The problems for Harvey Hubbell V didn’t start to emerge until after he enrolled at Hawley School where he immediately felt like a fish out of water and fell behind in his studies.
“It’s like if you ended up in French IV one day and you never even took French I, how would you feel?” asked Hubbell, now 52, and living in Litchfield. “You knew right away that you are in the wrong place. They can’t teach you. It’s not that you can’t be taught.”
It was a frustration Hubbell continued to feel for most of school career in Newtown. It was only later that he learned he had dyslexia – trouble reading, dysgraphia – trouble with writing, and dyscalculia – trouble with mathematics.
“My math average alone is incredibly low,” he said, adding he tried to compensate, such as carrying a calculator around in high school, but that was strictly prohibited and when teachers got wind of it, they punished him.
Many years later, and with the help of advocates who were able to spot his visual talents, Hubbell found his niche in film, eventually garnering four Emmy Awards for his documentaries.
“The way my nonlinear mind works, filmmaking is a better place for me to go," Hubbell said.
The filmmaker is using his experience with dyslexia to use in work on his latest documentary, “Dislecksia: The Movie,” which will be shown on the opening night of the Connecticut Film Festival on Wednesday, April 6 in Danbury.
Proceeds will go to benefit the United Way of Western Connecticut and the Western Connecticut Association for Human Rights. The event also will feature a panel of lawmakers, medical professionals and others moderated by Hubbell.
The film examines the latest scientific research and experience of people with dyslexia, a condition that affects one in seven Americans and can pose a learning disability.
Born on the West Coast and raised in Newtown, Hubbell moved to town with his family in the 1960s. It was somewhat of a homecoming for his family, which has a long lineage in Newtown, going back to Peter Hubbell, an early settler during the 18th century and the first town clerk.
Hubbell said that throughout much of his school career, he was a painfully misunderstood student. Teachers weren’t sure what was different about him, and at that time, dyslexia wasn’t well known, so he didn’t get the help he needed, Hubbell said.
“They changed me from left hand to right hand,” he said of teachers. “That further exasperated the situation.”
Hubbell, who filmed some scenes in front of Hawley School, said he doesn’t see dyslexia as a learning disability but rather an inability for teachers to reach students with unique learning styles.
“It’s a teaching disability until people are able to reach the students,” he said. “Our film talks about new methods about being able to reach all students.”
Hubbell said that similar to other documentaries on education, he is hoping to generate interest in dyslexia and keep it in the forefront of conversation.
“The biggest thing was to get the information out of the laboratory so we can get it on the screen and get people talking about it,” he said.