offer help. We’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups and search Dad to Dad.
Tom Couch: So let’s listen now to this informative conversation between Jim Vaselopulos and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend, Jim Vaselopulos, localist of Lake Zurich, Illinois who’s the father of two, an engineer by education, an entrepreneur business coach and fellow podcast host. Jim, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Jim Vaselopulos: Thank you, David. It’s a pleasure and an honor.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, Dana have been married for 23 years and the proud parents of two- Emily 17, and Spiro 20, who has been challenged by dyslexia.
Let’s start with some background. Tell me, where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Jim Vaselopulos: Let’s see. I grew up in Glenview, I guess. So I was born in Chicago. I don’t remember those days moved out to Glenview and I was very young, uh, grew up in the North suburbs of Chicago at a storybook childhood and a big Greek family, extended family, cousins, uncles, uh, you know, some family still in Greece. Some family here. I guess doing that all the ancestry and genealogy, you know, DNA stuff. It’s, I’m pretty much a thoroughbred Greek, and, um, you know, very proud of my heritage and, uh, it, it has enriched my life.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Out of curiosity, what did your dad do?
Jim Vaselopulos: My father is now in a nursing home suffering from a little bit of dementia in his old age, but he’s 92.
He led a good life. He came to America. Got educated, got a college degree, was doing accounting type work, had a hard time kind of, um, finding gainful employment as a senior accountant or anything like that. Because, you know, there was at the time discrimination against someone who had an accent and someone who didn’t have a name like Spiro Vaselopulos.
And he ended up spending some time in Canada, came back and then. Opened up a liquor store with his brother and they successfully ran that liquor store on the North side of Chicago for many years, paid for several college educations and, uh, allowed us to raise a wonderful family, um, in, in relative comfort and grace in Glenview, Illinois.
David Hirsch: Well, thank you. It’s not lost on me that he’s 92. So you’ve enjoyed a good long relationship with your dad. Not only as a young guy growing up, but as an adult and a father yourself. Yeah. I have this image. When you said a big Greek family about the movie, a big fat Greek wedding, have there been some of those in your experience?
Jim Vaselopulos: Oh, we’ve definitely had those weddings. We have definitely had like my wife’s not Greek. So she got, you know, indoctrinated into the family. The movie has. More accuracies than inaccuracies. I would say that a couple of the inaccuracies that really upset my, my family and most notably my mother and my aunts were that they didn’t think they treated the grandmother very well because elders are treated with the utmost respect in our family.
And these are the inaccuracies. Uh, there was a, um, I guess, uh, a non-stress on education as if like education was a bad thing, which is the exact opposite. It’s all about getting educated in our Greek heritage. It’s like go there and, you know, get as many degrees as you can. And my, my aunts and my mother were very upset because they’re like, we know how to make Bundt cakes.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, there’s a, it’s a very entertaining movie and, uh, yeah. So thanks for sharing. So, uh, going back to your dad though, uh, how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Jim Vaselopulos: I, you know, I think it’s like a lot of, if you look at the era. My dad worked a lot. He was an entrepreneur. He was always working and he had a, a kind of a thankless retail type job where the hours were awful.
Um, uh, you know, I remember on holidays like Christmas, it was like, okay, let’s get up and open up the presents early because dad has to go to work because people are going to go to their Christmas parties. They’re going to buy a bottle of wine or something on their way to the Christmas party. So, you know, he worked a lot and it was a very traditional kind of family structure where my mother stayed at home and took care of us and did a lot of the raising of us.
But, um, I think it’s one of those very respectful relationships where, you know, perhaps he didn’t speak a lot, but when he spoke, it was profound. There is a tremendous amount of wisdom. You know, he was a very fair and compassionate and loving man. And so he was very do it, a full of fatherly advice and activities and things like that.
But of the day, if you wanted to say like the sixties, seventies, eighties, kind of. Parenting like, you know, was he on the sidelines when I played games? No, he was working, you know, in that regard, you know, perhaps it wasn’t the storybook TV, you know, Mike Brady, father parenting figure, you know, working from the home office.
But, um, you know, as far as Greek parents go, man, the best.
David Hirsch: That’s great. Thank you. Um, so I’m sort of curious if there’s a takeaway, something that always comes to mind when you think about your dad, uh, anecdotal story, perhaps.
Jim Vaselopulos: Oh, yeah, here’s a, here’s a really good one. I was at the University of Illinois studying engineering. I was a third kid to go to the University of Illinois. So by that time, my dad was tired of driving. I was driving one of the old family cars, myself back and forth. And so I had it on campus. I think I was in my sophomore year, maybe somewhere there and um I was struggling in engineering, just because of the curriculum was so tough there, but I was also not focused and I was spending a little bit too much time having a good time in my fraternity. And, um, my grades came back, uh, at one point, well, I had in the process, I had let the car’s oil pan run dry and I ruined the car and it had to be junked. It was an old car, but I screwed up. And then I also screwed up by getting bad grades. And, um, I came home and before the grades came in, my dad’s like, okay, I really don’t want to be driving you back and forth to school, let’s go buy you a car.
And so they, we bought a car and between the time when, the day when we bought it and when we were going to pick it up a few days later, my grades arrived. They were not good. They were awful. And, um, I felt awful. I felt, you know, one foot tall, I was apolegetic, I was ashamed. You know, I got the lecture of the, you know, you’re not sending you to go, you know, treat this like a country club. You know, this is your job. And I said, dad, I don’t want to get the car. I don’t deserve the car. There’s no part of me that has earned the right to have this car. And he goes, you’re right. But that salesman who sold us the car deserves to get his commission and you are, we are going to buy that car in every time you sit in there and you turn the key, you’re going to think about how much you don’t deserve it and it’s your job to deserve it.
And you know, you think about that lesson, you know, there’s so much built into that lesson. It’s just, it’s not about me. It’s about everyone and that’s, I love that story.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, it’s almost like a supply chain story, right. You know, where there’s all these people that are part of that process, like you’d said, and what a great lesson to learn at an early age, when you know, the stakes were relatively low.When you look back on it,
Jim Vaselopulos: At the time, it did not seem like the stakes are, so I could’ve very easily taken over the liquor store that could have easily been my future. And I did not want that to be my future.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. That’s a good one. So you mentioned you went to University of Illinois and I’m sort of curious to know, um, when you graduated, where did your, uh, career take you? How did you get to where you are today?
Jim Vaselopulos: Uh, through, uh, just a strange set of circumstances. I was able to get an opportunity to interview for a wonderful company by the name of Allen Bradley, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I got a job, honestly, it was like a dream job, you know, academically, I probably didn’t deserve this job, but it was a job designing robotic automation machinery.
And it was just cool. And, you know, I started there, met some wonderful people, got into a deep enough to realize I probably didn’t want to do that. The rest of my life, um, was able to enter into their manufacturing management program and got into manufacturing management, learned quite a bit, got exposed to some computer stuff pretty early.
And. Because at one point we were purchased by Rockwell automation. That was a big defense contractor. We got access to some technology that defense contractors had and they were introducing us to it. And one of those technologies was this thing called DARPANET, which was the precursor to the internet.
And when I saw that, I thought, wow, this is cool. We can do some neat things. And we were actually building systems to like, Put the company phone book online. And because we could save the cost of printing phone books and, you know, they could be updated all the time. And this is even before the public internet was there before the word internet existed, we were building essentially internets.
And when. It became commercially viable. We’re like, Hey, we have these skills. We can build these things that everyone wants called websites. And we started building websites and that’s when I started a company is an entrepreneur on the side. And I’m pretty soon I was making more doing that than I was at my day job.
And, um, that kind of started the whole pattern of, you know, getting my entrepreneurial footing and, uh, really starting what was, uh, a career in it. And as an entrepreneur and a businessman,
Excellent. Well, um, I know that there’s a lot more detail there, but this is not a business podcast. Like you have, this is a podcast about debts.
So, um, for those that want to learn a little bit more about your business or we’ll direct them to your LinkedIn page and put some things in the show notes, as far as that’s concerned. So, um, you and Dan had been married for 23 years and I’m sorta curious to know how did the two of you meet.
We met at the Kentucky Derby.
One of my roommates, uh, at Allen-Bradley when I first moved up there had worked for GE in Louisville, Kentucky, and he said, Oh, the Derby is a great party. You gotta go there. Um, it’s wonderful. The girls are very pretty. You like it? Um, it’s a great big party. And so on the second year of us living together, he convinced me to go down there and.
We were supposed to pick up some girl who didn’t want to drive the whole way down there from Chicago alone. So we picked her up, turned out to be the sister of my wife, and we ended up all crashing on my wife’s floor. And I woke up one morning and she offered me a strawberry pop tart. And I said, wow, that is just a beautiful woman.
And, um, It took us probably five years before we are our lines connected and we started dating. But, um, you know, there’s always a connection from day one and we knew that we liked each other, but you know, early on it was, Oh, you’re not Greek. You live in Kentucky, you live in Milwaukee, how’s this ever going to work out.
Uh, but you know, it was meant to be.
David Hirsch: so, uh, let’s talk about, uh, special needs, uh, first on a personal level and then perhaps beyond. So I’m sorta curious, uh, before Spiro was diagnosed, um, did you or Dana have any experience in the special needs community?
Jim Vaselopulos: Yeah, not really. Not really. I know I had a, an uncle who passed away when I was very young, who was, um, I know he was special needs.
I’m not sure exactly the detail, but, you know, he suffered, you know, uh, some mental disabilities and, and it was always a very sensitive topic in our household. You know, you had to be very sensitive to, um, making sure. You never made fonder said things that could be perceived as making fun of someone with special needs.
And it didn’t get a lot of detail about it, but there is a sensitivity there from a young age as to mind your manners. Um, we’re not all as lucky as you are.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s good to know. Thank you for sharing. So, um, how did the diagnosis come about and what was your first reaction?
Jim Vaselopulos: Well, I mean, I, it really didn’t start with the diagnosis as much as just kind of a series of events that led us down a crazy path to kind of figure it out.
Much like my parents, we ended up, I was an entrepreneur. I was working many hours. I had a company that I was running with several other partners here in the Chicago area. And, you know, for the first 10 years of that company that I was with them, I was working 12 hour plus hour days. I was working six, seven days a week.
And you know, it was the grind, but that was life I signed up for. So my wife stayed at home with the kids and we were fortunate to be able to do that. And she’s a Saint, she’s a wonderful woman. She’s a caring, loving mother. It just absolute dream. The partner to raise children with and just, just a beautiful caring individual.
And I got home from work rather late one night, and I thought the kids would have been in bed already. My son would have been in bed. He was in second grade and they were at the kitchen table working on some homework and, you know, second grade homework, what is it? You know, he was trying to write letters out on this.
Um, Manila paper, the kind that’s like in landscape format with like the three Aqua lines, the dotted line in the middle. And they were just writing letters and, um, he was struggling and my wife was almost in tears and I was ready to come home and relax. And she was like, you got to take over. I don’t know what’s wrong.
He’s just not getting this. And I sat down with them and I thought, okay. And I could tell something was up. I mean, this wasn’t her normal Mo and I sat down with him, uh, for a few minutes and kind of observed him writing. And, you know, his writing was awful. It looked terrible. You know, I tried to show him a few times and he like, couldn’t repeat the process in the same way each time.
And at some point I just realized, listen, nothing good’s going to happen tonight. You know, he’s in second grade, I told him, I said, listen, buddy, you know, Might you just go to bed, let’s forget about the homework for now. And he’s like, no, but I gotta get my homework done. So like, he was, there was a real strong signal there because it’s like, Hey, here’s a kid.
If he was really not engaged and not wanting to do the work, it have been upset that he couldn’t complete it. And so I said, Oh, don’t worry. I’ll talk to the teacher. It’ll all be okay. You know, you just go to bed, you know, we love you. Everything’s fine. Put them to bed, come back down. You know, talk to my wife and I was like, Hey, what’s going on?
It’s like, you know, no, he just, I don’t know if he doesn’t want to apply himself or what the story is. He’s just not getting it. I don’t know what to do. And his handwriting was awful. So I sat down with my computer and opened it up and I typed into Google and this is the truth. I said, My son’s handwriting sucks is what I typed into Google.
And I searched on it. And at the top of the Google search results, where these pictures from the Google images and lo and behold, if we are just lucky, one of the pictures looks exactly not just like his writing, but like the paper, the right. It was like, it was almost the paper we were just looking at this.
Of course I click on it and I click on it. And it’s this article about this thing called dysgraphia. I’m like, Hmm. This graph, he had never heard of it. And it’s this, you know, difficulty with writing difficulty with the skill, the fine motor skills to do writing. And so it’s interesting. Cause my wife goes like, Hey, he always struggled to find motor skills in preschool and things like that.
And I’m like, Hmm, interesting. So we read this long article and at the end of the article, it says, Oh, by the way, if a child has this graph here, They also have dyslexia. Okay. And thankfully the internet has this hyperlink at the bottom. So we clicked on dyslexia and reading arc on dyslexia. It’s like, Hmm, interesting.
Didn’t know what it was thought. It was people seeing things backward turns out it’s very different than that. Maybe he’s dyslexic. Maybe that’s the problem. The very last line of that article. Here’s an interesting thing that says, Oh, by the way, if the child is dyslexic, At least one of the parents has dyslexia.
She looks at me with the sheepish eyes, you know, because here I am, the guy who got an engineering degree and a master’s degree, and she’s like, you know, you could just tell and look in her face. She’s like, Oh, it’s gotta be me. Of course, I looked back at her and I’m like, Oh, it’s gotta be you. You know, it’s just terrible at the time.
But the reality was is we read even further and more articles. And I was like, it’s me. I’m the one and you know, it was little things like dyslexics have trouble learning their multiplication tables. I struggled with that. It was awful. I spent all of fourth grade recess inside trying to learn my multiplication tables.
I’m like, Oh, that makes sense. Or it turns out that I don’t have this. Well, I guess I’ve got dysgraphia. My handwriting’s terrible, but I also have this discalcula thing, which is like, I can’t do simple arithmetic in my head. So we learned a lot in that evening. And later into the evening, I found this website that was super informative.
It was by this lady, Susan Barton. I said, wow, we need to find a place where, you know, we can get our son evaluated or get tutoring. And I sent an email. It was probably like, I don’t know, 2:00 AM by this time, we’d read so many articles on this stuff. And I sent an art. Uh, I sent an email to Susan Bart and I’m like, Oh, maybe we’ll hear from her tomorrow.
And literally within five minutes, I sent her this note. I said, we live in this sleepy little town in the North suburbs of Chicago called Lake Zurich. We’re looking for a tutoring center somewhere near us for dyslexia, where we can have our son tested. Do you have any recommendations that are within 50 miles?
And, um, so she’s out in, I think California somewhere. She sends us an email back in five minutes. She’s like, Oh, Jim pleasure to meet you. Um, you’re in luck. There’s one just up the road on Quentin road, you know? Um, and it’s called the pine road dyslexia solutions. And I’m like, Holy cow, you know, not only was this lady, like, just like on top of this, but like, we went from awareness of a problem to potential solution and in like one evening, And that is part of our journey is like we’re spoiled in that regard because sometimes people take years to even have hope that there’s a solution.
Now we didn’t know if that was the case with him, but you know, so many things were adding up, up with my past and what it said about like adult symptoms and with what, what my son was going with. And the fact that this place was just up the street from us, uh, was literally, it was almost as if like God put his hand on us and said, I’m going to help, but it just, it was amazing.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well that is a, an amazing story. It’s almost a miracle, really. When you think about it, fortunately, it’s not like you spent a lot of time in the earlier phase, which in some cases is denial. Like there isn’t a problem. And then maybe you come to the realization that there is a problem. And then, you know, it’s like, well, let’s just wait and see, you know, a lot of guys are like, Hey, let’s cross that bridge when we get there, I’m one of them. And. You know, you were able to, like you said, go from identifying that there’s the problem to a potential solution within a very, very short period of time. Like nanoseconds almost.
So I did a little homework on, um, dyslexia and I was like stunned to learn that, uh, there’s between 5% and 15% of Americans, which equates to like 14.5 or 43.5 million children and adults have dyslexia and like, Holy moly, I would’ve had no idea that the problem was that widespread.
And it’s often associated with learning disabilities. But not always, right. It’s not like somebody who’s got a low level of, um, intellect. Um, but they do have certain things that, uh, they just don’t connect the dots as easily. And I don’t know how to explain it, but, uh, you’ve been through this and I’m wondering what were some of the more important decisions you made raising a child, uh, that had these dyslexic challenges?
Jim Vaselopulos: The one thing that happens when a kid is struggling in school and having some type of learning difficulty and the, the real challenge of dyslexia is it has no correlation with intellect or IQ. So you can be very smart.
You can be not very smart, but dyslexia is gonna affect you in either case. And it’s something that you live with for your entire lifetime. You don’t get cured of this. This is just something you learned to cope with and learn to wire your brain around it. We’re fortunate that with a lot of cognitive neuroscience, now we understand that brain has tremendous plasticity and it can overcome tremendous things, but sometimes you need to help it reprogram it.
So here’s an interesting explanation for dyslexia that I always thought resonated with me. Most people have a more dominant side of their brain. So if your left brain, you’re very, you know, logical, if your right brain you’re very creative and most people have, you know, Physically, if they’re, you know, left or right brain, one side of the brain is actually much bigger than the other one.
And it, it dominates their thinking. Now dyslexics have been found to have more equally sized hemispheres of the brain and much more connective tissue between both hemispheres. The reason why that’s a liability when you’re younger is because if you think about the left side, the, the more structured, organized side of your brain.
It’s going to organize things like you would in a computer file system and folders, all organized, I’ll put away in different areas, categorized, et cetera, the right side of your brain, the more creative side, it can organize it more like Gmail. Okay. More like tags. I’m going to tag this with a smell. I’m going to tag this with an emotion.
I’m going to tag this with some sentiment that I’ve got and that’s how things get organized. Now, if you. Organized one way consistently all the time. It’s easy to recall things. If you recall things, you know, whether it’s logical or tagging, you know, Gmail versus let’s say outlook. Okay. If it’s consistent, it’s easy to find your email, but if it’s inconsistent, it’s hard to recall things quickly and reliably the dyslexic brain when it’s young files randomly in different ways.
So it’s hard to recall things. And part of the tutoring mechanism, they use this, uh, kind of, um, Orton Gillingham teaching method, which I am a big proponent of is to give ways to allow the brain to wire itself, to access information in both manners and inconsistent ways where I’m might be tagging and filing something at the same time.
So that way it’s easier for me to recall things. What ends up happening is it’s a huge liability when you’re younger, too. Learn to read. You’re doing things in many cases by memory. And if some of the alphabet is memorized well, mayor, and some of it’s the other way, it’s why just memorizing stuff is just impossible.
It seems like an uphill task. As you get older, though, once you wire your way around reading and things like that. The ability to have both a Hemi or hemispheres of your brain working together becomes a tremendous asset, which is why so many great inventors and so many great entrepreneurs and really powerful people in the world have done, gonna do great things, have been shown to have dyslexia.
The problem is, is getting from point a to point B, getting through that trough where people tell you you’re not smart. Where, you know, my son was in reading club, which everyone knew was for the slow kids. And, um, you know, it wasn’t necessarily a club and, and you know, the teachers while well-meaning, I mean, we never met a teacher who wasn’t well, meaning, but I’ll say things like, well, Your son gets along with everyone else.
You know, he’s got a great personality. He’s so delightful, you know, but when you ask about academic issues, it’s just like, Oh, he’s such a nice boy. He’s such a joy. It’s like
David Hirsch: code words, right? Yeah.
Jim Vaselopulos: Code words that are basically saying your kid’s not lightening it on fire and don’t expect too many big things.
Okay. Yet many dyslexics when you speak with them can be very intelligent and use big words and speak well with even adults. But when they write and when they read, they tend to read comic books that tend to read, you know, picture books that tend to read books with, you know, large print in few words. And they tend to write in ways that defy their ability to communicate verbally.
And those are hallmark signs of, of dyslexics and the teachers. With those kind of coded messages, you know, like, Oh, you know, um, Oh, spare, are you sure you want to read this in class? Or, you know, they give them that one embarrassing time when they read in front of class and it’s just like, they, they stutter, they can’t speak everyone laughs at them.
And then, you know, maybe the next time in a kind way, I’d say, are you sure you want to speak? Are you okay with that? Or they, they forced them to do it. It just, perhaps kids’ confidence in the big challenge with dyslexic kids is confidence and, and when you lose confidence, You know, so many children have to get approval and want to get the respect of their peers.
And they do it different ways. They become a class clown, they become a deviant. They go trying to get attention elsewhere. And that starts a spiral that’s negative and downward. And so the key is to recognize kids who need different ways to learn like this Orton-Gillingham left method to help them find ways to succeed that are.
Outside of let’s say the way most of the kids learn. Unfortunately, dyslexia affects such a profound amount of the populace that, you know, we should probably be adopting more of these methods because they work well for everyone. But, um, lack of confidence, I think is the big driver. And once a kid loses confidence, it they’re on a negative spiral and it’s been shown, you know, I guess this deep going into the society, stuff that like a large percentage of people in prison are dyslexic.
It’s a lot of times, because they’re forced down this path where like school isn’t working for me, it doesn’t work for me. I don’t get approval. So I’m going to go seek approval and, you know, peer acknowledgement in other ways. And I think that’s a real misfortune of how our education system is working and how we’re serving.
What is a rather large percentage of the population?
David Hirsch: Well, a. Made reference to something here. And then I can recall from a previous conversation that the school systems aren’t really set up to handle dyslexia. It’s not treated the same way as say ADHD is. And for some reason, maybe I’m giving you attribution and it’s not appropriate.
But I thought you said in a prior conversation that the school systems in Texas, for some reason are prepared where many of the school systems around the country aren’t.
Jim Vaselopulos: Well, Texas was an early adopter. So, you know, my son’s a junior in college now and he’s been, you know, Dean’s list straight A’s. I mean, one of the good parts of this story is like, here’s a kid who has been getting, like once we got him tutoring.
And once he was like near the end of his tutoring, I mean, he’s been a model student straight A’s, you know, he excels in college. Texas was one of the States that very early on recognized the importance of recognizing dyslexia, dealing with it and getting special needs tutoring for people that was appropriate for dyslexia.
My wife and I were prepared to move away from my big Greek family at a moment’s notice. If we couldn’t find tutoring facilities nearby us, thankfully we found one nearby. Yes. Um, Illinois has since caught up. And so Illinois has gotten much better than it had. It was in the past. There is a lady by the name of Sally Shaywitz at Yale university that has maybe the most profound studies and academic research and investigation into dyslexia.
She and her husband are amazing people doing great things there, but at the time it was lagging. Other States were lagging and Texas. This was far ahead of the curve and hopefully more educators get on board with just. How important it is for us to deal with this. This affects a really big population and that’s why it’s coming upon me and people like me to talk about this to make sure more people are aware of it.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I’m so thankful that you are an outspoken advocate for those with dyslexia, like yourself and Spiro. So, um, I’d like to talk a little bit about the Orton Gillingham teaching method.
Jim Vaselopulos: Well, I mean, the method works like ridiculously well, and it was interesting because the first meeting we had after we started this art Gillingham tutoring, our son was struggling in reading clubs, doing nothing.
Literally. He’d been going to reading club for like a year and had done nothing. And they’re like, Oh, he’s still struggling. It’s not doing well. And then we started this tutoring and one of the tutors said, um, whatever you’re doing at home, keep doing it. Okay. Well, we were doing was, we were paying for art and Gillingham tutoring and it was working and it seemed to have almost immediate effects.
David Hirsch: So I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering what other takeaways come to mind if you’re, to be able to talk to a, a young parent, a father or mother for that matter, where there might be a suspicion of some learning difficulties associated with dyslexia?
Jim Vaselopulos: Well, I think the first thing you have to do is you have to own it.
The educational system is likely it’s not today geared towards supporting dyslexia. And so you have to own this and you have to take charge. Now it’s not to say that there aren’t places where you can get funding. If, if you can’t afford the tutoring or you can’t find, you know, a ways to do this, there’s a young mother, uh, we’ve been working with who can’t afford the tutoring, but she is learning how to be an Orton Gillingham tutor on her own.
And therefore she is teaching her son the Orin Gillingham method. And she’s just going through this on her own because she can get access to the materials. And so the reality is, is that there are ways to deal with it. Yes. If you own it, your success rates are going to be high. If you outsource this to other people, I think your success rate is probably going to be low in remediating and providing your child with the kind of need they deserve.
David Hirsch: So I’m sort of curious to know why is that you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network?
Jim Vaselopulos: Well, I mean, it’s something I was doing already, you know, all these people that you talk to. And like I said is like, I got super lucky. I mean, we figured this thing out pretty quick, you know, everything kind of fell in our lap.
We didn’t have any thing keeping us from being able to afford or do anything else. And you wonder, why did that happen? And so you say, I, you know, you got to pay it back somehow and to think about all these kids who are being told they’re dumb, okay. Are being told they’re not good enough when they are to say that they don’t have the motivation or the drive.
They do. You know, what you want to do is make sure they don’t expend that energy in something that’s counter productive for their future. That’s counterproductive for society because they probably could be awesome at something. They just have to be given a chance and you know, why wouldn’t you give back to help provide better outcomes?
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for being part of the team. We’re thrilled to have you let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend Larry Kauffman, one of our LinkedIn Lion friends for helping connect us years and years ago.
Jim Vaselopulos: Yeah, very, very thankful to Larry. He’s a wonderful guy. It’s got a great book by the way, called the NCG factor that talks about networking and how you can build strong, profound networks that help you prosper in business, but make great connections between good people. And then this is one of them.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for plugging his book. It is a really good one. Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Jim Vaselopulos: Yeah. And to all the people who listened to this podcast, for whatever reason, Keep the faith. Keep your confidence because people are depending on you.
David Hirsch: Great words of advice.
So if somebody wants to learn more about dyslexia, Susan Barton, the Orton Gillingham method, maybe your podcast, or just to contact you, what would be the best way of doing that?
Jim Vaselopulos: Well, anyone can contact me, but my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to talk to anyone about this. Uh, Susan Barton’s website and her information is fantastic. I think her company is Bright Solutions for Dyslexia. If you look up Susan Barton, you’ll find a million videos that she’s done. She’s an amazing woman. I have profound respect for her and, um, you know, I think there’s so many great. Resources out there today. I mean, just, you know, put the time in, do the Google searches.
It’s all out there.
David Hirsch: Jim, thank you for your time. And many insights as reminder, Jim is just one of the dads. Who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org.
Thank you for taking the time and listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.
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Jim, thanks again.
Jim Vaselopulos: Thank you, David. You’re the best. Appreciate it. Keep up the great work.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers. Go to 21scentury dads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org.
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