I’ve been reading book entitled David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Mr. Gladwell writes about the story and the meaning behind David and Goliath, and then provides examples of people who have had a “Goliath” to overcome. One of the chapters is about children with dyslexic and the question that is asked of the reader is how you (the reader) wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your own child, would you?
As a child, I knew I learned differently. I knew it when I was in second grade and I was struggling to sit still, to read, or to do anything in class. I was an undiagnosed learning disabled child in a new school. Of course it was a new school since my father was active duty Army and we moved frequently. I hated second grade. I hated third grade too. The only thing I liked about school was my friends.
In fourth grade, I had a teacher that showed unbelievable patience and kindness and I started to love school again. She didn’t expect me to do my schoolwork like the other kids. We did things to my strengths. That continued until I got into middle school and I received an official diagnosis. I wanted to be ashamed, but at that moment, I was relieved. It was nice to know that there wasn’t something wrong with me and that I could be taught to my learning style.
Sadly, that’s not how things tend to go. I was at a military school overseas and my school was not prepared to educate a student with dyslexia who also happens to be gifted. What? Above intelligence with a learning disability? You would have thought I was the only person in the world that was gifted dyslexic. I graduated high school, went onto college in Norfolk, VA. I later started working for the Department of the Air Force, moved overseas again, and fell in love with an Airman.
I decided to go back to school again and get my teaching degree. I thought I knew what I wanted to do when I was living in VA, but I never could truly make up my mind. Finally I figured it out.
When I first went to college the Americans with Disabilities Act passed a few years prior. Suddenly colleges and universities across America were putting together disability services offices that would provide accommodations for their students. While attending school in VA, I was re-tested to confirm my disability, received assistance with my tuition, and was able to have accommodations for my classes. The one thing I didn’t get was the career counseling that I needed as well as how to advocate for myself in the workplace. For the first time, I was really ashamed. I could not bring myself to share with my employers my disability.
My new college in Nebraska was a completely different experience. Now ADA is part of our culture when it comes to schools and work places. There are offices that exist solely for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. It’s amazing to see. The accommodations I received when getting my teaching certification were the same, but something was different. I felt like I didn’t have to prove that I have dyslexia.
Back to the beginning with David and Goliath. My “Goliath” has been accepting and talking about my dyslexia. Now, I love being dyslexic. My brain works so differently from other people. I see situations, problems, so completely different. I always have the odd viewpoint that makes sense to people. Our brains learn differently; therefore, we think differently. It’s that difference that makes the dyslexic person so valuable.
If I could pass along any advice to a child with dyslexia, it’s this: learn to embrace your difference. Thinking and learning differently is a gift. Be mindful of how you learn so you can tell people how to teach you. Be active in your learning process. It’s yours after all.
My dyslexia is my superpower and because of the wonderful qualities I’ve embraced, I have been recognized for my hardwork and dedication within the military community. I am now an advocate for military children with special needs and was successful in helping legislation pass that would positively change the care that is provided to children with unique healthcare needs. The possibilities that lie ahead are endless, and I can’t wait to see where my superpower takes me.