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Founder of new school knows what it means to have learning problems
By Kim Mikus | Daily Herald Staff

Eric Cooper, who overcame childhood dyslexia, operates LearningAbled to help children with learning difficulties.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Eric Cooper, who founded LearningAbled to help children with learning difficulties, at his office in Oak Brook.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/22/2008 12:08 AM

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When Eric Cooper entered the sixth grade, he was unable to read. After a great deal of testing, tutors and frustration, his parents discovered he suffered with childhood dyslexia.

Growing up in Winnetka, Cooper was not receiving the resources he needed at school. His parents enrolled him in a specialized boarding school in Vermont.

"This school gave me my life. I knew what struggling was," said Cooper, 32.

Cooper believes all children who struggle with learning disabilities like he did should be given the opportunity to learn without having to leave home. In an effort to accomplish this goal, late last year he launched LearningAbled, an educational service company designed for families, teachers or educators struggling with reading-based learning disabilities.

He is working to change the way children are diagnosed and treated.

Cooper works to offer solutions that address all aspects of the learning problem. His Oak Brook company, operating with seven executives and 24 specialists, first offers thorough diagnostic testing, remediation, speech/language and occupational therapy, school advocacy, family support and related services under one roof.

He helps parents navigate the maze of specialists they will face, and facilitates faster, more effective intervention with a team approach that creates a customized plan for each child.

While working with students, Cooper works to find their strengths, which can be sports or art.

"We chisel down the wall and show them their positive aspects," he said.

The solution and learning plan is guided by a scientifically based methodology, he added.

"We're teaching a different way to look at the language," he added.

Citing 40 years of research behind his approach, Cooper said, "we're doing it differently" than others have.

His business often works with teachers, who he says need to better understand how to teach children with learning challenges.

"We form partnerships with schools and a bridge for families," he said.

Cooper and everyone working for him understands firsthand the struggles that go along with learning problems, he said, explaining that most staff members have children with learning difficulties.

Growing up, Cooper remembers people telling him that he wouldn't amount to anything, he probably wouldn't graduate high school or that he'd be flipping burgers for a living.

After he graduated boarding school in eighth grade, he went on to attend a special high school away from home. It was his goal to graduate from New Trier High School in Winnetka like his three older siblings.

A determined Cooper returned home for his junior and senior years of high school and graduated from New Trier before going to the University of California where he graduated and met his wife, Megan. They have a 3-year-old son, Oliver, and are expecting another child any day.

After college, Cooper joined the family business, CooperFund, a merchant bank tied to an economic think tank.

His personal experiences in education pushed him to create LearningAbled.

"I know there's a solution and it needs to be everywhere," he said.

He plans to expand his business to give children the opportunity to learn.

He stresses that the earlier the younger the child is diagnosed, the better. "My parents took me to dozens of tutors. I was in a dark place growing up. Children shouldn't have to go through that," he said.

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