Dyslexia… become a Dyslexic ‘Champion’
In my experience the most misunderstood and underestimated part of dyslexia is a dyslexics ability to process, file, retrieve and organise information in our brains. You see often all the information is in our brain but we just can’t get it out in an order that is helpful. Sometimes we are so full up that we can’t prioritise what needs to be done. Sometimes we are so used to struggling that we set unrealistic expectations of ourselves that add additional pressure we don’t require but simply can’t see. This can make us grumpy, and appear short tempered with people, it can make us anxious and it can make us respond in an irrational way!
My dyslexia still gets me often but rarely now I understand my diagnosis does it beat me. When I get that uneasy overwhelming feeling I can generally override it. I can employ some kind of strategy to make the moment easier and respond in a rational and appropriate way but before I was diagnosed that overwhelming feeling got me often. The feeling bought me down and I responded in irrational and angry ways. I know that feeling stopped me achieving my potential.
If you are dyslexic you will know the feeling I am talking about the feeling of complete overwhelming out of your depth, drowning in life feeling that happens with the simplest of things. Opening a bank account, finishing an essay, working out where all three of your children need to be at certain times, being asked a question you are not sure how to answer because you have not prepared an answer in advance. Not being able to find the appointment card you know you left on the side amongst the huge pile of papers that have not got filed. Despite your best efforts to be organised and tidy you still end up in a muddle feeling if only you had tried harder…
This feeling can stop you in your tracks. It still does often stop me in my tracks.
If you are not dyslexic you may not understand what I am talking about because you probably see a bright sparkly articulate person who appears to be on top of life. You won’t notice the paddling we are doing to stay afloat and maintain our credibility, the silent and swift bailing out of water to keep our boat from sinking that is happening as we simultaneously talk to you. The internal self harm of holding onto the constant knocks and suppressing of how we truley feel.
Unless of course you are a dyslexic ‘champion’ and you see straight through us… My husband sees through my paddling and treading water. He never acknowledges it openly but he has the ability to put a life jacket on me before I’ve even noticed… He knows when I need to write a list because my head can’t sort out or prioritise what I need to do. He knows when I just need the space to work out what I need to do on my own. He knows exactly when to intervene and exactly when to leave me be!
I read my students in the same way. I am their dyslexic champion. I don’t react to the behaviour I see. Instead I read the behaviour to understand what’s going on behind it. I look for the unsaid, I look for the body language and then I know how to respond to support them rather than add to the overwhelming feeling that swamps them and forces them further into fight or flight.
When you are in this overwhelming state you are already holding onto cortisol and feeling threatened, so to be given lots more language to process or asked questions you just can’t answer only fuels this and forces you further into a state of feeling unable to cope and respond rationally…
To become a dyslexic champion and help us… Take a moment to read the behaviour, limit your language, give us time to process, coach us through it… If we are not able to be coached through offer to help us by writing a list or break ing down the task for us into small achievable chunks. Sometimes tasks seem really so overwhelming that we are scared to start them, simply because we can’t process what we need to do in a way which is compatible to seeing an obvious solution. This is because we are not understanding why we are finding that current moment difficult because we should surely be able to find a solution. Its because we know we have all the answers in our head, we just can’t find them, because we have filed them in an order we can’t get to!
Never underestimate the impact of slow or jumbled processing, this is the real hidden bit of dyslexia because you can’t actually see it! When a child is struggling to read we can unpick the reasons why they are finding it hard easily because it is the in black and white. It’s far more difficult to get to know what goes on inside a dyslexics brain. This is why we need people to get to know us, we need to build secure and trusting relationships so that you can become our ‘champion’ and understand us so we can overcome those tricky moments without it impacting on our confidence or self esteem.
Whether your mum, dad, a sibling, or a teacher you can become a dyslexic champion by understanding how our processing affects how we feel about ourselves to help us fulfil our potential.
Author of ‘Don’t forget to Smile, A memoir uncovering the hidden difficulties of dyslexia.’