Gina’s Story: What Is Dyslexia?
How many people who are diagnosed with dyslexia actually know what it is and how it will affect their lives? I surely did not. While, as a student, I knew it affected my schoolwork, I did not know my life and my emotions would also feel the effects of this disability.
So just what is dyslexia? It is a learning disability that affects the way an individual learns, understands, and interprets things such as words, symbols, and letters. It is also a difficulty that impacts the way a person’s brain processes and understands characteristics of sounds and language. Its manifestations will be clarified further in the examples and stories discussed later in the book.
Individuals with dyslexia deal with it in their own ways. I chose to fight—and fight and fight. I fought with myself for years, wondering why I was so different from my classmates and friends. I wondered why they all caught on to school lessons effortlessly, while I struggled and struggled. Why, when I thought a class was so difficult, did my friends think it was so easy? Why did I feel so alone?
I yearned for the answers to these questions. I knew I had dyslexia, but I didn’t know what dyslexia was. I didn’t know how it impacted my life and my perception of the world. After much study and experience, I am passionate to share my new knowledge with my readers. While my road to this point has been difficult, I am very glad that I can understand my dyslexia, unlike my grandmother who, unfortunately, for years thought she was just “stupid.”
What Kind of Dyslexic Are You?
In investigating dyslexia, it is important to remember that there are two very different public perceptions of it. First, there are the many reports of dyslexics who have achieved triumphs despite their struggles with this condition. For example: Henry Winkler, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cher. Next, there are the reports that focus on dyslexia as a disability that negatively affects a person’s ability to excel in the workplace, to achieve in school, or to fit in with mainstream society. I feel that the outcome of one’s dyslexia does not depend on how severe one’s disability is; rather, it depends on the dyslexic’s determination and motivation. Whether or not the dyslexic will succeed is dependent upon his or her attitude. Some dyslexics deal daily with a “caution” sign in front of them, which continually reminds them of their disability. Others refuse to be intimidated by limitations.
The formula for success in a dyslexic’s life is not a secret. It is dependent upon that person’s mentality, perception, and actions. I have created five primary responses to dyslexia that are discussed below.
The Defined Dyslexic
The defined dyslexic gives her disability permission to define her entire life. She allows her struggles to impact the way she perceives herself. This dyslexic dwells on her weaknesses rather than highlighting her strengths. The negative words of others influence the person’s self-perception. She allows others’ thoughts and labels to shape her worldview. The defined dyslexic sees her disability as a disadvantage rather than an opportunity for growth.
The Deprived Dyslexic
The deprived dyslexic feels like a victim, always wanting to live a normal life but never seeming to find that normality. He feels discontent and goes through life feeling “less than” those around him. By constantly comparing himself to nondyslexic classmates who understand things more quickly than he does, he limits his potential. The deprived dyslexic experiences a great deal of insecurity because he feels incomplete. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel; rather, he sees himself permanently in that tunnel. This person continues to devalue himself rather than being positive about all he has learned and does know. The deprived dyslexic triggers feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and jealousy.
The Determined Dyslexic
The determined dyslexic has the desire to surpass the limited notions she has been given about her capabilities. She does anything to move beyond standard requirements, and once she sees she can meet average goals, this dyslexic strives for more. She goes to office hours with her
instructor to pass her geometry class; she does lots of extra-credit work to ensure her grasp of the material being taught. The determined dyslexic persists, no matter how many times she fails. She notes her failures, but sees them as blessings. They serve as motivators for her future efforts. She turns negative situations into positive ones and sees every challenge as an opportunity.
The Driven Dyslexic
The driven dyslexic uses all of his knowledge and abilities to set goals and achieve them, to speak positively about dyslexia, and to open career doors. He reminds himself to move forward, regardless of any adversity he faces. The driven dyslexic acknowledges all he has learned and realizes how far he has come. There is excitement about future challenges—progress is embraced and faults are forgiven. He advocates for himself and sees dyslexia as something that will advance his life and work in his favor. The driven dyslexic applies for ten jobs a day until one is found that suits his learning style and lifestyle.
The Dynamic Dyslexic
The dynamic dyslexic loves herself and is self-motivated. She takes the initiative to control her happiness and teaches others to do the same. She says, “I don’t have to live a limited life; I don’t have to feel stupid.”
Ultimately, the type of dyslexic you will be is up to you. You may remain negative and dwell upon your limitations, or you may break away from that view and trust that your unique abilities will enable you to successfully meet life’s challenges. The choice is yours.
Obviously, at age seven, I had no idea what kind of dyslexic I was, but some of my stories may illuminate the struggles I went through to find out. In the second grade, I vividly remember being the obnoxious student who always raised her hand to read aloud in class. I had a wonderful speaking voice and did not stutter. I couldn’t wait to share my skills with the class. Whenever the teacher asked for a reading volunteer, there I was, hand raised, shouting, “Me, me, me!”