LD/ADHD Specialist Gets Laughs and Makes an Impact – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

LD/ADHD Specialist Gets Laughs and Makes an Impact

Jonathan Mooney, a vibrant, fast-talking comedic performer, welcomed and thanked the crowd before diving into a reflection on how being labeled “learning disabled” and tagged with an ADHD diagnosis had affected his life. Susan Pliner, director of the center for teaching and learning introduced Mooney as “a talented and dynamic activist” before he took the stage in Albright Auditorium on March 31, as the culmination of the observance of March as Disability Awareness Month.

Mooney did not learn to read until he was 12 years old. He is dyslexic, and was once labeled “severely learning disabled.” However, in 2000, Mooney graduated from Brown University with an honors degree in English Literature. He won the prestigious Truman Scholarship for graduate studies in disability studies and social change and was also a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship.

Now in his early-30s, he is the author of two books, “Learning Outside The Lines,” which was published when he was 23 and is now in its 14th printing, and “The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal,” a memoir called “a heartfelt rebuke to the rigid definitions of normality” by Kirkus Review, which was published this past June.

As founder and President of Project Eye-To-Eye, a mentoring and advocacy non-profit organization for students with learning differences, Mooney has established himself as one of the foremost leaders in LD/ADHD, disabilities and alternative education.

Mooney spent the day on campus meeting with classes and eating lunch with students before addressing the crowd in Albright.

In his talk, he summarized his early life as “one of those kids”-dyslexic, discouraged, with an intimate knowledge of the principal's office and on a first-name basis with the secretary. He then discussed the blanket pedagogical techniques that were and are used in schools and how they are the problem, how they are not fitting tools for every child's needs.

Mooney outlined “the essence of [his] presentation” – a roadmap with three foundational principles: “coming to a consciousness of the tyranny of normalcy; rejecting the deficit model currently used in the classroom and replacing it with empowerment; and normal people suck.”

He championed non-traditional modes of intelligence, such as artistic, physical and mechanical, and advocated changes in the educational approach and system, a reevaluation of “normalcy” and “intelligence” and the “deconstruction of myths of human nature.”

“Disability is part of diversity,” Mooney said. “I did not change myself. I did not fix myself. I did not stop being dyslexic. What changed was my understanding about my difference.”

Project Eye-To-Eye, pairs college students who have learning disabilities with elementary, middle and high school students who also have learning disabilities to empower them and help them find successes. It currently has 20 chapters in 13 states working with more than 3,000 students, parents and educators.