A few weeks ago my mom passed away and I haven’t felt much like writing or blogging.
However that’s changed now.
I want to connect the dots from something she emphasized to me a while back, and the whole idea of thinking it’s a good idea to cart out images and stories of celebrities who are dyslexic, to kids with dyslexia.
A while ago I told my mom that my wife Debbie had given her mom a child’s doll for a present. Deb did this after learning her mom never had a doll as a young girl. Her family was poor and not particularly prone to displays of emotional warmth. My mother-in-law was probably nearing seventy when Deb gave her the doll. Stella loved the doll and the thought, by the way. My Brooklyn mom didn’t miss a beat after I told her the story and said, “You’re never too old to have a happy childhood.”
It struck me somehow as accidentally profound in this sense: My mom expressed the powerful idea that reframing your condition, whatever it is, can be a powerful ingredient for change and health. “Reframing” isn’t the same thing as denial or distortion; it’s when you consciously look at an event or experience in a different light; one that helps you move forward. Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” is perhaps the most well-known author of choosing the meaning behind any personal suffering or struggle.
So, what does this have to do with dyslexia and the use of “famous people with dyslexia?” Well, first let me begin by saying that I’ve been full circle with this one. Originally a strong user of this tactic to help kids feel better about their learning disability, I slowly became disenchanted by this over-used tendency. Sometimes relying too heavily on “famous people” can backfire. What does this all mean anyways? If I’m dyslexic does this mean I’m the next Tom Cruise or Charles Schwab?
The other day I was listening to a program on NPR about inequality of treatment and damaging prejudice towards women in Japan and other parts of Asia and the developing world. (Obviously there are corollaries in western society.) One of the parts that struck me was about how to change ignorant behavior. Experiments indicated what worked and what didn’t, when trying to in change prejudicial attitudes towards wome
What didn’t work was “education.” What didn’t work was simply “teaching” people about the history of mistreatment of women or other groups and expecting a change in attitudes.
What did work however, was exposing people to powerful images and stories of women who had overcome obstacles and become an ironworker, or a judge, or a Alaskan fisherman. Showing images and telling stories of this type did more to changing perceptions about the reality of prejudice against women, and what’s possible for women to accomplish.
This had me reflecting on, among other things, the benefits of having true role models of different types for kids who struggle in school with such conditions as dyslexia. Exposing kids to strong examples of ovecoming prejudicial and limiting beliefs (including self-belief) is important
So, yes, while it can be overdone with too much fluff, the use of exposing kids who learn differently to adults who are healthy and successful can be a powerful and useful tool. They don’t have to be celebrities mind you, ordinary people who are doing good things will do.