I often find that parents struggle with the idea of "owning" dyslexia and sharing with others that their child is struggling with it. Perhaps it's the stigma... perhaps it's the constant reminder of dark days. Whatever the reason, I think there is so much to be gained by owning the label and allowing your child to call it by name. That is not to say that your child should ever be defined by dyslexia. By no means is dyslexia everything that your child is. But, it is a big part of her and is part of the reason she is who she is. Allowing your child to claim dyslexia gives her permission to tell herself that she is not damaged. She simply learns differently.
The minute you claim dyslexia, you accept the obvious struggle that comes along with the journey, but what you also gain is command over its impact on your spirit, your drive and your willingness to reach for the stars. If you are ashamed of dyslexia and push it down like it’s something to be embarrassed about, then it will never be a badge of honor for you. If, on the other hand, you wear it proudly and accept that the road ahead may be a bit bumpier than it is for others, the journey may also allow you to uncover the beautiful you that would not exist without dyslexia! It may also teach you that you are strong and have what it takes within you to overcome.
I tell my son every day that I am glad he has dyslexia because without it, he wouldn’t be him. Dyslexia is a part of him, a big part of him. With struggle also comes strength. Today, my son owns his dyslexia and the lessons it has taught him. Big or small, dyslexia is helping to shape the fighter, the hard-worker, the determined spirit, the passionate person and the talent I see before me today.
As his mother, I am not afraid to let anyone who asks and even those who don’t, know that my son has dyslexia. His journey is an inspirational story that I am proud to share. Although not every journey has a happy ending, we all have so much to gain from owning each and every part of our story and who we are.
My struggles as a child did not include dyslexia. For me, it was bullying. However, I know in my heart that I wouldn’t be who I am today without experiencing all that I did… as hard as it was at the time. Let me be clear, I am NOT suggesting that you should allow your child to be bullied so he or she can develop “character”. There are other ways to go about developing character. However, what I am saying is that if your journey includes struggle in any form, embrace the lessons the experience can offer you. We all have a great deal to gain from experiencing both mountain climbs and valley crawls, but we have to be open to continuing to move forward, despite the rough terrain.
As my father used to tell me as a child… “if you are in a valley, just keep walking because life is not like Texas. You will eventually encounter another hill.” It’s relevant to mention that I lived in Texas at the time.
Even though it has taken me decades to appreciate the tough years I experienced in middle school, I am starting to own that part of my journey. I still find it hard to reflect back with appreciation for those years, but I am becoming more and more aware of the gifts I also gained. Today, I know that I am a better mother, coach and friend because of the empathy I developed as a result of that experience as a child. The key is to remain open to the gifts that your journey offers you. Maybe it’s dyslexia, maybe it’s bullying, maybe it’s an illness, maybe it's a loss. Whatever it is, if you are open, there is a hill before you and a valley to look down upon… if you just keep walking forward. Own it.