Telling people I’m dyslexic changes everything.
In the time it takes to say “I’m dyslexic,” I go from being a “normal” person” to being a “disabled,” “special,” and occasionally even “cool” person in your eyes.
On the positive side of things, disclosing has helped me establish an immediate bond with someone who understands (a parent or a fellow dyslexic). It also occasionally leads to a wonderful discussion with those who understand the benefits of neurodiversity.
But mostly, the reaction I get is negative. I’m someone to be pitied, a curiosity, a bothersome burden or worse.
Once, I disclosed my dyslexia towards the end of an otherwise positive job interview: you know that part where they say “do you have any questions?” and you pluck up the courage to say “yes, what accommodations do you have for people with dyslexia?” The manager’s body language changed; he looked like an angry owl…and if I didn’t get out of there soon, I was going to be his afternoon snack (I didn’t get that job, and I’m not sure I’ll ever disclose again).
Perhaps he was having a bad day. We all have those.
Like it or not though, how we react to others–especially when they share a very intimate part of themselves–sends a very strong message. So, I thought it might be helpful to show you what it looks like when I tell you “I’m dyslexic,” and how your reaction makes me feel.
1. You: Silent stare
- Me: Feeling helpless (“Please don’t judge me! Say something, anything!”)
2. You: Confused
- Me: Anxious (“Do I seem strange to you? I’m dyslexic, not an alien from outer space.”)
3. You: Angry glare
- Me: Worried (“What’s wrong with me? Why do you hate me?”)
4. You: Shock and awe (“You don’t look dyslexic”)
- Me: Frustrated (“So what does a dyslexic look like?”)
5. You: Sad
- Me: Misunderstood (“I’m not damaged! I’m not dying! It’s just a learning difference!”)
6. You: Not interested
- Me: Powerless/disillusioned (“No one cares.”)
7. You: Unfazed and professional (“Thanks for telling me! How can I help?”)
- Me: Relieved and empowered
8. You: Acceptance
- Me: Pure joy (“You get me. You really get me.”)
I think these pictures paint an interesting picture…and it’s about getting to inclusion:
- Don’t ignore difference
- Don’t mock it
- Don’t fear it
- Do understand it
- Do find out how you can help
- Do accept it as a normal part of life
Acceptance. That is true inclusion.