While I am passionate about neurodiversity, advocacy and doing the right thing regarding education reform, I don't want to hold myself out as an expert. I'm simply a guy with more than fifty years of experience in working with what I now refer to as a difstypro mind.
One might think that qualifies me as a guru on the subject, and it would except for the one irrefutable truth found in this book: the maxim of my friend, Daphne Ulina, who tells people, "If you meet a dyslexic you have met one dyslexic."
I shake my head and smile when I hear concrete descriptions of what it means to be "dyslexic." Moreover, I feel I am going to give birth to a cow when I hear someone say, "There is no scientific evidence that a certain font, computer program, colored acetate page filter, or particular curriculum benefits the dyslexic community."
The fact is that if something works for you or your child, it works and you should use it.
While we, as difstypros, have many similarities, we are not all identical. Just because something works for one person doesn't mean it will work for every person and vice versa.
There are many things I will ask you to consider as I close out this book. Your takeaways and interpretations from this belong to you, and it is with the utmost sincerity that I have used my experience to help others on their journey to understanding a difstypro mind, be it yours or someone else's.
Please consider the following from what I have shared with you:
Hope is a great thing when facing insurmountable odds. However, we don't need hope. American society and its ongoing responsibility to educate the next generation needs to roll up its sleeves and get down to the business of fostering the enormous potential and strengths of these gifted minds.
2. The Word "Dyslexia"
IMHO, dyslexia is a terribly unkind, unfortunate and misapplied use of words when broken down into its literal definition. I like the word difstypro (different style of processing) and feel that such a rebranding fits nicely into the burgeoning community of neurodiversity.
3. There are Advantages and Disadvantages to Being Tall
Pros and cons come with every human physical feature. Being over six feet tall is considered by many to be an attribute. However, legendary horseracing jockey Bill Shoemaker was quite pleased with his height of 4'11”. Maybe blondes do have more fun, but most will agree that Jacqueline Smith is one of America's all-time beauties.
Green, blue, brown, or gray eyes are all part of what makes us unique. All these things, just like the neurodiverse mind, sets us apart and makes us different, not defective.
4. Bond, James Bond
If one reads between the lines of Reporter Alice Philipson's article in the London Telegraph regarding neurodiversity in the British Spy world, they may conclude that Bond, James Bond, is probably one of us.
5. Somethings Don't Always Mix Well, But We Find A Way
Oil and water, dogs and cats, Taylor Swift and boyfriends (love ya, Taylor), Irish complexions and the Florida sun, fire and ice, Democrats and Republicans, Difstypro minds and written English.
We squash creativity, talent, skills, and self-esteem when we create a test that is based on one kind of brain-type as "normal" and then measures everyone else in comparison. Albert Einstein once said that "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Different does not mean defective!
Use lots of encouragement if you are going to coach a kid in developing their natural strengths and talents. Ask a lot of question in a fun and quizzical way and stay free of unkind criticism. Listen closely to their answers. Above all else, understand that what may look like a failure is probably a stepping stone to success.
Tell stories to your kids that inspire GRIT! Our number one goal as parents, teachers, and society as a whole is to get kids to bed every night with their self-esteem intact. I'm not talking about helicopter parenting or protecting children from the sting of a scraped knee or the disappointment of being stuck out at home plate, I'm talking about something that, once lost, is probably gone forever. I'm talking about the single greatest asset any human being will ever have: a belief in themselves. There will be time for teaching a subject next week, next month, next time. But how many years will flip by on a calendar until a person finds the solutions to fix their broken self-esteem? You do not want that for your kid. No decent person wants that for any child.
9. Danger Lurks
There are dangers in being different. Be aware of your surroundings, tune in to those situations where "different" stands out dangerously. Whether you are celebrated for your differences or looked upon as being "odd," your differences can and will bring out the worst in certain individuals. Don't be afraid, don't change who you are, but be cognizant that you could be a target for those who are jealous, ignorant, unstable and/or intolerant.
10. Technology Is Not A Monster Sent To Eat Your Child's Brain
The 100-year-old curriculum known as Orton-Gillingham, and later curriculums based on O.G. are still considered the gold standard in teaching difstypro children to read and write.
Google Jamie Martin and Kyle Redford and consider their suggestions for technology to assist people with a difstypro mind. These are two individuals with their finger on the pulse.
There seem to be two kinds of kids with difstypro minds, the ones who do well in school and the ones who don't. That is to say, the ones who do well have an informed and effective advocate in their corner. The ones who don't do well have an uninformed advocate who is pounding the table, threatening to crucify a teacher and burn down the school. Or they have no advocate at all.
Dads, get in the advocacy game. You can't leave all this on Mom's plate.
12. A Personal Note From Me To Other Difstypros
As adult dyslexics we have a social responsibility, humbling as it may be, to step out of the shadows and share our stories. Parents, educators, and clinicians need us; most of all dyslexic kids are depending on us.
Just like the nearsighted monks who fashioned the first eyeglasses for their brethren, the southpaws who developed their own left-handed tools, and the world-class amputee-athletes with prosthetic running blades, it's our turn to make a difference in our tribe.
The challenges of preparing dyslexic students for the future will never be properly dealt with until we share what only we know.
Science begs for an understanding as to why some of us have withered under ignorance, and why some of us no longer need to wrestle that alligator (alligator = ignorance). We were the students who couldn't keep up, yet among the smartest kids in the room. Our defiance in the face of ignorance and our ability to adapt forged our futures.
Regardless of where each of us ended up, we can use our experience to turn the tables. Our insights into dyslexia can finally give society the understanding it lacks.
Who would have ever thought that our most painful and shameful childhood experiences would turn out to be our greatest gift to humanity?
Ignorance, often in the form of decent, well-meaning people, is the greatest enemy we face. Convert the enemy to our cause.
14. Make a Small Investment
If you are banging your head against the wall to get services, take a few steps yourself. Tick-Tock Tick-Tock, don't wait! Buy a Chromebook (very inexpensive) for your kid and use tech that works. What works for one will not necessarily work for others. Take your kid to an O.G. tutor. You may have to sell your second car, take a one-week vacation instead of two, or forego a facelift to come up with the cash. Please make the small investment.