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I want people to understand Dyslexia is a Gift, not a Stigma!
- Genevieve Dawid

 

I want people to understand – Dyslexia is a Gift, not a Stigma!

Apparently something like one in ten people have dyslexia - irrespective of intelligence or background…

I am a professional mentor, working primarily with senior personnel, (both dyslexic and non-dyslexic) in the corporate sector. It was only after-life saving surgery three years ago that I was provided with the opportunity to start work on a self-help book which would allow me to share my mentoring skills and related information with a far wider audience.

‘The Achiever’s Journey’ is based on my experiences, both during the course of my own life and as a mentor. My intention was to weave into the book the personal philosophy behind my mentoring system, which originated with my parents. Being born dyslexic, dyspraxic, with my feet the wrong way round, and put up for adoption at a month old, meant that by the time my parents adopted me at the age of six weeks they really had their work cut out. They could never have foreseen then that their creative methods of dealing with my learning difficulties would become the basis of my own mentoring career, and later a framework for assisting fellow dyslexics.

I wrote the book for the general public, as a self-help manual, not specifically for dyslexics. Little did I know while writing the book that I was embarking on one of the most amazing journeys of my life.

One of my professional colleagues said I must be out of my mind to admit in my book that I am dyslexic and that it could seriously damage my business...

Questions I was asked: “Do dyslexics read a book from the last page to the first?” “How would one know if you were suffering?! from the condition?” “Is dyslexia brain damage?”

I was totally amazed that so many people had differing ideas on what dyslexia actually is. Then I realised that most people have pre-conceived notions of what a dyslexic is; many of these ideas are incorrect.

Unfortunately many people have the same misunderstanding when it comes to dyslexia. But not only is there is no connection between dyslexia and reduced brain power, there is strong evidence of a link between dyslexia and entrepreneurial abilities. One of Britain’s best known and most successful international entrepreneurs, Sir Richard Branson, is dyslexic. And recently a two-year arts project was undertaken by Dyslexia Action UK, to explore the relationship between dyslexia and creativity.

I have always stated that Dyslexia is a gift and not a stigma. In my life I have been affected by the lack of understanding. Two particular incidents stand out, both of which had a great impact on my life. Firstly, in school, when I struggled to spell a word, my teacher said in front of the class, “Are you completely stupid?” I answered that my Mum had told me I definitely wasn’t. She replied that as far as she was concerned I definitely was. I was then bullied for months by some children, as a direct result of what she had said. As a young child this really shook my confidence. From then on I withdrew into myself and hardly spoke at all during lessons, in case I got something wrong.

The other incident occurred after I had successfully worked my way up through a large corporation, where I loved my job and got on well with my colleagues. A new director arrived and publicly announced the only downside to his new position was that he had found out the person who had been given the job of inducting him into the company was not only a woman, but even worse, a dyslexic. That person was me. I just had to take it on the chin. Sadly, he used his power to bully me relentlessly, until I finally resigned. This only happened to me once in my entire career, and took place several years ago now. Thankfully these days there are systems in place to help deal with a situation like mine.

After revisiting how dyslexia had affected my life, I finally concluded that dyslexia had never actually been a problem for me. I accept myself exactly as I am; dyslexia only became a problem when misperceived by another.

This leads me to the next surprise: I couldn’t understand the sudden unexpected interest in a book that I hadn’t even finished, and that no one had seen. But somehow through the jungle telegraph, people I didn’t know and had never met, were asking me questions about dyslexia. They had heard of my story and that I had succeeded in life, and were looking for re-assurance that their newly-diagnosed dyslexic child could succeed too, in spite of their dyslexia. I also received interest from fellow dyslexics, who realised that I would probably write the book in a way that would be easier for them to follow and as someone who shared the same difficulties. Others thought they might be dyslexic and wanted to know more.

However, the last experience of this journey of writing the book came when I tried to purchase an interesting book on dyslexia from a large book store, and the member of staff serving me asked if the book was for me. Once he knew it was, he asked in a loud voice (some think you are also deaf if dyslexic) how did I expect to be able to read it if I was dyslexic? He then went on to try and escort me to the audio section of the shop. Once I explained I could read and write, and had in fact just written a book, he apologised. However, as I was still waiting in the queue to pay for my book, he went on to ask, “Do you understand numbers, to be able to put your pin number in?!”

In light of everything I have uncovered during writing the book, I decided to address some of the major issues and also provide useful information. For dyslexics I have created a resource section on “The Achiever’s Journey” web site, listing the assistance/information that is available from excellent related organisations. And to help educate the general public about what dyslexia actually is, I have provided (from working with professional dyslexic organisations), simple explanations, and prepared some media information on the subject.

Based on what I have learned, I have also made a conscious decision, that after writing the book my busy schedule in future will include dealing with dyslexia. I have also donated free copies of my books to certain organisations and libraries, to reach those who would benefit from my book, but without the means to purchase it.


After my fascinating life journey so far, I now believe more than ever, Dyslexia is a gift and not a stigma.

 


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