October 23, 2023

Matt Bird Flies

One out of 10 people worldwide have dyslexia, according to the British Dyslexia Association. Matt Bird is one of those people.

Yet Bird is the founder of PublishU and a coach to people trying to jumpstart their careers as authors. This may seem strange to most people. How can a man who suffers with dyslexia become a leader in the self-publishing industry in Europe?

The church consultant and social entrepreneur sees it differently. Dyslexia, for him, is a strength.

Bird realized he had dyslexia while in his twenties, around the time he discovered his Christian faith. He had been dealing with dyslexia his whole life as a student in Great Britain’s public school system.

“I struggled in school a lot, so much so they put me in remedial English classes and told me I couldn’t do computer studies because my grasp of the English language wasn’t good enough,” he recalled. “I left school believing I was stupid because that’s what most of my teachers told me. However, in my twenties, I heard a word for the first time, and the word was ‘dyslexia.’ I’d never heard the word before. I didn’t know what it meant. I soon discovered that dyslexia doesn’t make you any less intelligent than anybody else. I just process information differently.”

When he understood that, the light switch came on for Bird. It was around this time he also came to believe God is real, beginning his journey into Christianity and ministry.

“I began to believe in God. I thought, well, the fact that God loved me was quite significant. But there was something more significant than God’s love for me. It was actually not that God just loved me, but he liked me,” he explained.

“I mean, receiving love, you feel a bit like a charity case sometimes. Well, God loves everybody, so you’re nothing special. But God doesn’t just love us. He likes us. He likes who he has made us. He likes who he’s created us to be. That was revolutionary for me. I thought, actually, I don’t need to try and be anybody else or anything else. I can just be me, and that enabled me to hold my head high, look people in the eyes. And that was the beginning of a long journey that helped me overcome the belief that I was stupid. People with dyslexia struggle with self-esteem, self-worth, self-belief. So, I began my journey of just finding who God had made me to be.”

That journey today includes helping others — including his own family in London.

“I’ve got three children, and one of them has dyslexia,” he said. “I’m disappointed to say the school didn’t offer them much additional support. I’m discouraged that in a generation since I’ve been in school that much hasn’t changed. I have the greatest respect for schoolteachers in the classroom, especially those like my French English teacher, who went out of his way to encourage and support a kid who was struggling like me. Our education system throughout the world needs to get their act together.”

Bird, who sees himself as an activist, believes educational systems have an incorrect understanding of intelligence. For many, “intelligence is measured by your ability to read, memorize and regurgitate in an essay or an exam. That isn’t the only way to measure whether you’re smart or not.

“It is ignorant and unjust that the education system is allowed to perpetuate itself as it is. I’m passionate about this as an activist. We need proper reform. So actually, diverse learning styles and the diversity in which children are wired can be embraced and they can be included in an educational journey that points them in the right direction.”

One of the issues Bird has with the British educational system is the assumption that one size fits all when it comes to learning: “My daughter goes to a clothing store where one size fits all and that doesn’t seem to work when it comes to clothes, and it shouldn’t work with our educational system.”

He’s also frustrated by the way some people talk about dyslexia.

“It’s commonly acceptable to call dyslexia a learning disability. I find that offensive. Yeah, because I’m a very able person and so are other people who are dyslexic. And then it’s also called a learning disorder. And a learning difficulty. I mean, get real, I have no problem learning. I’ve realized later on in life that I’m actually quite smart.”

He’s learned to flip the script and see the upside to how he was made.

“I don’t suffer with dyslexia,” he said. “I benefit from dyslexia. Dyslexia is not my disadvantage. It’s my advantage. It’s not my curse. It’s my blessing. Dyslexia wasn’t a divine slip up, a divine error, but dyslexia was part of my divine design. It was part of who God made me to be. I’ve learned to embrace dyslexia and to lean into it.”

That he does with passion.

“I don’t know many people who’ve written 20 books. But you know, I look at it and I think, ‘Have I really done that?’ What I’ve done is I’ve developed strategies for overcoming the obstacle I face, which is that I think pictorially rather than in words.

“I’ve developed a unique step-by-step methodology for helping people, for helping initially, for helping myself overcome my dyslexia and be able to write books. Many people asked for my help. So, a couple of years ago, I thought, this is crazy. I’m overwhelmed by people asking me for help with their books. And it’s not even my job.

“I started a course. So now I coach more than 100 people a year to overcome their own obstacles and their own barriers, whatever it is. Sometimes, occasionally, it’s dyslexia. But everybody comes to write a book with their own internal barrier they have to overcome. I’ve written a program that enables people to overcome that barrier and follow a step-by-step journey to writing a book.”

Bird believes he has been placed right where he is by God, to help and coach and bring a positive focus to what people with dyslexia.

“The most important thing is to love them unconditionally and like who they are. Just follow God’s example. The best thing the church can do is to love people. We need to love, accept and like people for who they are. And that’s the thing that parents and friends and colleagues and the church can do for people with dyslexia.

“The second most important thing they can do is to actually encourage them in believing dyslexia is their God-given gift and their superpower. It’s to their advantage, not to their disadvantage. It’s a blessing, not a curse. It’s a benefit.”

By Maina Mwaura (Orginally pubished in World Baptist Today)

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