More About the Author
What you believe is your greatest weakness,
may be the place from which you give . . .
your greatest gift.
Daniel J. Porter was born with Dystonia, the nation's third most common muscle movement disorder. Dystonia is characterized by random, spastic, twisting movements of its host's muscles. In Daniel's case the disease is classified as multi-focal dystonia because it impacts his hands, legs, shoulders, neck, face - and his voice. Spasmodic Dysphonia affects the muscles around the vocal chords, causing its victims voices to be reduce to a breathy, hoarse, halting whisper.
Because of dystonia, Daniel was three years old before he began to walk well; he didn't learn to ride a bike until the age of ten and in school he struggled to write legibly or speak intelligibly. The disease itself was not diagnosed in Daniel until well into his teen years, so for most of his life he was seen as a nervous, clumsy child with a speech impediment so severe, he rarely spoke aloud in school. "I was definitely not the 'go-to-guy' on third and long." He laughingly recalls.
Daniel was also born into a family who inspired in him a great love and life and fueled his desire to be part of all he saw going on around him. As the seventh of eight children, he was encouraged to join in and keep up - a prescription that thrust him into the mainstream of life - and was credited by his doctors as the key factor that saved him from succumbing to the relentless grip of his birth disease.
Between the raucous fun of his home life, and the self-imposed silence of his school life, an urge to share the voice of his thoughts arose. At the age of eight, responding to a school assignment, Daniel discovered creative writing. Almost immediately it became his bridge to share with others the humor and joie de vivre his family inspired. By the fifth grade his talent caught the eye of the school principal who gifted Daniel with a book of poems. The inscription read: "You must publish your own book within 20 years, or find me wherever I am, and give this book back to me."
Now the author of twenty-two books for children, with works translated in seven languages, two million copies in print and three national best sellers, Daniel visits schools and businesses around the country to share the story of his remarkable journey.
"I've met many people in my life through my football career, in the NFL and college. I've met very few people like Dan, who have overcome adversity as he has and risen to the top of a profession."
~Sam Rutigliano, 2-Time NFL Coach-of-the Year
"My family's greatest gift to me was to treat me the same as everyone in our home was treated. I had chores, I needed to make a contribution, and I learned the joy of accomplishment. In fact, I don't even think I knew there was anything different about me until the first day of first grade. When the teacher called role and I answered 'H-e-r-e,' twenty-eight heads turned in unison to look at me. That's the first time I remember feeling the convulsing movements of dystonia - and at the time, I had no idea what was happening. That was the moment my struggle with my disease began - that was the beginning of my journey to find a voice from which I could contribute."
"Along the way I came to realize my disease was simply the sub-text of my life because we all struggle. We all yearn to find a way to express that which we hold inside, the insights unique to our experiences - but common to the human condition. This' commonality of struggle' binds us together, because we are never so fully human as when we stop to help another through that struggle. I say this from the point of view of one who was so often helped - you just can't underestimate the power of simple human kindness."
"I've always tried to bring to my books for children an honest voice - a voice that tells them 'you know what, sometimes you're going to have tough days; you're going to feel sad and low. The way to get through those times is to connect with others, to share sorrows and joys and together - look for something that makes you both happy. Before you know it, you'll be feeling good all over again.'"
"Teaching children to acknowledge their feelings and direct their energies in positive ways is one of the healthiest things we can do. Daniel's work accomplishes this beautifully."
Kathy Kramer National Association of School Psychologists
The student, who once wrote to avoid speaking, now tours the country speaking about writing and overcoming adversity.
"It was very, very difficult at first, but the kids and the audiences were wonderfully supportive. I can honestly say the effort grew from their encouragement."
"When I visit schools to talk to students I try to leave them with three simple messages:
Don't look for your self-esteem in the eyes of others, that's like checking a carnival mirror to see if you're growing taller.
Be careful how you see yourself, what you think of as your greatest weakness, may be the point from which you give your greatest gift.
You have a voice - a gift, a unique part of yourself you need to share with others. Find out what that gift is, stay active with it, give it freely and give it often - and your life will be a full, rich gift you give to others . . . and yourself.
For all the complications of the world around them, I've always amazed at how the kids warm to these simple messages."