In this episode of the TiLT Parenting Podcast, we’re going behind the scenes of a new app for kids with learning and attention issues that is specifically designed at helping them identify their strengths, understand their challenges, discover their personal best strategies for self-advocacy and more. I’m talking about the app called EMPOWER which was created by Eye to Eye, a mentoring organization with a mission of improving the life of every person with a learning disability. They support a network of youth mentoring programs run by and for those with learning differences and organize advocates to support the full inclusion of people with learning disabilities and ADHD in all aspects of society.
In the first year of this podcast, my son Asher interviewed Eye to Eye founder David Flink, and Ash was lamenting that because he doesn’t live in the US where Eye to Eye runs its program, he didn’t have access to these mentors. And that’s actually the whole idea behind the app—to make Eye to Eye’s mentoring and advocacy skill building program accessible to kids from around the world. So today, Eye to Eye president Marcus Soutra shares his personal story of navigating school as a student with learning differences, take us behind the scenes of the EMPOWER app, and explain how Eye to Eye is powerfully impacting kids.
About Marcus: Marcus Soutra was discovered to have dyslexia and ADHD at a young age and spent most of his childhood feeling stupid, misunderstood, and ashamed of his learning disability. Over time, Marcus grew to understand that his disability was not going to determine his fate. After successfully graduating college, he chose to devote his life to creating a world where all youth with LD / ADHD can achieve their fullest potential. Marcus joined Eye to Eye in 2006. President of the organization since 2015, he steers its continued evolution as a driving force for change for people with learning and attention issues in education, government, the workplace, and pop culture.
Marcus holds a degree in social science and secondary education from Keene State College and has taught in middle and high school classrooms. After founding the Keene State chapter of Eye to Eye, he joined Eye to Eye as its first national hire. He built the foundation for the organization and was instrumental in its strategic growth. He has developed much of the innovative curriculum and programming and, in addition, launched Camp Eye to Eye. He pioneered Eye to Eye’s operations and develops and maintains strong foundation and individual giving relationships.
A leader in the LD field, Marcus has advocated for different learners in all types of settings. He was hosted by the White House’s Reach Higher initiative, PBS’s American Graduate Day, and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. He serves on the Understood Advisory Board, is a contributing member to Reimagine Learning, and was named a New Leaders Council Fellow in 2008. He has given lectures and keynotes in such venues as the International Dyslexia Association’s Annual Conference, American Camp Association’s Conference, UC Santa Barbara, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Brown University, and the Maryland Department of Disabilities’ Statewide Summit.
THINGS YOU’LL LEARN FROM THIS EPISODE:
- Marcus’s personal story of growing up with a learning difference
- The vision and goals for Eye to Eye
- The impetus for the app and the plan for turning a mentoring model into an interactive app
- An inside look at the features of the EMPOWER App
- Why learning how to self-advocate is perhaps the most critical thing we can teach our differently wired kids
- 12-year-old Asher Interviews David Flink, a Social Movement Leader on the Front Lines of the Learning Rights Movement (podcast interview)
- A Conversation with Asher About His Experience at Summer Camp (podcast episode)
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