We have a book review today about dyslexia written by children with dyslexia.
The author, Margaret Rooke, whose daughter is dyslexic, interviewed more than 100 children and young people aged 8-18 years, from many different countries, to find out whether the adults were getting it right or terribly wrong. How did these children truly feel about having dyslexia? Revealing their ambitions and anxieties, their best experiences and their worst, these young experts dispel the myth that dyslexia is a learning difficulty. They know their own strengths, yet so many of them are at the mercy of rigid educational systems.
The book, Dyslexia is my Superpower, includes top tips on what teachers should and shouldn’t do, imaginative illustrations of what dyslexia feels like to them, and personal strategies for honing the creative benefits of dyslexia in school and beyond. Margaret has written about it for us and is offering a free copy for one lucky giveaway winner.
Dyslexia is a superpower by Margaret Rooke
If your children or teens have anxieties about school or concerns for their future – or you do – this book may help set your minds at rest. The words on its pages that may inspire you are not my own. They come from dyslexic young people from across the world, who talk about their frustrations and fears, their triumphs and joys.
Their level of common sense about dealing with what’s expected of them at school can sometimes put English and grammar nerds - like myself - to shame. As 17-year-old Isobel from the Vale of Glamorgan says, “If you find a way to deal with global warming or clean out the oceans, no one will say, ‘I’m not listening because the spelling is wrong’.”
These young people express exactly how dyslexia feels for them. Veronica, who’s 14, explains, “For me, writing is the issue. It’s getting my ideas from my head to my arm to the paper. They disappear on the way. It just doesn’t work. My handwriting is dreadful because my brain works faster than my arm.”
“I remember in those early days hating reading in class and hoping the teacher wouldn’t pick on me. The words would jump around. What I saw was different from everyone else. The ‘big dog’ would become the ‘dog big’. Once I found out I was dyslexic, people said, ‘Ah that’s why she’s reading like that.’.” Roisin, 18 from County Carlow in Ireland, describes her difficulties with reading.
For most, a diagnosis of dyslexia was a big positive, especially when this was explained to them clearly. “I was always the worst at maths, the worst at English,” says Elliot, 17, from Stirlingshire. “It wasn’t that I was struggling with concepts, just with putting pen to paper, so instead of ‘water’ I wrote ‘H20’. One of my strongest memories is the grin I had on my face when I found out I was definitely dyslexic. I had a reason for not being good at spelling. It was one of my best days.”
There is a huge level of positive thinking about being different. Many children attach a special creativity to dyslexia, or a different way of seeing the world. This might help them on the football pitch, for example, where they say they have a clear view of tactics and what should happen next that others might lack.
“No matter how many struggles people go through, without them they wouldn’t be the people they are. I know how it feels to get hurt or be embarrassed about something. As a result of this I’m very caring. When I leave school I want to work with youth centres or counselling. I want to make sure people get help and know where to find it.” Leah, 14 from London
It also brings ideas for stories and songs. Helena, 18, also from London, says she can be walking down a road, see someone, and “suddenly I will have a whole storyline in my head.” While Molly, 16, from Scotland, says, “If I have to write a story I like coming up with the ideas but find it hard to get the words down on the page – but when I’m lying on my bed thinking of random song lyrics I can do that. I’m doing a piece at the moment that is about a girl and a boy in the train station. The boy’s an artist and the girl’s a musician. She describes him in music; he describes her in art. They don’t know each other; they just met on a dull day. Ideas like that keep popping into my head.”
As parents, we try many different strategies for helping children with dyslexia: more homework, or less. More discussions with teachers, or staying at arms’ length. Reading together or keeping evenings stress free. Trying to get those spellings sorted, or focusing on what they can manage for now. Paying for extra tuition or making do as we strain to remember what we learnt at school while we do our best to support them.
All over the world, adults are making decisions for children with dyslexia. Teachers, politicians, education policy-makers and even parents… we impart our wisdom and experience on to them. We think we know what’s best for them.
Our children spend their days at the mercy of rigid education systems that do not play to their strengths. They need us to remind them that there are no SATS in business studies or Computer Aided Design or love of animals. If we can keep their self-belief and levels of confidence intact, after school will be their time to shine.
In the words of Professor Catherine L Drennan form the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who wrote one of the forewords, “The superheroes (in this book) are ready to take the world by storm. They are compassionate, hard-working and fascinating young people who will most definitely make this world a better place.”
What more could any of us hope for, for our children?
Dyslexia is my Superpower (Most of the Time) Jessica Kingsley Publishers £12.99 Or purchase here from Amazon UK here
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