"Dyslexia is a Superpower"
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Last Monday I was on a call with Christopher Lochhead. He had mentioned in the call that he had dyslexia and didn't find out until he was 21. I found out I had dyslexia when I was 10. I messaged him saying it was amazing he was so successful in spite of his struggles. He messaged me a podcast he had done with Gibby Booth Jasper called "Why Dyslexia is a Superpower".
Gibby states there are two main points as to why she thinks dyslexia is a superpower.
1. Dyslexics look at the world differently, so they will have different solutions to problems.
2. The achievements they make are so much more rewarding because of the hurdles they have to go through to just get the basics.
Chris and Gibby both expressed annoyance over the fact that it is referred to as a learning "disability", as it comes with huge deficits, but more than that it comes with amazing benefits. It has a yin-yang effect. Funnily enough, this "dyslexia isn't a disability" was something my mother said growing up that drove me absolutely insane. I had to get extra help, I had struggles, it was treated as a disability, so it felt like she was lying to me. It was so obviously a mental disability.
They then went on to talk about the frustration they faced in coping. Gibby had said, "I know what it's like to feel dumb". The only way to get past that is to build up overall self-confidence. This point definitely hit home for me. She refers to being open about dyslexia as "being out as dyslexic". I guess I've always been out. Things about myself that other people may consider personal I just never really thought of that way. I don't shout from the rooftops that I have dyslexia, but I'm not ashamed, and I wouldn't avoid it if it came up in conversation. This, unfortunately, has some downfalls.
People would look at you like you've been lying to them, like you're stupid, or that you can't do things. Like you're somehow different now that they know. Dyslexia is far from the only thing this happens with, but it sure does feel like a punch in the gut. Sometimes I'd be struggling with something, possibly dyslexia related, possibly not, and people surrounding me would take it upon themselves to mention "oh, dyslexia acting up again. You can't do that because of dyslexia". If it was dyslexia related, it'd be like a person in a wheelchair struggling to roll up a ramp and someone saying, "you're struggling because you're in a wheelchair." Yeah, no shit, thank you. If it's not dyslexia related, it just feels like everyone is lowering the bar for you.
My frustrations definitely aren't only people related. Most of them stem from frustration at myself when I struggle with simple things. This might be the dumbest one, but I don't really have a sense of rhythm. I can dance to a beat, I've been told, but I can't recognize that I'm doing it. I can never clap to a beat effortlessly. I have to focus. People will laugh. And I'm learning to laugh. It's just hard when something so innate to other people doesn't happen for you.
Chis talked about struggling with math. Chris also has dyscalculia, so I'm not sure if this is dyslexia related. I thought that was interesting because in elementary school I heavily struggled with reading and writing but was very good at math. It's funny how individual dyslexia is. Chris also talked about how much harder school got for him. Even though I've had plenty of struggles, I got blessed in the school department.
I'm sure I've mentioned some of this before, please forgive me. I was homeschooled up until second grade. My mom and I would always fight about work. I couldn't read, and I didn't understand the material, so I didn't put effort in. I started going to a public Montessori elementary school, where I was put in a tutoring program for dyslexia, the Barton Reading Program. I've heard stories about how kids were separated into the "dumb" group and the "smart" group. That didn't happen at this school. People weren't treated like idiots. Self-paced learning was the norm and ambition was rewarded. I was reading within a week. From then on I was always in the normal honors classes. I figured out what worked for me and I liked to be with everyone else.
Gibby said many parents struggled with the question of whether or not to tell your kid that they're dyslexic. My mother was told I was dyslexic immediately when I started school. She didn't tell me until I was in fifth grade. This relates back to the point of her saying dyslexia wasn't a disability. I understood where she was coming from, I just felt that I had a right to know, so I was upset she had kept it from me. Gibby said children should be told, so they can better understand themselves, their struggles, and their strengths.
Both Gibby and Chris agreed with the tremendous benefits and liabilities dyslexia comes with, being a "well rounded" person may not be the way to go. Let people excel at their strengths. Having to focus on things you're bad at all the time will have you believing you're stupid.
Gibby had some of her favorite things about herself turned out to be dyslexia related. Honestly, I hadn't thought about it before today. I so easily get frustrated at myself for the things I know are dyslexia related that I can't do, but I never thought that maybe my unique way of looking at situations is due to dyslexia. Maybe some of the things I like most about myself are also dyslexia related.
It's only been one day of thinking about this, so I can still say I don't think of dyslexia as a superpower now, but I do think of it less as a liability. I appreciate Chris and Gibby's different views on the matter.