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Dyslexia: A Gift or a Burden?

Categories: Disability Type, Learning Disabilities, Parenting, Uncategorized

by Jules Johnson "Whoever invented reading is stupid! Whoever invented school is stupid! I wish reading was never invented!!" Those words were yelled at me by my 9 year old son after practicing his reading last week. They've stayed with mepic since. The thing is, he loves to learn. He absorbs information from the Discovery Channel or audiobooks like a sponge! He loves stories - fully comprehending the high school level novels I read aloud to him. And yet, he's just told me school and reading are stupid. He's dyslexic. That means that he does "school after school" because we reinforce his Orton Gillingham-based reading program at home with additional work. It's not easy. And it's not fun. And it's because of dyslexia. He hates dyslexia. If I'm honest, sometimes I hate it too because it robs him of casually picking up a book to enjoy late into the night. I know he can do that with audiobooks (like Learning Ally's), and I'm very thankful, but I also wish it wasn't such a struggle. Did I mention he loves stories? Last week, an adult who has dyslexia, Martin Camp, shared his article titled "What Dyslexia Really Is" on our Learning Ally Parent Chat. It was the first time I read something that hit a raw, deep emotion ....an honesty that I had never admitted. This man, Martin Camp, feels just like my son. Then, the comments and likes came rolling in. This post hit a nerve! A question was posed to Martin himself: "I am curious if you would share what you think about the 'dyslexia is a gift' mindset that is prominent in the dyslexia community. The kids I work with never tell me that they think it is a gift. I think they feel more like you do. What do you think when you hear that it is a gift?" Here's his reply, in his own, unedited words:
"i do not think it is a gift, i think its a curse. you know how a genie is amazing you make a wish you get the wish but there is always a hang up, there is always a twist to the wish. The example being. i wish to be creative and intelligent. the genie grants my wish and tells me i am now creative and intellligent BUT............. you will experience a lifetime of stress, greif, pain, poor spelling and a inabillity to read at the potential of a normal human being. That would be the best way i would describe it."
Dr Sally Shawitz, from Yale, says dyslexia is an "island of weakness surrounded by a sea of strengths." Dr. Maryanne Wolf says the dyslexic brain is "a wonderful brain." These are our researchers! Our neuroscientists! I firmly believe that they know what they are talking about, but I also feel the sting of this difference pierce my heart every time my son gets frustrated with school. I felt the sting in Martin's words. So many kids and adults with dyslexia have to go through the daily grind of school and life in a culture that doesn't fully "get" them. Writing is hailed king both in school, and now on social media with "grammar police" feeling the need to dismiss people's opinions based on spelling. Our society is not set up to fully appreciate the gifts. But I see them ....*I* see them in my son. pic3He is one of the best fishermen I've ever met! He even fished before he could walk (no lie). He's also excellent at math and science as well as an incredible artist. The gifts are there. And I don't believe it would be the same if he wasn't dyslexic. His brain is wonderful, just as Dr. Wolf says, and if it were some other brain ...he'd be a different kid. I wouldn't want that. So, what do we do, as parents? How do we keep them from being pulled down by the curse that comes along with the gift? I learned some excellent tips from Spotlight on Dyslexia 2015, Learning Ally's online conference, which has several sessions on this exact topic:
  • "Talk about it. This is a major part of their life that they will deal with for the rest of their life."  ~ Marcus Soutra, COO of Eye to Eye
  • "Educate yourself on the child's areas of confidence while also remediating the struggles. We need to address both." ~ Dr. Judith Glasser, Clinical Psychologist
  • "There is a price that we pay for hiding emotions. We must feel our emotions in order to learn how to cope with them. Coping with emotions is not to not feel the emotions."Dr. Roberto Olivardia, Psychologist
  • "The first thing that she (my mother) realized was that the dyslexia was not the problem. The problem was the self-esteem issues. So, my mother started to develop an anti-anxiety program for me." ~ Max Brooks, Author World War Z, Dyslexic
Spotlight on Dyslexia is coming back in 2016! Save the date for December 2nd, and sign up for email updates here: LearningAlly.org/DyslexiaConference

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