Colleen Carstensen M.A.

Miss Hastings International 2008

Learning to use your Strengths to Overcome your Weaknesses

I know first hand how difficult it is to overcome dyslexia. Often people let their disability become a roadblock, and they never allow themselves to experience how capable and successful they could be. My mission is to show them how capable they are by accentuating their gifts and talents. My goal is to make sure that the lives of children with dyslexia are defined by their innate strengths and not weaknesses.

My Platform, Accentuate the Positive, which I created in 1999, works in conjunction with The International Dyslexia Association. Please Visit their website for more information on dyslexia at:

International Dyslexia Association Awarded me with the UMBIDA Award &
The Remy Johnston Achievement Award, For Promoting awareness and hope for those with dyslexia.

What it's like to be Dyslexic

One of the most humiliating experiences I remember in my life was in the first grade. It was “English hour,” of course, the one I dreaded and the only time I would reluctantly participate in class. The teacher would point to one of the several words she wrote on the blackboard while calling on a student, one at a time, to read one of the largely printed three to four lettered words. It was always at this time of the day that I would feel my body temperature rising and my heart rate increasing, praying, terribly that I would not be called on. I would try tactics like looking at the ground or being extra alert and attentive, hoping she would be gracious enough not to call on me. “Colleen” Ms. Ruby said. “What’s this word?” As she points to the word “the.”

Thinking to myself, “I know this word… I know this word…come on Colleen, you dummy, you are going to look so stupid if you say it wrong…do I say ‘Th’ or ‘Thaa’ or  ‘Thee?...’ maybe it is one of those tricky silent e’s. I was so confused. Then, quickly I thought…“squint.” As I squinted toward the giant “THE” on the blackboard I said, “I…I…can’t….see the word that well...”  I could feel my heart pounding as if it was going to burst out of my chest. I just wanted to disappear. Then, Ms. Ruby, saved me from absolute humiliation. “Maybe we should talk to your mom about getting your eyes checked.” As I nodded my head, she moved on to her next victim.

This is when I learned my creative thinking skills could do more for me than I ever thought! I didn’t know it then, but it was at this very instant I started to use my strengths to compensate my weaknesses. This tactic, I call creative thinking, the most used survival skill dyslexics utilize to compensate their weaknesses. My creativity, memory, focus, wittiness and intuition were the strengths of which got me not only through elementary school, but also graduating with honors from a private graduate school.

 To Learn more about Colleen facing her Dyslexia, go to "I am Dyslexic" Tab.