Local Atlanta Kid Writes His Own Autobiography
When he was 9 years old, Kyler Smith wrote “I Define Me,” an autobiographical novel about his life with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyspraxia. The book is for children and gives them the opportunity to understand what it’s like to have these learning differences.
“I didn’t want kids to be ashamed if they had a learning disability,” says Kyler. He was also inspired when Henry Winkler came as a guest to The Howard School. “I heard that he didn’t learn how to read until he was an adult, and now he’s a famous actor. It inspired me that all kids can do anything.”
At school, Kyler knew he was different, because he was not learning like he should have been. His mother, Ericka, shares that he was in a traditional private school, and as an auditory learner, he understood science, but on spelling tests, he’d put the correct letters in the wrong order. “He wasn’t on par as an average 6-year-old,” she says. “He would write backwards or write completely across the page. He’d memorized books, so he didn’t know how to read a new book. I spoke with the teacher, who said, ‘He’s so bright, but it’s something.’”
After doing her own research, Ericka found out about psychological evaluations, and Kyler was diagnosed with dysgraphia, dyspraxia and dyslexia, which are neurobiological learning disabilities. He began attending The Howard School, which educates students with language-based learning disabilities and learning differences. He has been at the school for four years.
Ericka found videos of Kyler doing pep talks on her phone, which was the start of his book. They put the videos together, translating them into text and working with an illustrator to create the accompanying pictures. “I Define Me” was published in September 2019 and is available on Amazon.
Kyler has been an advocate for dyslexia awareness, and he talked to legislators about dyslexia and early intervention for Senate Bill 48, which has been signed into law. He’s been a featured author at The Howard School, and he’s done
readings and book signings. With the pandemic, he’s been featured on children’s channels and virtual events for bedtime stories and Q&A videos to help inspire children.
“Children in school settings are beaten down by not being able to read, and children usually have a lot of questions about dyslexia,” says Ericka. “We hope the book helps them understand when they see a child that’s struggling or stuttering, not to make fun of them, but to be understanding.”
Kyler plans to write another book someday, and he hopes his autobiographical book is helpful to children with learning differences and those who don’t have learning differences. “It’s OK to have dyslexia, and you can do anything. Even if you have trouble reading, put your mind to it.”
Read more about dyslexia here.