After roasting myself in the sun for a while as I did some yard work before taking some time to relax, I found this excellent blog post on the Dyslexia and Me blog about guilt. I’d left this comment on Facebook:
The more I thought about it, the more I realized the concept of shame fed into the issue, too.
Part of the problem with how dyslexia and other invisible disabilities in otherwise accomplished individuals are handled is how often shame is used to try motivating us. What many people don’t understand is how inconsistent our brains can be.
We may be able to pick things up very quickly, and maybe even repeat what we learned several times, but eventually the skill may temporarily flee our mind. That’s when we make those infuriatingly simple mistakes.
That’s also when the stigmas of being lazy and being attention seekers come in. We’re made to feel both ashamed of the mistake and stressed to do better next time.
The problem is, shame and stress do nothing but make that same mistake, or others like it, more likely. We don’t learn how to change the results, and no one else learns how to help us.
By the time we’re old enough to ask for accommodations, that concept of being ashamed of our shortcomings is so deeply ingrained, we have a hard time advocating for ourselves. If we do get what we need, the shame we picked up as kids is again reinforced by some of our peer’s reactions.
Of course, this isn’t restricted to only people with dyslexia. People on the autism spectrum, with intellectual disabilities, or anything else manifested through behavior or academics probably experience something similar.
Another part, which feeds into the whole shame thing, is the obsession with labels. Although having a name for something helps make it easier to address, the danger is in reducing that person to the label.
As mentioned earlier, stigmas come with all labels, even the “good” ones. Shame comes in when people who carry those labels are fed only negative lessons rather than being nurtured with positive reinforcement.
I hope this changes, especially in early education. That’s part of why I’m always encouraged to see parents, young people and teachers take part in the positive reframing of dyslexia, autism and other perceived disabilities. I’d love to see our overall educational system get geared towards diversifying teaching methods to fit more learning styles, so all kids can get the chance to fulfill their potential.
Change may happen with one person, but those individual people start adding up, and that’s when societal evolution happens.