An Elgin resident was inspired by his son's story to make a documentary to raise awareness about dyslexia and push for policy changes.
"Embracing Dyslexia," which filmmaker Luis Macias largely funded through a Kickstarter campaign, will premiere Saturday in Elgin. The film will be available free online starting Monday at embracingdyslexia.com, and on YouTube and Vimeo, Macias said.
The documentary features adults with dyslexia, parents of children with dyslexia, and several experts from across the country.
"Part of the goal is to raise dyslexia awareness in general among the general public, but specifically with parents, teachers, schools and policymakers, because they are the ones who can make laws that can have an impact," Macias said.
Dyslexia is a language processing disorder that makes it difficult to read, write and spell.
Macias' son Alejandro, 11, was held back a year in the first grade because of his academic struggles. "That was not what he needed at all," said Macias, 42.
He finally was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade after his parents sought the help of a specialist.
Pushing for mandatory early testing in school is one of Macias' goals. He also wants teacher training programs to have a class focused on dyslexia, he said.
"Right now they get about five minutes, if that, and it's tossed with all the other learning disabilities," he said.
That is a great idea, said Holly York, one of the film's executive producers and founder of Elgin-based York Educational Services. The company offers tutoring, caregiver workshops and support for students and adults with dyslexia.
"What I find when I talk to college professors is that they don't even understand dyslexia. To me, that is the crux of where we can actually educate new teachers," she said.
About 15 to 20 percent of the population has some kind of language-based learning disability, with dyslexia being the most common cause of difficulties in reading, writing and spelling, according to The International Dyslexia Association.
"I think the general population is totally unaware of what dyslexia actually is. They think of it as people seeing things backward," York said. "It has nothing to do with vision, but it has everything to do with being a learning processing disorder. It's also an inherited condition, and it's much more common than people think."
Alejandro is doing much better now that his parents and teachers at St. Thomas More Catholic School can adequately address his needs, his father said.
"Our homework battles were horrible," Macias said. "Now he's got his self-esteem back, and he's reading much, much better," he said.
To fund the documentary, Macias initially raised $5,500 from family, friends and others, then turned to Kickstarter earlier this year, netting $13,600. The total budget for the film was $24,500, with Macias contributing his own money, too, he said.
"Embracing Dyslexia" premieres at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Marcus Elgin Cinema, 111 S. Randall Road. Tickets are $6. The 52-minute documentary will be followed by a question-and-answer session with a panel including Macias and three other experts.