“I used to really hate reading, because I didn’t know how to, and it just became a big pain,” says nine-year-old Abby, who is among the 2.6 million public school children who have learning differences. “They said I was stupid, so I thought I was stupid.” But after receiving the proper tutorial attention for her dyslexia, she declares, “Now, I love books.”
The HBO Family documentary I CAN’T DO THIS BUT I CAN DO THAT: A FILM FOR FAMILIES ABOUT LEARNING DIFFERENCES, an inspiring account of children with LDs who have discovered real abilities, and have learned to use their strengths to overcome their learning struggles.
Abby is one of eight students featured in I CAN’T DO THIS BUT I CAN DO THAT, which spotlights the creativity and talent that is often overlooked when students with learning differences are written off as less capable, or not given the help they need to succeed as students. The film encourages students, families and teachers to look beyond labels and discover the gifts each child possesses. As 12-year-old John says, “It’s not a learning disorder, it’s a learning difference. If people think you have a disorder, their expectations drop tremendously. I can do better than that.”
A learning difference affects how a person understands or uses language, spoken or written, and can also affect the ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. Some of the most common include dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and auditory or visual processing disorders. While children with learning difficulties may struggle in specific areas, they often have talents that outshine those learning challenges.
While these children are still grappling with the long-term realities of their learning differences, their resolve and tenacity prove they can overcome the challenges life places before them.
Director and producer Ellen Goosenberg Kent has earned four Primetime Emmy® Awards for Outstanding Children’s Program, for the HBO specials “I Have Tourette’s But Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me,” “Happy to Be Nappy and Other Stories of Me,” “How Do You Spell God?” and “Going, Going, Almost Gone! Animals in Danger.” She has also won two Peabody Awards and numerous other honors for excellence in non-fiction television and documentary film. Goosenberg Kent also directed and produced the critically acclaimed HBO documentaries “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq” and “Too Hot Not to Handle,” and a film for the multi-part HBO series “Addiction.” Her other HBO credits include “Middle School Confessions,” hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, and “Reading Your Heart Out,” which earned honors at film festivals in the U.S. and Canada.
I CAN’T DO THIS BUT I CAN DO THAT: A FILM FOR FAMILIES ABOUT LEARNING DIFFERENCES is directed and produced by Ellen Goosenberg Kent; editor, Andrew Morreale; narrator, Michael D’Addario; co-producer, Nancy Stanton Talcott; associate producer, Quinn Bradlee; director of photography, Wolfgang Held; original music, Michael Bacon; supervising producer, Jacqueline Glover; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.