WIT Life #102: Learning Disabilities in Japan

2010 June 18
by Stacy Smith

WITLifeis a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

I was very excited to hear from one of my closest college friends that her husband would be having a business trip in Japan.  Not only was I happy for him, a fellow classmate as well, to be able experience Japan, but also because of his line of work.  Pictured above, Jonathan Mooney grew up with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia and didn’t learn to read until he was 12.  However, he is now an amazing author and public speaker.  He has his own non-profit based in California and often travels both domestically and internationally to share his experiences and help children like himself and their families.

Jon has spoken in China before, but this was his first time going to Japan upon the invitation of a professor from Osaka.  He will be giving a presentation in Tokyo this Saturday and Osaka on Sunday, and the title is 「僕たちは壊れてなんかいない: ダメな子だっていろんなことができる」 (Bokutachi wa kowarete nanka inai: Dame na ko datte ironna koto ga dekiru), which can be translated as: “We’re Not Broken: Even “Bad” Kids Can Do Many Different Things.”  His talk is free and open to the public, so if you are in town check it out!  Having enjoyed his books and knowing him personally, I can guarantee that he will be an inspiring speaker.

I am eager to talk to Jon when he returns from his trip to get a sense of what the feedback from the audience was.  I have no experience in Japan with children who are learning disabled (LD) or have ADHD, and am curious as to what the degree of awareness is in general society and what measures are taken to help them learn and grow in a way that meets their needs.  Based on the title of dame na ko, I have a feeling that awareness is relatively low and that they are somewhat shunned in society as others in Japan who are different tend to be.  According to my former Japanese teacher Sensei Watson, this is the case but lately more school districts seem to be hiring counselors and other specialists.  Hopefully by hearing about the experiences of someone like Jon who struggled in his youth and went onto to become a success story, the Japanese can find some inspiration that will help improve the lives of those with LD/ADHD.

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