Even before a doctor officially determined you had dyslexia, I suspected it. I saw it between your furrowed brows when learning to write letters. I heard it in your speech when you articulated multi-syllable words. Sorry. Thanks to the mystery of genetics, this particular disease passed from me to you. I don’t know what the years will have in store for you: challenges in the classroom, frustrations over homework. But I do know I’ll be there with you, and advocating for you every step of the way. Beyond that, I know that there are some life lessons your dyslexia will teach you. They are a hidden gift. Endure, grow, learn, and take these lessons with you.
1. The line between ability and disability is a fallacy. While the word disability becomes passe, replaced with “difference” or the latest PC term, recognize that this is not just a linguistic issue. Know in your heart of hearts that disability and ability are subjective terms that make assumptions and generalizations that have little to do with a person’s competencies and nothing to do with their worth.
2. Different doesn’t mean better or worse. There is not a hidden ranking intrinsic in differences. Don’t ignore them, but recognize and celebrate things that make you and others different. A learning disability is far from the most stigmatized or visible difference you could have, but nevertheless I hope it helps teach you empathy, consideration, and acceptance.
3. There’s always more than one way to look at something. One of the symptoms/side effects of my type of dyslexia is that letters jumble. A “b” becomes “d,” “p” becomes “q,” and so on. While difficult in some scenarios, I also think it has the special ability to encourage creative thinking. There’s always more than one way to look at a situation or problem. Sometimes up is down and down is up, but a brain that has accepted that the world isn’t always what it seems is prepared to take a new perspective and that’s a gift.
4. Never underestimate the power of exercising your brain. Through the struggles that you’re sure to tackle in school, you’ll get an arsenal of tips/tricks/exercises to help accommodate your learning differences. Remember the power you’re able to harness by brain training and taking the time to practice and grow. Lifelong learning is a joy; never take it for granted. Never stop learning and don’t underestimate the power of your mind.
5. Celebrate personal achievements. Because of your learning differences, you may reach certain milestones in school on a different timeline. There may be school tasks that you never master (aghh timed multiplication tests!). Learn to set your own goals, reach high, but don’t forget to celebrate. You will be much more satisfied in life if you focus your energy into setting and reaching your own goals rather than trying to compete with others. Someone will always have more than you; bigger, sooner, better. It doesn’t matter- be the best version of yourself and be content with your blessings as they come.
6. All anyone wants is to be understood. We’re going to work hard to make sure that you can get everything in your big old brain out. You’ll get to express yourself and communicate with others. Remember that this communication is essential. Relating to other people, seeing them, understanding them, and being understood, is a skill you’ll want to foster for the rest of your life.
7. Grit. This is one that will be hardest for your mama to sit back and let you learn on your own. The grit you’ll gain through struggling is something I can’t take away from you, and I wouldn’t want to. A child who endures and overcomes a challenge becomes a tenacious adult, bold and resilient. Like it or not, this is an exercise in character building.
Authors note: I’m not a medical professional nor do I have any special training in learning disability diagnosis or management. I am, however, a woman who was diagnosed with dyslexia almost three decades ago and now I parent a child who has dyslexia as well. Not any one journey with learning differences is the same, but I hope you may find similarities/comfort in sharing in ours.