Yes it is a funny title I know, for who would want to struggle with learning. But I did struggle. I had difficulties with writing and comprehension so while my early elementary years were fine, it was those later academic years that proved difficult. My parents got me extra help, they got me tutors, and they supported me through my challenges. I am thankful now to have found my challenges are no longer a road block to learning, and provide a strong foundation to the passion I have for working with my students.
In working with students with learning disabilities, there are many learning challenges that students can face: decoding, comprehension, receptive and expression language skills, memory, processing… the list can go on and on. That brain of ours is a wonderous organ that gives us life and can give us struggles. It is a challenge to remediate many of the learning struggles that students can face. As educators, we have our bag of tricks and tools to help students realize they are capable, but it is not always the easiest road for the learner.
So why would I want to be dyslexic? No learning disability is easy, but there is a movement that I am in awe of. The #dyslexiamovement is one that is working to show the awesome capabilities of people who can’t read, that reading is not the path to success, determination is. Not that any learning disability is without its challenges, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that not being able to read words on a page cannot hinder success. For myself, not understanding the words on the page was huge, I could hear them, I could see them, but the deeper meanings were beyond me, that couldn’t be easily remediated. Not being able to read the words on the page today, while a struggle, is attainable through many avenues.
There is solid evidence that through direct linguistic instruction, gains toward decoding can be made. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham found this back in the 1930’s, and educators continue to prove their direct approach can help many learners who are identified as dyslexic.
Many dyslexics still struggle despite instruction. However, many people in history have demonstrated that this is just a force to motivate them. Just Google “dyslexic entrepreneurs” and the results will show that dyslexia while a learning hinderance, does not necessarily impede success. Of recent times, meeting and hearing Ben Foss has been inspiring. Ben is the author of the Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, a must read for all families, educators and people connected with dyslexia. Ben is an individual who has achieved many great things despite the challenge of dyslexia, most notably writing a book. Ben is charging forward with the #dyslexiamovement with his organization Headstrong Nation. I am privileged to additionally work with Ben Powers, also a part of this movement. Ben is also dyslexic, but is passionate about bringing educators to see the power they have to impact students with dyslexia.
Technology is the great equalizer. Ben Foss saw the power of technology to impact dyslexia as seen in his creation of the Intel Reader. However, it was hard to build adoption of the tool, as it made the differences obvious. However, today the tools are cool. It is mainstream to listen to books thanks to sites like audible.com. Siri has made it cool to dictate and listen to text. What child doesn’t want a tool like an iPad that contains the ability to access and create content with many avenues to success, that are no longer different but desirable to today’s learners. Today it is cool to use the tool!
So no, I don’t wish to be dyslexic because I want to struggle with learning. I want to be part of the dyslexic movement because it is a movement to show that these learners are capable and able to achieve great things. I would have given anything for someone to be able to show me a method or a tool that could help me succeed with greater ease. It is not awesome to struggle to learn, but it is awesome to have people and tools that can make success more attainable.