A reflection upon Dyslexia Awareness Week 2017.
Today we are currently in the last day of Dyslexia Awareness Week whose campaign this year has been #PositiveAboutDyslexia. There is still quite a lot of stigma around dyslexia and those who have it as is highlighted in the BBC Three short ‘Things Not To Say To Someone With Dyslexia’. So many of the common things that are said to people who have dyslexia are either dismissive or negative; things like telling dyslexia people that they ‘need to focus more’ and when someone mentions that they have dyslexia asking them to spell it. (Confession: I did misspell dyslexia at least three times while writing this post).
This week I was lucky enough to be involved in #DyslexiaStory campaign. This was set up between Dekko Comics, where I am currently an intern, and Estendio a company who develop innovative support Apps for people with Dyslexia. I got to be there from the very start, being involved in the initial Skype conversation where we decided on the hashtag and how we wanted people to get involved.
The plan was to take this years #PositiveAboutDyslexia campaign and add to it a little. Allow people to poke a little fun at themselves, or share a proud moment. To share with us their own favourite #DyslexiaStory.
The responses that we got really were a mixed bag, from a man telling us about misspelling his own name on his Higher English exam to a mother proudly sharing her daughter’s success in having her poetry published. One thing that I did enjoy was that the responses were overwhelmingly positive.
As part of Dyslexia Awareness Week I went along to Edinburgh Central Library for a Dyslexia Scotland event which promoted positivity about dyslexia and involved speakers and performers who were dyslexia and sharing their stories. First up was a sixteen year old boy from Aberdeenshire who played some live music and explained that when he was in early primary school he used to hide under desks because he was unable to connect with traditional methods of learning. He now expresses himself through songwriting and playing the guitar.
This was followed by the master of ceremonies for the night, Paul Hugh McNeill who is an ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland. I knew of Paul in advance of the event through Twitter and it was amazing to see just how inspiring a speaker he was in person. He talked about his own experiences of growing up Dyslexic, in the 1980’s and how in primary school he had just been labeled as ‘bad’. It wasn’t until he was twenty-five and decided to go back to full-time education that he realised his Dyslexia wasn’t something that he should be ashamed of, but that there was help available to him.
Paul is a hard worker which has gotten him to where he is today, he talked about how his dyslexia made him work hard, and that without it he wouldn’t be where he is today. He is a fantastic role model for young children, not least because he is an advocate for him, espousing that all a dyslexic child needs is an adult on their side. A parent, a teacher, an auntie or uncle, and if that child doesn’t have any of those people on their side then they will have Paul.
The launch of the new Dyslexia Scotland Website and of the hard work from the Dyslexia Scotland Youth Ambassadors whose enthusiasm made the launch possible was also briefly touched upon.
Finally we got to hear from Margaret Rooke, the author of newly published book Dyslexia is my Superpower (Most of the Time). Margaret herself is not dyslexia, but her daughter is, which made her interested in the learning difficulty. She has interviewed dyslexic people across the country and compiled her interviews into this book which is available for purchase here.
It was quite important to me to be involved in Dyslexia Awareness Week. I think that it’s something that can so easily be overlooked, when coping strategies are in place and you are long since diagnosed. At the Dyslexia Scotland event I spoke to parents whose children had just been diagnosed and were caught the relief of knowing that there was a reason their child was struggling, and the difficult realisation that their kid is in for a hard slog. It was uplifting to be able to share the success stories of other dyslexic people in the room.
So to end this Dyslexia Awareness Week I am going to push myself to continue being #PositiveAboutDyslexia long after the campaign fades.