Dyslexia

Ear readers, press play to listen to this page in the selected language.

Dyslexia is a genetic, brain-based characteristic that results in difficulty connecting the sounds of spoken language to written words. It can result in errors in reading or spelling as well as in a number of areas not considered major life activities, such as determining right and left. Individuals who are dyslexic can be highly independent and intelligent.

Dyslexia is also characterized by a set of strengths that typically come with this profile in one or more of the following areas: verbal, social, narrative, spatial, kinesthetic, visual, mathematical, or musical skills. Overall, it is characterized by an increased ability to perceive broad patterns and a reduced ability to perceive fine detail in systems.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Most schools and reading programs designed for remediation of dyslexia are based on the idea that dyslexia equals brokenness. Their aim is to transform the child into a person who can read without problems. But I’m here to tell you that’s just wrongheaded. I’ve learned that if you make your primary goal teaching your child to read or spell just like every other child, you’re going to decrease your child’s chances of achieving success. It’s like telling a person in a wheelchair that she needs to put in more time to learn how to walk.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Dyslexia is like a bad cellphone connection to the page.

Choose strength not shame: Ben Foss at TEDxSonomaCounty

Types of Reading

There are three types of reading: eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

There are three types of reading: eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading. A child with dyslexia will never eye-read as well as his peers, and that, I hope to reassure you, is fine. Yet all children need to be exposed to vocabulary and ideas to be successful in school. If your child was blind, providing text as audiobooks or Braille would allow her to read with her ears or with her fingers. No one would ever claim that a blind person was lazy or stupid for not reading text with her eyes. When I listen to audio, that’s ear reading. When I speed it up to four hundred words a minute, four times the pace of standard speech—a skill you can learn about in this book—I am leveling the ​playing field for me. It’s not what the mainstream conceives of as reading. But it’s ear reading. It’s learning. It’s literacy. I am introducing these terms to address an underlying bias in our schools: that eye reading is the only form of reading. You can help move the needle on this limited assumption by using the terms eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading yourself and explaining them to your child. We need to celebrate children’s love of ideas and quest for knowledge and give them permission to not like standard books at the same time! When we give kids opportunities to gather information and explore ideas in other ways, they will thrive. Eye reading is what children are taught in school, but it is no better than ear or finger reading in terms of information absorption or comprehension.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Focusing on eye reading overlooks the real goals of education, which are learning, independent thinking, and mastering the ability to make new connections in the world of ideas.

Eye reading is a very valuable skill, and given it is the default for most education, it has a built-in benefit that ear and finger reading do not, but that is a social choice we make. Just as being able to walk up stairs is useful because many buildings do not have ramps, eye reading is useful because it is the standard way into printed material. If we got rid of all stairs, then being in a wheelchair could be a benefit, e.g., allowing you to roll through a marathon is easier than running it. However, the key point is that none of these choices is inherently better, but we choose to make one more favored. The trick is then to learn how to avoid putting a moral judgment on a social choice.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

A central theme in this book is that we must question what we are taught is the “normal” way to do things, and instead integrate multiple ways for our children to access information.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Dyslexia and Shame

Content note: shaming, r-word, self-harm, suicide, ableism

Reading disabilities often match in intensity the level of shame associated with incest.

We should be measured by what we can do, not by what we can’t.

Shame cuts off connection and thrives on hiding.

Dyslexia is a particularly powerful form of shame, and it involves a lot of vulnerability.

Vulnerability can be defined as true courage.

Shame is a very lonely moment.

Dyslexia is a perfect storm of shame.

  1. Arrives at the time you are first being evaluated
  2. Made harsher by lack of explanation. Fail without context.
  3. Reinforced by peers and institutions

“Retard” is a bullet sent at a child when it gets said.

Guilt is feeling bad about something you did, something you can fix. Shame is feeling bad about who you are.

I knew I was going to be on a bad list. There was going to be a good list, and I was going to be on the bad list, maybe alone.

I was proud because I changed the narrative.

Negative scripts: blame, contempt, comparison

The shame of special education.

Leadership is changing what people think is possible, or changing what they think is appropriate.

Source: Choose strength not shame: Ben Foss at TEDxSonomaCounty – YouTube

One dyslexic friend of mine described his shame as “slow-drip trauma.” He felt unworthy and “not normal” every day. As an adult, he was treated for post-traumatic stress syndrome that was caused by his experiences in school.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Ninety percent of my injuries happened when I was in school and before I was talking about my dyslexia publicly. Hiding who you are can translate into self-harm. When I talk with my peers in the dyslexia movement, a majority of them had a specific plan for suicide when they were teenagers. I regularly meet dyslexic kids who cut themselves or worse when they were young. I am fine today, but the hiding left scars, figurative and literal, for many of us.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Dyslexia Is Not a Disease, It Is an Identity.

Dyslexia is not a disease, it is an identity. An identity is not something one cures; it is the basis of community and is an element of self you aim to understand and embrace. My hope is that you and your child will learn to own dyslexia, to understand it, and ideally, to celebrate it.

This book— and your mission as a parent— is about moving the model for your child from dyslexia as disease to dyslexia as identity, an identity we can all be proud of.

The key to my happiness occurred when I stopped trying to change my brain, and started changing the context around me.

Often people discuss dyslexia in terms of it having been diagnosed, but that word reinforces the notion that dyslexia is a disease, a scourge, an imperfection, and that someday we can find a cure. As I said in the introduction, there will be no cure because there is no disease! Dyslexia is a characteristic, like being male or female, or from a certain state, or a graduate of a certain university. There’s nothing less than perfect inherent in any of those descriptions, is there? You can start changing this practice in your own house today, replacing the phrase “diagnosed with dyslexia” with “identified with dyslexia.”

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Dyslexia and Technology

If you are a dyslexic person or the parent of a dyslexic child, I recommend that you allow technology to become your new best friend.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

For me, reading a book in the traditional way is like listening to a bad cell phone connection, but speech technology is like a landline: the transmission of information is clear and crisp.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Dyslexia and School

“I didn’t overcome dyslexia but dys-teachia. School sucks if you are different and that’s not your problem. It’s theirs.”

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

Most schools and reading programs designed for remediation of dyslexia are based on the idea that dyslexia equals brokenness. Their aim is to transform the child into a person who can read without problems. But I’m here to tell you that’s just wrongheaded. I’ve learned that if you make your primary goal teaching your child to read or spell just like every other child, you’re going to decrease your child’s chances of achieving success. It’s like telling a person in a wheelchair that she needs to put in more time to learn how to walk.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

I didn’t overcome dyslexia; I overcame dysteachia.

Normal Sucks: Author Jonathan Mooney on How Schools Fail Kids with Learning Differences

The majority of teachers and administrators are well-intentioned and look for ways to help your child. However, they often miss the most important point, which is that the goal is not to fix your child— your child is not broken. The goal is, instead, to play to your child’s strengths, support his weaknesses, and give him access to information.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

My friend Steve Walker, a very successful dyslexic entrepreneur, tells me all the time that you could not pay him enough money to go back to any type of school setting. He even says that he would sooner kill himself than go back to school. Yet in the same breath he will also say that you could not give him enough money to take away his dyslexia, because it is a part of who he is. Many times when I was in school or taking a standardized test, I rejected an accommodation because I was embarrassed and ashamed: I did not want to stand out, or I was frustrated that it would take too much effort to get permission to have my exam read aloud to me.

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

At that point in my life, I had come to understand my dyslexia as a difference that was disabled by a school environment made for a narrow type of learning, but I had yet to claim my differences as valuable. This had left me adrift. There was power in the social model for disability I had learned, but it did not create a space for me to value differences as anything but value-neutral. In the social models I learned about at Brown, these were “impairments,” or deficits, that became disabilities. But what if my brain was more than that? What if, as Alex suggested, these were real differences that caused impairments and challenges, of course, but were also valuable in some way that I did not yet know?

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

Further reading,

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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