The Importance of Empathy
Dyslexia stories will always exist because dyslexia is a neurobiological, or brain-based, difference. Currently, many dyslexia stories begin in the same way - struggles in reading, writing, or spelling and anxiety. The resolution of dyslexia stories vary greatly - often because of the supporting characters' knowledge, awareness, understanding, AND empathy for the dyslexic individual's experience.
Fifty years of scientific evidence, from multiple fields of study, show that dyslexia stories can start and end differently. They can ALL start earlier, before resulting anxiety takes hold and while intervention is most effective. They can ALL end with a main character who has become a literate, confident, life-long learner empowered to join and contribute to any community they dream of being a part of.
For me, the greatest challenge of being dyslexic hasn't been dyslexia itself. The biggest barriers formed when I took the risk of describing my or my dyslexic children's' experiences and others - even trusted family, friends, and colleagues - didn't believe me.
Whether they aren't aware of dyslexia, don't believe dyslexia exists, or consider the end products of our school or professional work and assume that our dyslexia must not impact us greatly - a response that includes any level of disregard, dismissal, or denial is dehumanizing and can cause harm. These types of responses:
limit equitable access to learning.
deny the language and opportunity to develop and utilize essential self-awareness, self-management, and self-advocacy skills.
impact willingness to trust and take risks creating barriers to forming relationships and learning.
are disrespectful of our most valuable resources - time and energy - reducing the options for maintaining physical and mental health.
insult our intellect - which is the most common reason for disregarding our dyslexia.
Dr. Brene Brown explains that, "In order to empathize with someone's experience you must be willing to believe them as they see and not how you imagine their experience to be."
Inability or unwillingness to empathize can contribute neglect and can be traumatizing. The impact is exponential for dyslexic individuals who are also a part of other marginalized communities.
Experience drives action, both direct experiences and empathizing with the experience of others can create opportunities for change. Dyslexia is a brain difference. For a dyslexic individual, it's a part of every moment of every day.
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. This year, I ask for empathy. I ask you to listen and believe stories of dyslexia - even if they are nothing like your experience reading, writing, and spelling.
Here are some dyslexia stories to explore:
Dyslexia Success & Inspirational Stories, Dyslexia Help University of Michigan
Stories from Dyslexics, The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity