Health

Beyond Words: How Michael Zarchin Conquered His Severe Dyslexia—and Went on to Help Others Conquer Theirs

Parents who have taken their kids to the Zarchin Institute describe it as a place where miracles happen. A child walks in with a severe learning disability diagnosis and dismal educational prospects hanging over his head… and a few months later, he walks out able to fully integrate into a normal learning environment. 

“It’s not that we teach patients a new approach,” says founder Michael Zarchin. “Rather, we connect them with and lead them to discover the potential that already exists within them, as an integral part of who they are.” 

The act of reading requires the integration of three components: vision, sound, and the cognitive ability to interpret signals. The Zarchin Method works on the principle that learning disabilities result when there is a disruption in the coordination between these components, and that the solution is to correct the disruption at its root. “The therapist is a sort of orchestral conductor,” Michael explains. “The orchestra is composed of many musicians, each of whom play different instruments. The client has many instruments—senses—but they do not always work correctly and are not always well-timed. The conductor’s job is to ensure that all the instruments function correctly and with the right timing to create pleasant music.” Treatment combines conversation with games that develop coordination, visual focus, and processing of visual signals. For example, playing a game of catch while having a lively conversation helps combine visual focus with hearing and motor coordination, and the distraction of the conversation helps the client integrate automatic skills of signal processing.  

The Zarchin Method was born from bitter personal experience. Michael Zarchin himself suffered from a learning disability so severe, he couldn’t read or write until he was 16 years old. His first-grade career was extremely short-lived; when the teacher asked him to write something on the board on his very first day, he threw the chalk at the board, fled, and never went back. He spent the next ten years drifting in and out of various institutions, trying to fit in and hide his illiteracy from his classmates. All along the way, he was supported by his mother, who was completely determined that he would one day learn to read. 

Then, when he was 16, she finally made the discovery that changed everything. 

Dr. Jerry Getman was a doctor in Philadelphia who had developed a theory on developmental vision; an idea that turned everything everyone knew about learning disabilities on its head. Every other method—even those that exist today—is based on the idea that learning disabilities must be managed or worked around. According to Dr. Getman, they could be treated at the root… and cured. 

Michael and his mother flew to Philadelphia for an evaluation with Dr. Getman, and he found that Michael had a rare combination of high intelligence with a complex learning disability. He advised them to go to his student, Dr. Stanley Abelman, for treatment. 

Within six months, Michael was reading. 

He returned to Israel at the age of 17 and served in the IDF, eventually joining the family textile business. During that period, he wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe with a business question, and the Rebbe advised him to write his life story. 

Such a thing had never occurred to Michael, and he shrugged it off. 

Ten years later, however, a friend of his asked Michael to help his child who suffered from a learning disability. Michael worked with the child and discovered that he had the ability to help him. He began offering his services professionally, eventually developing his own unique method and founding the Zarchin Institute: a center for the treatment of learning disabilities of all kinds, including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADD and more. As of today, more than 1000 children, teens and adults with learning difficulties have received treatment through the institute and gained the ability to function completely normally in their learning and work environments. 

Michael also eventually did as the Rebbe advised, and committed his story to paper: his book, Hashlichut Sheme’ever Lamilim (“The Mission beyond Words”), was published by Modan/Misrad Habitachon. 

In addition to treatment, the Zarchin Institute offers a course that trains therapists and educators to use his method. The course is offered through the institute, and is additionally part of the special-ed B.Ed. programs at Michlala Jerusalem, Beis Yaakov and Beis Rivka Colleges.   

When asked for advice for parents of children with learning disabilities, Michael emphasizes the crucial role the parents play in the success of their children. “It is important for parents to believe in the potential of their child and encourage him. This supports the process of bringing the potential to actualization.” 

About the Institute 

The Zarchin Institute offers solutions for a wide variety of learning disabilities, including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADD and difficulties with reading, writing, reading comprehension and written expression.  

For more information contact them at 050-420-0291 or www.zarchin.org 

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