Dyslexia is a familiar subject to American video journalist Stephanie Strauss. Not only has she produced short films about the learning difference and how American school children cope with it, but she herself is also dyslexic.
Winning the 2015 Bakala Foundation “Journey Journalism Bootcamp” Fellowship allowed her the opportunity to come to the Czech Republic, where she produced a short video documentary on the Czech education advocates, most of them women, incidentally, and all from outside the education establishment, who are working to change the system and coming up with creative ways to help dyslexic children.
In her short film “Ignoring Me,” Strauss met Czech artist Alena Kupickova, who created an interactive learning tool to help dyslexic children read by connecting letters to shapes, sounds, and colors. Alena Kromerova, who teaches English to dyslexic students, organizes events for Czech schools that emphasize the talents of people with dyslexia rather than their difficulties. Lenka Krejcova works for an NGO that provides assistance to students with learning disabilities and their families. Rudolf Kutina developed a program which uses toys to help kids develop their visual, spatial imagination and critical thinking skills. All of her interview subjects believe more needs to be done to spread awareness about dyslexia and the tools available to help dyslexic students.
“Because I understand dyslexia, I could quickly connect with the people involved in this story,” said Strauss. “The data and official information were difficult to come by, so I decided to focus on these individuals and what drives them.”
Following her fellowship, Strauss interned for 2 months with RFE/RL’s multimedia department, where she worked closely with RFE/RL’s video and photo editors. Her previous work has focused on science, medicine, and human psychology, with a special emphasis on women’s roles in these fields. She is a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Her next project will focus on family stories and oral histories.