This morning, I saw an irritating post on tumblr. It showed a graphic of the chemicals that had been proven to be harmful under a category labeled “approved by FDA” and raw milk under the other category labeled “banned by the FDA”. Under the graphic, the poster wrote something like “Is there some kind of dyslexia going on here?”
That kind of thing pushes my buttons, but since I’m not in the mood to get into a pointless debate with a stranger online, I decided to take another look at how dyslexia is framed in our culture. What better way to do that is there than looking at trending stories?
Since the internet is such a wonderfully accessible thing, I searched for “dyslexia” under the News tabs in Bing, Google and Yahoo. I then took a screen shot of the top five stories. When you’re writing for the web, that’s where you want your work to be listed, since people are more likely to click on those rather than scrolling through the listings.
Here’s what I found:
As I’d written about in my article on HubPages about finding reliable news sources, language is very important.
Each search engine returned an article about “conquering” dyslexia. I’ve noticed this kind of language used all the time when reading about dyslexia in the news. “Conquering”, “overcoming” and “fighting” all put dyslexia in a strictly negative light.
If you’ve grown up with dyslexia, have children with dyslexia or teach kids with dyslexia, you’ll know all about how difficult it is to learn how to cope with the weaknesses it brings. It’s not hard to view that struggle as fighting an immaterial foe. Once a person masters a skill, it can be very fitting to say they conquered their difficulties to reach success.
The problem with this kind of language is that it furthers the idea that a person’s dyslexia has absolutely no flip side. It’s reduced to a monster in our heads that must be fought, ejected and eradicated completely in order for us to achieve any success.
In reality, dyslexia is a part of who we are. It can bring gifts as great or greater than its weaknesses, and it never goes away. Instead of furthering the toxic image of constant battle, I’d argue it’s better to highlight the healthier idea of learning how to work with it to highlight our strengths.
Of course, that flies in the face of the sensationalist techniques favored in today’s world.
The other stories are about bills being passed, scientific research and people sharing their stories of dyslexia. I haven’t read all of the stories, but the subject matter in and of itself isn’t bad.
Though, I am amused by the title, “Bill Aims to Create Dyslexia Detection Program”. I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who recently, and the show incorporates quite a bit of secret government story lines. I keep envisioning an agent named Bill sitting in a shadowy office, surrounded by high tech equipment and searching people’s neurological make ups for signs of dyslexia. It goes PING and a green dot lights up on the screen every time it finds someone new.
Entertaining mental imagery aside, I was interested to note the international stories highlighted by Yahoo. It’s wonderful to see dyslexic students recognized in Singapore, but it can be problematic in that it could be further othering people with dyslexia.
With the help of Google Translate, I discovered the article not written in English is actually written in Malay. The title translates into, “Students need to follow special rehabilitation dyslexia, intervention”. That’s also encouraging, as it spreads awareness in Borneo, too.
Despite the still common idea of dyslexia being a strictly negative thing that must be battled against, I am a bit encouraged by this exercise. When I first started, I was expecting more references to fighting against dyslexia or pity filled articles about children struggling in school.
Though there’s still a very long way to go, something else gave me hope. I had to scroll down to the bottom of the first page of Bing results, but here’s what I found:
Maybe progress is being made.