I was asked the following question on Twitter a couple of days ago :-
This is perhaps the most irritating thing that a dyslexic can be asked. Dyslexia is a disability that causes emotional pain, limits career opportunities, hampers educational performance and makes on the victim of bullying. Would you ask someone who lost a leg if this was an advantage? Sure they can compete in the paralympics, but is this an advantage? Having reached the age of 51, I am quite comfortable with my dyslexia but it has been a massive struggle.
Last year I rang up Jeni Barnet on BBC London 94.9 radio after she made a highly patronising comment about "dyslexics having special abilities". I was livid. Is not being able to read properly a special talent? Is not being able to put your thoughts into writing in a coherent manner a special talent? Is having to work three times as hard as your peers, just to achieve a vaguely comparable result a talent?
I have no doubt whatsoever that all the S**T I've had to endure since the day I emerged into the daylight has helped build an unusual degree of belligerence and hard headedness that I wouldn't have needed had I had a fully functional brain, but I really wish I didn't have the feelings of anger and resentment welling inside me. I doubt I would be such a committed, dogged blogger, if I had a fully functional brain and for this I thank the Lord, but the need to blog is only driven by a complete rejection of injustice. If In hadn't been on the end of it, I probably wouldn't be that bothered. From where I sit, I often think blissfull ignorance would be more pleasant than the anger fuelled rage that drives many of these blogs.
In the early days of my blogging, I used to be really self conscious about my appalling grammar and my misuse if the English Language. Now I have realised that there are more important things to worry about. One of my readers commented that they find my blog more readable than some of the others. That is because I am too ignorant to understand, remember or use many of the "big words" my peers use. My brother is classically trained, speaks Latin, French and Dutch fluently. I can hardly manage English. He will throw in the odd classical insult at people if they raise his ire. He will imply they are a tussificator if they irritate him. I just call them a twat.
The only advantage that dyslexia can bestow on us is for those that get through it have learned how to cope with unfairness and discrimination. Sadly many people don't. When you work hard for no reward and your efforts go unappreciated it is easy to become withdrawn and depressed. I am in general a positive person, but in my early teens I was a mess. If it hadn't been for the discovery of punk rock music and the associated subculture, I hate to think where I may have ended up. As it was, the music gave me a focus and the nihilism of the late 1970 punk outlook perfectly fitted with my lack of self esteem. When I found other people had such feelings of alienation and rejection, I felt less alone. I was lucky. I guess many people never find their place. As I grew up and matured, things became easier. Being in a band gave me self confidence. That was what made me able to cope.
So lets bury the myth of the "dyslexic advantage". Lets acknowledge that dyslexia is a multi headed monster and before people can deal with their dyslexia they need to deal with their self esteem. This isn't improved by people telling lies about "dyslexics being special". It can be improved by making dyslexics aware that they are not alone, they can be successful and they can achieve great things with hard work. Most importantly we need to ensure that dyslexics are given the help and support they need to avoid depression and low self esteem. This starts at home. I am the youngest of six children. My mother used to refer to me as "the thick one". My teachers used to call me a "dunce", my former headmaster told me I would never get a girlfriend because I was too stupid, in front of a class of 40 people. My careers advisor at school told me I should consider working as a parkkeeper and be realistic about my prospects. I didn't even know I was dyslexic until long after I left school. They never bothered to see why I was disruptive and had poor educational performance. Ask any of them if I had any advantages. I have done Ok with my life and my career. I was lucky in having some teachers who believed in me. My parents supported my musical career (probably because they hadn't a clue what else to do with me), I changed school and found a headmaster who did support me. The new school nurtured my interest in music. Needless to say my Headmaster was rather wrong in his prediction about never having a girlfriend. I have been blessed in that department, having perhaps had far greater luck than I really deserve. I am married with three great children, none of whom are dyslexic and all of whom are very bright.
I mention this because none of the "advantages" I have are down to dyslexia. They are down to being able to cope with dyslexia. If you are dyslexic or you know a dyslexic, are you/they coping. If the answer is no, then see what you can do to address the situation. Coping is the secret. Lets deal with the issues, not the myths and fantasies.