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Thoughts About Dyslexic People

I am dyslexic. I spent a lot of years trying to think about whether or not dyslexia was a distress and could be discharged. I decided that for me, at least at this time, I couldn’t tell1 and so it didn’t really matter. I know that some hard things happened to me around reading that certainly made my dyslexia a lot worse. Whether they made me dyslexic or not, I don’t know. I am dedicated to discharging all of the distress that makes me struggle with reading and writing the way that I do. And as I build up contradiction,2 that gets easier.

I am writing this for two reasons:

  1. I want to share some of my thinking about and experience with dyslexia and see if others have thoughts or similar experiences.
  2. I would love to hear who out there is dyslexic. If you are raising a dyslexic child in RC, and it would be okay with your child for you to write to me, I would love to know about him or her. If you know of people in your RC Community who are dyslexic, please pass this e-mail on to them.

Years ago, after listening to an interview with the author on the radio, Harvey3 got me a book called The Gift of Dyslexia. It is the only thing I’ve ever read about dyslexia that has made sense to me, probably because it was written by a dyslexic person. The author talks about dyslexia as a gift. He talks about the strengths of dyslexic people and helps people think about ways to learn differently.

Harvey used to tell me about a United Nations strategy for teaching people how to read. United Nations workers would go into communities where the literacy rate was low and set up stations. When people would come for the first time, the workers would say, “Welcome! We are so glad you’re here!” and be pleased with them just for showing up.4 On the second day that people would come, the workers would be pleased again and then teach them to read one word. The workers would say to them over and over how pleased they were that they could read that one word, that they had done such a nice job learning that word, and that the workers would be so pleased if they would come back again the next day—and so on, like that. I have a feeling that if we all learned to read that way, there would not be such a big difference between people who are dyslexic and people who are not.

I’ve decided that the biggest contradiction is to be very pleased, out loud, everywhere I go, about being dyslexic. I get so many strengths from the way that my brain works. Being dyslexic and being targeted for the resulting difficulties that come with traditional learning have made me understand a lot about school systems and young people’s oppression. They have also left me room to feel and be more connected to people whose first language is not English and who live in English-speaking countries.

What I have understood is that most of us who are dyslexic learn to read by seeing things in pictures. For many of us, this seems to leave us room to be “big picture” thinkers. The dyslexic people I have met are good at projects. Many artists are dyslexic. An article in the New York Times a while ago said that thirty percent of New York City small-business owners are dyslexic. We are starters and dreamers.

A while ago I was an ally at a young people’s workshop. I was there with my son. He decided to call a topic group for dyslexic people. Four of us got together. It was wonderful to be in the same room and just look at each other. We all knew each other well. We went around the room and told each other specific ways that we thought each other was smart. We all laughed a lot.

I, and all the dyslexic people I have talked to, feel bad about reading and writing and feel like something is wrong with us. Teachers feel bad when students do not learn to read, write, and do schoolwork in the way that the teachers were trained to teach these things. Then when the teachers feel bad, they mistreat the students who are struggling. They target them for being “spaced-out5 or lazy or stupid.” Most of us who’ve been targeted like that feel like something is wrong with our brain.

In the last bunch of years, I have been enjoying talking to people who are dyslexic. I’ve begun to organize dyslexic people in my Area.6 There are some dyslexic people at my workplace, too. I’m interested in finding out who is dyslexic or identifies that way. I would love to be in touch with them. I think it makes a big difference for us to be close to each other.

Jenny Sazama
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion 
list for RC Community members

1 “Tell” means determine that.
2 Contradiction to the distress
3 Harvey Jackins
4 “Showing up” means coming.
5 “Spaced-out” means inattentive, distracted.
6 An Area is a local RC Community.

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00