Townsend Gilbert, Living with a Learning Disability

At the Chester, VT First Thursday speaker event in October, Townsend Gilbert spoke to a group of thirty Rotarians and guests about “Living with a Learning Disability.” The core of his presentation had its origins in the work that he did with learning disabled middle school students on Long Island. From this work and his own experiences as a student with dyslexia, Townsend described life as a learning disabled student as “really difficult.” Given the challenge of reading, Townsend devised many strategies to avoid having to read out loud in a group and recently employed one strategy to avoid reading out loud as an adult at a conference that he attended. Based on personal interactions during his youth and as an adult, Townsend feels that there is little understanding of what it means to have a learning disability. In a rush to explain the problem, many people think that the learning disabled are either “slow,” “don’t care,” “are stupid” or “trouble makers.” In his view, a learning disability is a gift that leads to good listening, problem solving and observation skills. Just as Thomas Edison, Charles Schwab, Steve Jobs and Tom Cruise have overcome a learning disability, Townsend has become a successful entrepreneur and businessman. Townsend’s license plate on his VW convertible, “Thnk Pstve,” gives you some insight into what has led to his success.