Northbrook library speaker successful despite disabilities
Eileen Gold Kushner (left) and Kathy Young, Co-Authors of "Smart On The Inside," a True Story About Succeeding In Spite of Learning Disabilities, speak about their book. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:25AM
NORTHBROOK — Eileen Gold Kushner is a successful business woman today because she refuses to acknowledge the word “can’t.”
Kushner, who has been challenged by reading and math her entire life, discovered she had learning disabilities at 39 when she was married and the mother of three children.
But how she overcame those problems to become the owner of three Mc Donald franchises – one in Buffalo Grove and two in Palatine – became the focus of “Smart on the Inside,” a book written by Kathy Young, a special education teacher.
The two women, who became close friends, told the story Jan. 22 at the Northbrook Library. Young and Kushner, both of whom live in the northwest suburbs, met in 1994 after one of Young’s special education students asked Kushner to speak in front of the class.
Kushner had been interviewed by a local newspaper reporter about why she felt so strongly about helping the community in various ways. And Kushner let slip that she had learning disabilities, so she had good reason for empathizing with underdogs.
“Teachers had told me I was stupid, because it was hard for me to learn. I was also called slow, dumb and lazy, and told that I would never amount to anything,” Kushner said. “I didn’t know then I had dyslexia, a language-based learning disability known by poor reading, spelling and weak writing.”
And just discovering the reason for her challenges helped Kushner realize her many strengths.
Young noted that those with learning disabilities are smart, but sometimes, teachers don’t teach kids how to learn, just how to pass tests.
“The key is that those with learning disabilities all have strengths in different areas. Eileen became a very successful business woman by using strategies to do whatever she had to do,” she added.
After Kushner’s youngest child began attending school, Kushner landed a job at McDonald’s making milk shakes and fries. She was such a good employee that she worked her way up to running the restaurant. And when the owner decided to move to Florida, he offered to move Kushner and her family there, too, so she could also run it there for him.
Instead, Kushner and her husband, Larry, decided to buy their own franchise. And before long, the restaurant was doing so well that Larry left his bank job to help out in the restaurant. Then, they purchased two more restaurants.
“It was never easy for me. I had to learn to make change, and to read, write and punctuate. But I did it,” Eileen said.
And now Eileen lists the people who have learning disabilities on bulletin boards in her restaurants. They include: Henry Ford, Agatha Christie, Henry Winkler, Winston Churchill, Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Jay Leno.
The McDonald’s Corporation in 1996 presented Eileen with the Ray Kroc Award for community involvement. The Illinois Association of Chambers of Commerce also recognized her efforts for needy children and families.
And at this time, Kushner and Young are preparing to speak Feb. 13 at the International Learning Disabilities Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
“The worst four-letter word in the English language is ‘can’t,’” Eileen said. “I wore a rubber band on my wrist and snapped it whenever I said that word. Now I don’t use that four-letter word anymore.”
The book, “Smart on the Inside,” published by Round Table Companies of Highland Park, is available through www.Amazon.com.