David Flink’s Thinking Differently (2014) is my favourite “parent/self help” guide to dyslexia and learning disabilities.
And it’s the only book I’ve read that speaks to me both as parent and as a person with dyslexia.
In tone and in content, the book gives a positive, practical and empowering approach to parenting, studying and living with dyslexia and ADHD.
Diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia at a young age, Flink went on to help others by founding Eye to Eye, a US-based mentoring organization for students with learning disabilities. This book is very much a reflection of that organization’s focus on “the strengthening of essential social-emotional skills, including self-esteem, self-advocacy, and community building.”
In Thinking Differently, Flink successfully challenges us to reframe our negative assumptions: rethinking how parents see their children and how dyslexics see themselves. He also gives practical tips to help us (and our children) succeed at school and at work.
Bonus points for Flink’s clear and concise writing style. It’s a fast and easy read that pays off big time.
Here are some of my favourite bits, which I am quoting directly from the book:
Top tips for parents
Difference not disability
“The label learning disability is not empowering, nor is it even accurate. At Eye to Eye, we recognize the value that words have in the legal arena, but our focus is on building kids’ self-esteem so we have started to use the term learning difference instead of learning disability…one of my strongest goals is to gain the right to define ourselves and replace labels that hurt with those that empower.”
“Unlocking and encouraging those advantages is part of your job as a parent, so as you begin to develop your understanding of your child’s learning differences, make sure you avoid seeing learning and attention issues as failures, flaws, or weakness and strive to view them as simply differences.”
Reasons parents use to ignore signs of LD/ADHD:
“I don’t want him to be labeled.
He just needs to try harder.
School just isn’t his thing.
The school hasn’t said anything and they are the experts.
I think he’s just fine the way he is.
Truth is, none of these excuses is a good reason to avoid proper identification. What’s more, your child may lose even more ground not being identified as soon as possible. Research has shown that early intervention can help develop “alternative pathways” in the brain. In other words, it’s easier to shape cement before it dries. Wouldn’t you want your child to have that chance?”
Top tips for students and adult dyslexics
Understand how your brain works
“Before students with LD/ADHD can take advantage of their strengths, they need to know how their minds work and how they learn best. The word we have for “knowing how their mind works” is metacognition.”
Accept and embrace how your brain works
“The most important kind of acceptance revolves around identity. Owning your different brain, with all its strengths and weaknesses, is paramount. If you don’t accept—and even embrace—your brain, you’re really limiting just how much you can achieve.”
Believe in yourself
“Perhaps the biggest shift that occurred “I finally believed I was smart.”
“Even the people who love us and support us don’t always believe we can get past our limitations. The only way we are going to gain that acceptance is by raising the bar.”
Failure as opportunity
“First, sometimes hard work doesn’t result in the outcome you want. But with the right perspective, this kind of failure can be a great opportunity. For one, it’s good to learn what you’re not good at.”
Find your pack
“People with LD/ADHD have common values and bonds just like any minority. When we hide these identities, we lose the joy of connecting around these similarities.”
“If you accept who you are, owning your LD/ADHD is as simple as owning your brown hair or youu freckles. It simply is.”
“We are everyone.”
There is more, oh so much more, to this book – so go pick up at a copy at your library or favourite bookstore. It will help you think differently, and more positively, no matter what stage of the dyslexia journey you are on.