October 13, 2023

Dyslexia My Superpower

I left school believing I was stupid because that’s what most of my teachers told me. I was lost after the first sentence in dictation exercises, I was very confused over French verb formations because I was confused by the English ones, science subjects were a complete mystery, I was told I couldn’t do computer studies because my English wasn’t good enough and writing essays or exams was a disaster!

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that someone said, “I think you might be dyslexic”. I’d never even heard the word before but it began my journeying of greater understanding. According to the NHS, ten per cent of the UK population experiences symptoms of dyslexia, which show themselves differently in different people. You can struggle with spelling, taking notes, remembering your PIN or telephone number, reading and understanding, and difficultly writing letters or reports. That is me… and one of the reasons why I struggled so much at school.

I have learned a few things on my dyslexia journey which I would love to share with you.

People with dyslexia are often made to feel like there is something wrong with them. They can wrestle with low self-esteem, self-belief and self-love. They can also feel excluded and like they are always on the outside of whatever is going on.

The way dyslexia is often talked about you could be forgiven for thinking that dyslexia was a divine error or a result of humanity’s rebellion against God (‘the fall’ as it is sometimes described). Now, however, I realise that dyslexia is a result of divine design rather than divine mistake. What changed my mind?

I found that I could easily visualise the future and imagine a new end state in any situation. If I was delivering a keynote speech, or sermon, I could imagine my audience’s exact response to what I was saying before I started and then took them on a journey to that place through my speech.

I discovered that I was powerful problem solver. As a child I could solve shape puzzles at lightening speed. As an adult I can quickly perceive what the issues are, see how to fix them and create a pathway to that outcome.

I can also think really really fast. It is said that one of the main differences between people with dyslexia and people without is that they process information in pictures rather than words. The company that created ‘post-it notes’ says that the brain processes pictures 60,000 times faster that words and others say 400 to 2,000 times faster. Whatever the multiple, it’s very very fast and dyslexics are amazing at it.

Dyslexia is not a difficulty but a difference, not a disadvantage but an advantage, not a curse but a blessing, not a problem but a gift. Dyslexia is my superpower!

There is so much that needs to change!

Firstly, let’s change the way we think and speak about dyslexia. It is not a ‘learning disability’, people with dyslexia are very able, some of the most able and competent. It is not a ‘learning difficulty’ people with dyslexia are fast learners, we simply learn differently. Neither do we ‘suffer with dyslexia’ rather society suffers because of its lack of true understanding and inclusion of people with dyslexia.

Secondly, let’s change the way we educate. Leaders in education need to wake up from their ignorance and recognise that reading, memorising and regurgitating information isn’t the only way to learn and prove you are clever. This cannot be simplified to the insulting tired and prejudice dichotomy of academic and non-academic pathways. We need to reform our education system to genuinely understand and embrace cognitive diversity and include all learners.

Thirdly, let’s change the way we work. Dyslexia is not something that should be hidden because someone is embarrassed they can’t spell or write reports very well. Instead we should encourage people with dyslexia to help with new ideas, solve problems and paint the big picture vision. For example, in recent years the Government Communications HQ actively recruited people with dyslexia and other neurodiversity styles because they recognised their value in thinking differently. People who are dyslexic are also more likely to be entrepreneurs. Cass Business School in London found 35 per cent of US company founders identified as dyslexic compared to 15 per cent in the general population. So come on… if you are dyslexic, why not start a business?

So if you like me are dyslexic I want to encourage you to be confident about who you are. If you are not dyslexic I want to encourage you to speak out more for dyslexia and other neurodiverse learning differences.

By Marcia Dixon (Originally published in Keep The Faith)

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