I was never very close to my father’s family. Growing up, there were a lot of complicating factors in our strange family dynamics, but when I got past adolescence, a big part of the problem was a lack of effort on my part.
So, it wasn’t until I was in my late teens or early 20s that I learned my grandmother on that side was dyslexic. The last time I talked to her, a few years before her death, we had a short conversation about my less than stellar experience with a vocational school I had just gotten out of.
This particular school didn’t do a very good job at accommodating my disability, and I ended up flunking one class by about two points. Instead of letting me retake the class I’d failed or transferring credit from another school, they wanted me to take the entire program again and repay the whole tuition.
It was pretty devastating for me, since I’ve always been able to fight through the difficulties that available accommodations couldn’t completely get rid of, and still pass previous classes. At least I was clear sighted enough to know the school was being too shady to go back again.
In any case, I don’t remember the entire conversation in full, but I do remember one thing she said very clearly.
“When I was little girl, everyone thought I was stupid because I couldn’t read well. When I got older, I found out I had something called dyslexia. If I knew that before I had children, I never would’ve had any. I’m so sorry you have it.”
I was shocked when she said that. For one thing, I didn’t realize that she also had dyslexia at the time. For another, I hadn’t realized just how much people had hurt her because of it. I have no idea what I said in return.
Despite the fact that I had struggled, and I continue to struggle in some aspects, I was never hurt badly enough by it to swear off having children. One day, I really do want to become a mother. Of all the things that I may pass on in my genes, dyslexia isn’t something I’m afraid of giving my future sons or daughters.
However, if I was treated as my grandmother was, I might have a similar point of view.
The saddest part is that a lot of people are still treated poorly because of it.
I’ve experienced dyslexia related discrimination, and I know that it still happens today in education, work and in every day life. It’s little wonder so many view this particular brand of neurological makeup as a curse instead of a blessing.
That’s why the positive gifts that dyslexia gives us should also be addressed on a wider scale. Instead of “overcoming” dyslexia, we should listen more closely to what those who have succeeded say about the role their dyslexia played in their life.
Many recognize the gifts that come with dyslexia, while others may not see a connection.
By staying true to how they represent themselves, we can truly respect these folks as individuals and still learn from their stories.
By talking about dyslexia and other types of learning disabilities in a more positive light, the horrific experiences my grandmother and countless others go through will hopefully be prevented in the future.
There will always be challenges to overcome, and those experiences are extremely valuable, but there’s no reason why the other side of the coin should be ignored.