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Former research NASA engineer writes about overcoming learning disability in new book

Stacy M. Brown | 11/13/2017, 1:45 p.m.
Lawrence Schneider, a former research engineer at NASA, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio but has lived a large part of ...
Lawrence Schneider Courtesy Photo

Lawrence Schneider, a former research engineer at NASA, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio but has lived a large part of his life near Baltimore, in Hunt Valley.

The award-winning sculptor and author who penned the 2014 book, “Insight in 3D: Ten Years of Sculpture,” has released his memoir, “Say Yes on Saturday.”

The 288-page memoir touches on Schneider’s upbringing during the Great Depression and his taking on a successful STEM career despite battling dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

“I thought I was going to be the only kid in the world to fail third grade. The other kids were hard on me,” Schneider said. “I was an introvert and dyslexia added a layer of shyness. Dyslexia forced me to work harder and play less.”

Dyslexia is a rare disorder that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words and letters. By the time Schneider entered high school, he had learned to overcome dyslexia with hard work, persistence and the determined support of his mother.

Today there are helpful computer tools like spelling checkers and writers can seek the help of editors, Schneider said, adding that it didn’t hurt that he married a legal secretary.

“There is a well-studied advantage to having dyslexia. People with dyslexia are often more creative, persistent and risk tolerant,” he said. “Successful dyslexics include Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, and many others.”

Schneider’s book chronicles “Clarence,” a shy boy with dyslexia from a working class family in Cleveland whose grandfather predicts that he would be special someday if he tests himself by facing challenging adventures.

When Clarence falls in love with a beautiful outgoing girl who doesn’t even recognize his existence, he resolves to change in order to win her. After a lifetime of searching and struggling, Clarence discovers the true meaning of life, loyalty, and love.

Publishers of the book note that if readers join Clarence in his quest, they’ll discover what he learns, be entertained by how he overcomes his shortcomings, and perhaps find inspiration to reconnect with their own dreams.

Readers will also learn much about Schneider’s unlikely journey from having a learning disability to becoming a key cog for NASA.

“I graduated as an aeronautical engineer in 1959, shortly after the Soviet Union launched the first man made satellite, ‘Sputnik.’ That event triggered the creation of NASA and I became a part of the space race with my first job at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama,” Schneider said.

Two years later, Schneider joined his cousin to pursue a long held dream of designing a short-takeoff-and landing airplane. The duo formed a startup company and successfully developed two unique airplanes.

After a company takeover, Schneider went on to work in the aerospace industry while earning an advanced degree in computer systems management, which along with his vast experience, prepared him for a career as a computer systems manager at the Social Security Administration.

After retirement, he then became a full-time sculptor. “A woodcarving hobby triggered my interest and love for creating three dimensional figures. I discovered a new talent for telling stories with art,” Schneider said.

“After 10 years of creating sculptures, I self-published a coffee table book celebrating the milestone so when I am gone I would like to pass on hard-won life experiences and insights to my yet-to-be-born descendants.”

Those yet-to-be-born descendants are likely to first learn about Schneider’s life experiences when they are young, so he feared that a dull memoir would stay on the shelf unread, he said.

“Because a good story is more likely to interest them, I chose fiction that is based on a true story, and reviewers of the finished story encouraged me to share it with the public as a novel,” Schneider said.

“Say Yes on Saturday,” is available at amazon.com or lawrenceschneider.com.