Dyslexia and Me: Celebrating Variety

One thing I have seen repeated on social media groups, Twitter feeds and blogs etc, has been that giving examples of famous dyslexic people can have a negative rather than a positive effect. Using the likes of Richard Branson as a ‘pin up’ for dyslexia can leave some dyslexics feeling down about themselves. So how can we promote the positives of dyslexia without isolating those of us who will never achieve what Richard Branson has? 

Celebrity, Success and Variety

When I was growing up I had a poster of Albert Einstein on my wall (amongst all the posters of rock and metal bands I listened to). There is debate over whether or not Einstein was actually dyslexic, but the idea of someone overcoming the odds always felt like a positive for me. To have someone to look up to (even though I failed at physics and am perhaps not the most scientifically minded). For me, having some sort of ‘role model’ is a positive thing, so perhaps the dyslexia ‘Wall of Fame’ shouldn’t be completely ignored.

The one thing I have tried to put into the blog is variety. I have discussed dyslexic women who come from a variety of backgrounds and have succeeded in a variety of occupations from acting to exploring the Arctic. I have posted about teachers, authors, paleontologists, lawyers, sports personalities etc who have been successful in their different fields and who have ‘come out’ or talked about being dyslexic. I think it’s extremely valuable to show a variety of people who are successful, not necessarily ‘famous’, as positive role models. It is valuable to add in to this the personal struggles they had on their path to success or achievement.

I think using examples where we know that the individual is/was dyslexic. It has been assumed that Einstein along with Thomas Edison were dyslexic, but neither of them were assessed or diagnosed. Perhaps it would be far more valuable to use examples of people who have ‘come out’ as dyslexic or discussed dyslexia than using assumptions which may or may not be correct. (Keep reading, there is more below…)

As you can see from the small selection above, each of these fabulous dyslexic people come from a variety of backgrounds, they have a variety of talents and a variety of people who will recognise who they are without having to Google them. Dyslexia is different for every individual, so I think it’s worth celebrating diversity!

The Advocates

I started blogging over a year ago now in hope that my own personal story would inspire dyslexics who were considering going back into education and I hold all bloggers who have ‘come out’ as dyslexic in very high esteem! Youtube videos or ‘Vloggers’ would come under this too!

Dyslexia groups on and off the internet are positive ways of getting in contact with other dyslexics or advocates who are often willing to give advice or support to others. Dyslexia or related internet chats are also very valuable in raising awareness to a larger audience. Groups would include Facebook groups where people can chat, but also groups such as local support groups or the massive Decoding Dyslexia movement in the USA.

The advocates have a variety of areas they can focus on, from schooling to the workplace to assistive technology and beyond. By discussing a variety of topics, those who are willing to get involved are helping to bring issues to the forefront to be debated and discussed.

For those who find the dyslexic ‘Wall of Fame’ difficult, there are people from around the world who are using social media to share their experiences and are getting involved in raising awareness. These are the unsung heroes who should be given far more recognition than they are. The National Diversity Awards are a great example of how we can show our appreciation of these groups and individuals who are making a difference within our communities both offline and online.

Celebrating Individual Success

As I keep mentioning ‘variety’ it will be no shock that I will mention it again here in celebrating individual successes. We all have things we have done that we are proud of. This could be ANYTHING!

For example, at the moment I am very proud of myself for not being late for my new job. My timekeeping is not always the best and I used to always trail in late for school (partly because I hated it). I sometimes underestimate how much time I need to get somewhere, but in my roles in the workplace I have rarely been late and have improved on that over the years. This is a success for me and I am very happy to share that with you.

In school, despite my lack of support and undiagnosed dyslexia, I achieved mostly A’s and B’s. I had one C in Mathematics (which was the equivalent to the B I had achieved the year before), but our teacher focused more on stopping kids in our class being disruptive than actually teaching us. I’ve only ever failed ONE course in Physics and that was because it was a self-taught course, which was not what I had originally signed up for. Having never studied Physics before, it was one of the most difficult experiences I have had in education.

On the flip side of my education experience, in my second year at university I studied several courses aimed at third year students. In one of these classes I received the second highest mark of all the students and in another I received firsts in all my coursework apart from one essay which was a 2:1. In third year I was accidentally given the exam paper for the forth years taking our course (it was mixed third and forth year students with the final exam having more difficult questions). Despite this, I achieved the highest mark out of all the students in our class for that course.

Playing on stage aged 10 after composing a piece of music, having poetry published in a book and in the newspaper, playing in bands, receiving my Brownie’s badge for being Sixer of our group, my medal for coming second place in a dancing contest, my badminton trophy for winning in a doubles competition at school, co hosting on the radio etc etc.

We have to celebrate the positive things we have done in life no matter how big or small they may seem to us. Remembering how to spell necessary without the squiggly line appearing, remembering to brush your teeth for a whole week without an alarm, working out how to make a piece of assistive technology benefit an area of struggle… All of these things are achievements. I think we have all had negative experiences in life, dyslexic or not, that we could all dwell on. Sometimes the battle uphill seems to be slow and difficult, but once we get to the top, our achievements should be celebrated!

Making a Difference for Others

One of the most positive and rewarding things is helping to make a difference for other people. Again this comes in a range and variety of ways from helping someone who is struggling to cross a busy road to helping to form new laws that support people within our society.

Being an advocate for dyslexia doesn’t mean that you need to run an organisation. Speaking out about the issues that you would like to see a change in, such as better support within schools, makes you just as much of an advocate for dyslexia!

Advocacy should be positive as well as diverse. An area that I am most passionate about is adult dyslexics especially in the workplace or who are unemployed. Rather than dwelling on all the negative experiences I have had, I have tried to turn this around by focusing on highlighting these issues and discussing and debating how best to make a change. I could continue to whine about how poorly I was treated in two jobs which were clearly linked to my areas of struggle, or I can mention them as an example of where things have gone wrong within a collective discussion to find out how to avoid that happening again to me or to others.

I don’t see dyslexia as a learning ‘disability’ or a disadvantage. Society, through institutions such as education, is what held me back for a long time. I have a whole range of achievements I have made in a variety of areas. Where I have found my dyslexia holding me back is where there is little understanding or support of what dyslexia is. As soon as I have been given the correct support I have gone from strength or strength in that uphill battle. This has made me aware of where the problems in society are and where things need to change for other dyslexics who are going through the same struggles I have been through.

Through advocacy we can all make a difference for dyslexics within our society, the 1 in 5 or 1 in 10 of us around the world. Change won’t happen if we sit back and expect it to happen, we have to get involved ourselves whether it’s through raising money for dyslexia charities, getting involved in social media, petitioning local politicians, going to dyslexia support groups, ‘coming out’ as being dyslexic to family, friends or employers etc.

Get involved. Celebrate your achievements. Share your experiences. Show your talents. Help other dyslexics to see that there are positives about being dyslexic, even in each small victory or mountain we have conquered! Let’s celebrate variety and make a difference to others!

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Posted on June 14, 2015, in Awareness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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