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Dyslexia - Half Full or Half Empty? 

 
Dyslexia... It's all in how you look at it.  It's all in how you look at you.  What's your perspective as an adult with dyslexia?  Is your glass half full or half empty?  Do you see limited or unlimited possibilities for yourself? Are you a victim or a victor? What responsibility might you take in improving your situation and changing your destiny, and how might you, as an adult dyslexic, raise awareness as a voice for change for other adult dyslexics? 
 
The choice is yours... You have more power than you know.
 
photo of trees in fall, beginning to change
 

Dyslexia Awareness Month

 
October has been designated as Dyslexia Awareness Month.  Many dyslexia organizations and individuals are rallying together and raising their collective voices to create change for the number of children who struggle with dyslexia/LD in public schools.  The momemtum builds.  Proclamations are announced.  T-shirts are donned, screenings are viewed, visits to elected officials are scheduled. Legislation is drafted, walks are held, and bridges are lit up red.  There is a flurry of activity and initiatives surrounding our youngest ones, the 1 in 5.  The celebration goes on! 
 

So, What About Us?  What about the Adult Dyslexic?

 
For those of us who live with dyslexia or another LD every day, we truly understand the reality that dyslexic children grow into dyslexic adults.  We fully appreciate and can relate to the phrase, "Once a dyslexic, always a dyslexic." Depending on where we are in our individual journeys, we may or may not be OK with the word dyslexia. Some of us don't like the label dyslexic, and prefer the word difference.  Some prefer to be referred to as neurodiverse. One individual may view their profile as a gift or advantage, another as a disability.  On those days when we feel that our challenges seem to outnumber our strengths, we may wish we had never heard of the word dyslexia.  We may want to trade in our troubles vs. embrace them, work with them, or work around them.  Dyslexia is personal.  Some days really stink for the dyslexic, and on those days for those of us who are also parents of children with dyslexia or other learning and attention issues, we get to live some days twice, through seeing how dyslexia plays out in our kids' daily lives as well. 
 

What It Is and What It Isn't

 
Dyslexia is not something to be overcome or beaten.  Nor is dyslexia something to run away from.  We get this. Many of us have spent much of our lives attempting to hide our disability from others, living in shame, feeling less than.  We also realize that however frustrating the challenges related to our dyslexia might be, our dyslexia is part of the fabric of who we are as individuals.  If we choose to embrace our dyslexic identities, to accept the good, the bad and the ugly of our dyslexia, we stand a better chance to live more successful and happier lives. Dyslexia is not something to sugar coat. Dyslexia is neither a gift nor is it a curse.  It is a trait.  It is a difference which is neurobiological in origin, and it does have it's advantages in addition to it's disadvantages.  And, like it or not, it is a disability in some contexts in daily life, in educational systems, and in the world of work. Dyslexia represents the cards which we are dealt.  We can't change the cards we are dealt,  just how we choose to play our hand.  We have some choice in the matter.
 

"Comparison Is the Death of Joy" - Mark Twain

 
Comparing oneself to the newest most famous "dyslexic du Jour" in the media may not be all that healthy for the adult dyslexic who is under or unemployed.  If might not be beneficial for the high school kid who barely scraped by and has little direction, or for the college student who has four or more years to go in a system where many continue to be ignorant of or to doubt the existence of dyslexia, or of the potential of the person who has it. 
 
Not all dyslexics will be able to achieve the high levels of success of the latest entrepreneur, Nobel Laureate, or blockbuster movie star, and this is OK. Success and satisfaction will look and feel different for each person. It's important to have a starting point, however, to identify individual strengths and attitudes surrounding dyslexia, to set reasonable goals, and to strive to be the best version of yourself, for yourself.
 

Not All Dyslexics are Self-Aware

 
Some dyslexics  may never know that they are dyslexic. This unidentified and underserved group may go through life never reaching their full potential. This dyslexic may feel perpetually out of place, out of sync, in life and in work, with a gnawing feeling that something is missing, and somehow  he'll never be good enough.  The issues arising from unidentified and unsupported adult dyslexia are numerous and may have serious consequences.  The dyslexic may feel defeated, have a low self-esteem, and may not have that chance to show what he knows in the workplace or educational setting. Unrecognized and unaddressed difficulties on the job or in school for the adult dyslexic may contribute to a loss of employment, dropping out, financial issues, mental health issues and in a worst-case scenario, substance abuse or a life of crime.  
 

What Dyslexia Looks Like in The Adult

 
Dyslexia may look like this in the adult:
 
  • The adult dyslexic 16+ may continue to be a slow reader, and will therefore avoid reading tasks in general, reading for pleasure and may hide their struggles.
  • Handwriting may appear messy with many spelling errors.  
  • Organizing ideas in the written form may be difficult. Jobs requiring heavy written communication may be difficult and tiring, requiring much time to complete.
  • Directionality, left right, up and down orientation, sense of time, reading from a clock, remembering passwords, and following multi-step directions may be compromised.
  • Time management may be an issue.  
  • Anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed on the job or in school is common. 
  • The individual may opt for jobs which are lower paying which do not require a high amount of heavy reading, writing, mathematics abilty, or other tasks they find challenging, although the person is of average or above average intelligence, and might be able to master a more complex job if provided the right support.  
Photo of tree with leaves changing, many colors, red, yellow, orange 

Fall Is A Season Of Change. Working To Become Our Best Dyslexic Selves.

 
For those of us who are in touch with our dyslexic identities, it is important that we focus on being our best selves.  Success is relative, and it is never too late to re-evaluate and make positive change in our own lives to reach new levels of success we hadn't thought possible.  Advocating for yourself and asking for help is important.  By serving as role models through speaking up about our own challenges and also the strengths associated with dyslexia, we may inspire others to raise their voices too.  That's how movements are started.  That's how change begins.
 
For those of us whose geography permits us to view the changing of the leaves in this season of fall, we are treated to a variety of colors.  Fall is a great time to reflect on the past, to evaluate the present and to plan for the future.  During this month of October, of Dyslexia Awareness, it might be helpful to take some time to do this for ourselves. 
 
In the coming weeks, we'll discuss some thoughts on how to guide your steps to be your best dyslexic self. 
 
 

Any questions?  Contact us at our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/headstrongnation.  We're not experts, but we’ll do what we can to point you to resources and to answer any questions that you may have.  You may also follow us on Twitter,  https://twitter.com/headstrongnatio and on Pinterest.

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia. We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, understand it, and develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles.

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Headstrong is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation, and is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax ID 47-0925290.   

Jim McCarthy realized that his true passion was found in creating art.  He’s a self-taught artist, and is currently pursuing a degree in art at Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork, Ireland. Jim agreed to collaborate on an interview for Headstrong Nation and the following are responses to questions about his life, both past and present, as a creative dyslexic man on a mission to spread awareness and change how dyslexia is viewed by the public.

 

photo of artist Jim McCarthy with paintings

(Artist Jim McCarthy in his studio - Copyright,  Jimmy McCarthy - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

Early Years.

My early years in school were very challenging and not a very pleasant experience. Corporal punishment was very prevalent, and I often found myself on the receiving end. I don’t think dyslexia or other SpLDs were fully understood. There wasn’t any specific help given to a person with dyslexia at that time. I enjoyed certain aspects of school, but always wanted to leave and find a job as early as possible. I left school at the age of 14/15 and then worked in construction for over 30 years as a carpenter/joiner.

Jim McCarthy's sculpture entitled fighting with words- Sculpted image of man cut out of pages in a book arms raised in fighting stance             Portrait of a grieving mother wearing veil, dust covered             painting of antique Morris automobile entitled "Redundant Morris" by Jim Mccarthy

(From left: Fighting With Words - Medium: Paper Sculpture, Grieving Mother  - Oil on Canvas 40cm x 40cm,  and Redundant Morris - Oil on Linen 240mm x 300mm - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

Self Evaluation and Higher Education.

In 2012 due to a major recession in Ireland, I found myself out of work for the first time. I applied for jobs in everything I could, but never had any luck in securing long-term work as the lowest qualification for work in factories was a degree. Looking at my skills, I decided that the best path to get a degree would be in the arts. I have always had a passion for art. In order to achieve my goal of getting accepted into art college. I first had to attend a college of further education due to my leaving school so young. I found I was strong in the practical subjects, but found the academic subjects to be a serious challenge for me.

Inspiration and Information.

After about two months, I attended a lecture and viewed a documentary about the artist Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg spoke openly about his dyslexia. I could relate to everything he had to say. After this lecture I went and spoke to staff at the disability support service, who sent me for an educational psychology assessment. The assessment confirmed that I had specific learning disabilities that significantly affected my ability to access the college curriculum. The psychologist congratulated me, stating my IQ was well above average and this was probably the reason why I wasn’t identified earlier.

Painting entitled The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

(The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - (What do you see?)  - Oil on Canvas 200mm Diameter - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com )

The Truth Can Set You Free.  The Education System Let Me Down.

Truthfully, I suppose I always knew I was different and suspected I had dyslexia. When I got the results, I found the information freeing and liberating. It was like my past life made sense and everything fitted together. In addition to feeling liberated by understanding my dyslexia, I also felt angry and betrayed by the education system because it had not acknowledged that picture thinking people learn differently than linear thinking people. I had only wished that all of my old teachers were there to witness the results. After figuring out how I learned, I used this information to study my academic subjects.  At the end of my time at this college, I had achieved top grades and was later accepted as a 2nd year direct entry student into a Fine Art Degree course at Crawford College of Art and Design.

 

Daily Challenges and The Need for Public Awareness of Dyslexia.


As an adult with dyslexia, I have found that there are still major challenges for me. I have found that society and education systems are designed specifically for the linear thinker. I believe it is essential for the public to be educated about dyslexia as this would help to alleviate any misconceptions. Dyslexia is not just about reading or writing. Dyslexic people tend to have a different perspective of the world. They have a gift of viewing problems from multiple angles. I find I can visualize the end product and most of the time, foresee any problems that might occur, even before any work has begun.

Tools I Use. 

I use certain tools to help me work more efficiently. I use Dragon Dictate, Read and Write Gold and a LiveScribe Pen . I would recommend any of these to help dyslexics. Because I am a visual learner, I also use documentaries to learn the information I need.

Hand cut image of a distorted fountain entitled Distorted Fountain by artist Jim Mccarthy

Distorted Fountain - Hand Cut Image - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com

Art as a Constant and a Solace.

Art has always been a constant part of my life, and no matter what life had to throw at me, it has been my solace. My earliest memories of doing art are when I lived with my grandparents, sitting at their kitchen table drawing what I saw in books or around me. Later while going to school I would get disciplined by teachers for drawing on my copybooks or school books.

Frustration - Holism Art painting of man covering his ears screaming out in frustration by Artist Jim McCarthy

(Frustration - Oil on Canvas 405 x 557 - artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com) 

Holism Art and Concepts as Related to Dyslexia.

“Holism Art” is a name I came up with for my art. People with dyslexia think and view the world holistically and are primarily picture thinkers. Rather than using self-talk (words, sentences, or internal dialogue), they specialize in mental or sensory imagery. This method of thinking is subliminal. Since dyslexic people think in pictures or imagery, they tend to use global logic and reasoning strategies. looking at the big picture to understand the world around them. Thinking primarily with images, dyslexic people also tend to develop very strong imaginations. They use a picture or feeling based reasoning process to solve problems rather than a verbal one. If they are at first confused (or intrigued), they will mentally move around an object and look at it from different viewpoints or angles. From this thought process, they develop many unique abilities and talents. For this reason and others, I believe ‘Holism Art’ is the appropriate name for my art.

Painting of English Market - Cork            Painting of Paul Street by Artist Jim McCarthy

 (From left: Margadh Bearla, Sraid an Phrionsa, Corcaigh 2011 (English Market, Princes St., Cork) -  Oil on Canvas 20" x 24", and Sraid Pholl,                                    Corcaigh 2011 (Paul Street, Cork)  - Oil on Canvas 20" x 24"- artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com

The Power of Art and  Success as an Artist.

Art is more than something on a wall or a sculpture, it has the power to change things and bring joy.  Art can also start a discussion and educate.  If you can gain some material wealth, experience job satisfaction and also help to change a person's outlook on life or help highlight an injustice, what more can you ask for of life?  When I conceive an idea for a piece I never consider whether it will be successful or not. My first protocol is the concept and if it’s relevant to me. The second is how relevant it is to the world in which I live. Thirdly, do I have an emotional contact with the piece?

Of course it would be a dream come true to be a successful artist and to have a steady income to support my family. I have had a certain amount of success in which I have sold my art and have received commissions. I've also had my work in group exhibitions in Ireland and Brittany in France and have pieces in private and corporate collections in Ireland, England, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, New Zealand and United States. All of this has been achieved with no formal education in the arts.

Some of my art is inspired by my own life experiences. By using myself, I hope not to offend others. Many dyslexics can relate to this work and its emotional content. Through my work I have highlighted the injustices and discrimination against dyslexics and have been successful in creating discussion to challenge misconceptions.

After setting up my website earlier this year, I received thousands of views and much feedback from dyslexics, parents, families and friends of dyslexics from around the world. Some of my work has been used for educational purposes and through this work I have spoken to teenagers who dropped out of school early and are now going to return to college.  If I had been told in 2011, while still working in construction, that I would find myself out of work, that I would return to college to pursue a degree, and that my art would help in some small way to change the perception of dyslexia, I would never have believed this.
 
What the future looks like.

Painting of Craftsman's Tools on table entitled "The Craftsman's Tools" by artist Jim McCarthy
(The Craftsman's Tools -  Acrylic on MDF 455mm x 400mm -  artistjimmccarthy.wordpress.com)

It is quite hard for me to think of the future, as like many dyslexics I have a problem with the concept of time. Since 2012, I have found myself back in the alien world of academia, where each day brings new challenges. I hope to achieve my goal of getting a degree, but where this will lead, I’m unsure! I really hope that along the way some doors will open for me and I might get that lucky break of becoming a successful artist. If not, I hope to secure a permanent job and continue making art as I have done previously. No matter what the outcome, I will continue to promote the positives of dyslexia through my art.

I believe it is very important for anyone who may be having problems or falling behind in school to get an educational psychology assessment. Because I really do believe dyslexia is a learning difference. Getting assessed for dyslexia has opened up a new world to me. Understanding and acknowledging my dyslexia and why I have to work so hard to achieve, has given me a better understanding of myself.

I think dyslexic people will always have to work harder to achieve in the linear world. However, with advancing technology and the help of science this may become an easier process in the future. Science, with the help of MRI scans, has proven that the dyslexic brain is different and is wired differently. Dyslexia is an invisible disability which needs to be understood completely, and until this occurs discrimination will continue against a portion of the population. Society needs holistic viewing people to enhance the world and help in the future of our society.

Jim McCarthy, September, 2015

Jim created a video entitled -This Apple Doesn’t Fall Too Far From The Tree - (SpLDs and what can happen), illustrating  what can occur if Specific Learning Disabilities (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia/DCD, ADHD, 2e-Twice Exceptional) are not identified early and whose needs are not met.

 

You can view Jim's uniquely personal and meaningful artwork and read his blog HERE.  

 

Please LIKE us on Facebook and FOLLOW us on Twitter.  Thank You!  The Headstrong Nation Team

math test with red F

 

Failure and the growth mindset - It’s OK to Fail...Really! 

 

I’m my own worst enemy.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail. Don’t like to be revealed.  It’s like hanging dirty laundry out for others to see.   But I fail daily and so often that I now realize that my failures are part of who I am, my individual learning curve.  I know that it’s important to accept the fact that I will fail, and to learn from these failures and move forward.  If I don’t, the feelings of anxiety and shame associated with my failures, whether large or small, will begin to consume me and erode my self-confidence.  These negative feelings and scripts are of no benefit to me, and it’s up to me to meet them head on, and change the messages that I give to myself.

 

I’ve read many articles on the value of failure as related to learning and growth in an individual. No one likes to fail, but some of us will fail more often than others. Dyslexics often experience their fair share of failures in the classroom, and in the workplace. The types of messages that we give to ourselves after we've failed at a given task will determine our desire to keep going or to quit, These scripts, if negative, will remain with us and will affect how we view ourselves, how we interact with others, and will influence the future goals we set (or do not set) for ourselves. This type of self-talk is limiting.

 

Why are some dyslexics more successful than others?  Might it be that those who are successful see their failures and setbacks as opportunities for change and growth?   How about those dyslexics who do not feel they have reached the level of success that they desire?  Can these individuals change the messages that they give themselves when they fail, and in turn, experience positive growth and future success?

 

Let’s also consider the individual who generally performs above average and is constantly given the message by others that he is gifted or smart, academically or otherwise.  Do these “positive” messages foster growth in this individual, or might they cause this person to hit a wall when he encounters a problem that he cannot solve?  Will he avoid future problems or tasks that he cannot easily solve or complete?  Will he only work at a comfortable level, play it safe, and not take any risks that could lead to greater success for himself?

 

The work of Carol Dweck has helped me to see the value in making mistakes.  It’s o.k. to fail. Really! It’s how I will grow.   But what I say to myself when I fail is equally important.  My “self-talk” affects my motivation and desire to keep moving forward.  Carol Dweck, Ph.D is a leading researcher in the field of motivation and a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.  She is the author of the bestselling book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”.   Below is a You Tube video of Carol at Talks at Google discussing the growth Mindset:

 

 

I was first introduced to Dweck's work while taking a free online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Stanford University taught by Jo Boaler, Ph.D Professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.  As a child and  later as an adult, I was one of those people who would describe herself as "Stupid in Math".  I felt that I would never be able to master mathematical concepts, and it was by necessity that I explored Boaler’s course “How to Learn Math for Teachers and Adults”.  I needed to help my son learn 5th grade Mathematics.   I realized I had “hit the wall” with my less than desirable, Subpar math skills and was unable to fully assist him in his daily work.  Boaler's course helped me to challenge the stereotypes I had about myself as a woman learning math, and her subsequent course for students helped my young son to learn the value of perservering through tough open ended math problems. Boaler's work involves teaching with a growth mindset in mind. Boaler promotes mathematics education reform in schools and challenges the myths and stereotypes surrounding learning mathematics. You can read more about Jo and her courses here at her site, www.joboaler.com.

 

So what does it mean to posess a growth mindset?  – According to Mindset Works, of which Carol Dweck is co-founder, the growth mindset focuses more on individual improvement and less on worrying how smart one is.  The big idea is in understanding that intelligence can be developed with hard work and persistence, that it is not fixed.  Students who can foster this mindset in themselves show greater motivation in school, and have better academic outcomes.

 

We can all learn from our failures, and it is important for all of us to challenge how we view ourselves as learners.  As we age, many of us get more rigid in our thinking.  Young children can often serve as guides because they are learning and making new mistakes daily.  Developing a growth mindset is knowing that learning is not just about producing the right answers all the time.  It’s about giving yourself permission to improve constantly, to make the effort, to think outside of the box, to create, innovate, and to stretch your brain and grow.  

 

I often need to catch myself in interactions with my young son, as I begin to tell him the “right” way he should be doing things.  In many instances, there are many “right ways” to approach problems.  As a parent, it is important for me to get out of his way and let him explore and find his own answers and praise him for the hard work and effort he's making.  For myself, it’s equally important to get out of my own way, to keep an open mind and let myself search for new ways to do things.   If I fail, instead of making the typical statement, “I can’t do this”, a growth mindset statement would be “I can’t do this….yet.”  That’s empowering, and indicates there is always room for improvement with persistence. Tieing praise to effort, hard work and persistence, not to intelligence, is what will ultimately keep us moving us forward. 

 

The bottom line?  Let's learn from our failures and let them guide us.  Let's confront our fears and go beyond them. Let' get unstuck. Let's try something new.  We can all improve and make progress.  For example, I'm learning how to write code.  I have no experience with it, and would never have entertained the thought to try it before. but I'm taking a chance on myself.  I struggle with it daily, but I am making slow improvement and my brain is making new connections I never thought possible.  "I can't do it", becomes "I can't do it.... yet."

 

What’s between our ears can make or break us, and we have the power to change the tape, and change the path, one encouraging word at a time, for ourselves and those whom we love, by working on developing a growth mindset. Failure leaves us open for new opportunities, and new directions.

 

Read 10 top quotes on failure from one very successful dyslexic entrepreneur, Richard Branson HERE

 

Visit us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @headstrongnatio  - Thanks!  The Headstrong Nation Team

  

 

NOTE:  This is the second of two personals stories from our guest blogger "Anonymous", who describes individual academic and career struggles as a person with LD, and who has a desire to be part of a supportive community of other dyslexic/LD adults.

photo of cloud with text:  A career that wasn't - Photo by Eileen Tait-Acker

Photo by Eileen Tait-Acker


Everyone has issues in their life. One of my acquaintances had an eating disorder. Another friend struggles underneath the surface with the fact that she is adopted. One of mine as an adult has been my career. Or lack thereof.

When we go off to college we have a picture in our minds of the next twenty years of our careers. We spend our college years picking a major, having fun, learning everything from how to write a paper to how to live on our own for the first time. (This, of course is what it looks like for those with the “typical” college experience, which mine wasn’t). No matter what you major in, you graduate with a ‘here’s how it’s going to go’ plan. 

I’ll get my first job (maybe I don’t even expect it to pay a lot of money); work my butt off, stay for a few years and move on to the next. The positions will get better with each new job, I’ll make more money with each new job, I’ll move up in the world one job at a time. Perhaps I even expect a few bumps along the way. I don’t expect all will go perfectly as planned but there will be progress with each job and as the years go by. Sound familiar?

This is the way it’s supposed to work right? But what does it look like when it doesn’t. This has been my life.

First and foremost I feel like a failure. Second I blame myself. What went wrong?

Is it the Learning Disability I didn’t know about or understand until I was in my twenties? Over the years I have wondered often how much this particular issue has influenced my long struggle in jobs or with building a solid career for myself. All the LD organizations promote and champion people who ‘struggle though, overcome and become successful after a childhood discovery of a Learning Disability but nobody talks about the people who don’t. Those who drop out of high school or college. Those who get into trouble and wreck their lives in some way; drugs, alcohol, prison. Or even those who do everything right by graduating high school and college and still go through life in low paying, dead end jobs because they can’t get to that next step.

Many LD children and adults don’t fit the “normal” success model;  It seems we (if you’ll allow me to speak for others) have enough pressure from the education system, colleges and employers to fit in, to get good test scores, to interview, get and do well in a career, to be the success I may not be, that I don’t want to feel it also coming from LD organizations when I am only shown people who do reach the “normal” success model.

Those of us with a Learning Disability are a varied group; some more successful than others, tell me that, show me examples of those people. I am supposed to feel inspired, hopeful, with an ‘if they can do it I can too’ attitude seeing all those success stories and hearing advice from these groups. Instead they remind me of my failure. The irony is that I have been invited twice to speak at a Learning Disabilities conference; twice I have had to back out because I was unemployed and broke at the time of each.

It’s possible my job difficulties don’t come from my LD. Is it what I majored in in college instead or where I went to college or that I no longer want to do that career I studied (although that doesn’t account for all the years before I felt that way)? Is it a terrible economy and job market that has lasted for years (also doesn’t account for the years before that)? Is it a job application process that is inefficient, ineffective, automated and inhuman among other things (we call it an internet black hole for a reason)? Is it just dumb luck (of which I’ve never had any)? Is it a mix of all of the above?

What I can tell you is it has not been for lack of ambition, lack of trying, lack of desire to have a good job or laziness. I have worked of course in the twenty years since I left high school. Many low paying jobs. Many part time jobs. Most not what I wanted. A couple full time positions that finally gave me enough money to live on but which I derived no satisfaction from my work. Lots of rejections. Or just as bad hearing nothing at all after an interview. These twenty years also include periodic unemployment for several years at a time. These times are much worse than the jobs I didn’t like.

The effects of this type of career path range from the practical; will I have enough money to live on?, How bad does it look on my resume to have one low paying, continual low level responsibility job after another? How bad do those years of unemployment look on my resume?, What are the chances of getting what is effectively an entry to mid-level job at my age, to the psychological; constant stress and worry, boredom beyond what school ever was, a huge hit to your self-confidence, constant doubt about your abilities and the choices I’ve made, fear that it won’t change, disappointment in myself and anger about all the wasted time. It’s a wonder sometimes that I’ve kept my sanity.

I admit I am my own worst judge. I don’t know why. But I have little appreciation for my struggle; for the things I have accomplished (my college degree being one of them), for the fact that I am still trying and I still want a job, or for any determination,  resolve or strength  that others see in what I have experienced.

And none of this takes into account how I really feel about my long struggle, myself, the state of hiring practices or the way potential employers treat applicants. Frankly I am sometimes so fed up and angry about this struggle it would probably surprise people if I expressed it. If someone were to ask how I keep going the only answer I could offer is, do I have another choice?

I keep thinking that a good well paying full time job that I enjoy will solve so many things for me. I can’t know that for sure since I haven’t had one but I can tell you for sure that not having one has been detrimental.

I am surrounded (and have been for years) by people and stories of people I don’t know living the picture I painted for myself in terms of their careers. Friends, acquaintances, scores of college alumni that I don’t know, even my boyfriend with a new job he got last year. It can be hard to listen to and watch the people in your life living what you didn’t have and don’t see in the near future. Some days I am jealous. Some days I am resentful. I would never wish my experience on any of them; I just want something more for myself.

Unfortunately I have never been surrounded by that helping hand or “chance” that is often talked about by those who are successful. Please don’t misunderstand; I am not looking for a hand-out. I am not looking for someone to give me a job I’m not qualified for.  I am not even looking for sympathy in writing all this. I do not expect to be handed the perfect job, but sometimes this struggle feels ridiculous and stupid.

All I’ve ever wanted when it came to my career was a chance. A chance to prove that I am capable and can do something. To prove to myself and others that I am not stupid or lazy or a dozen other things I have thought about myself. To show the world (at least those in my world) that I am creative, resourceful, empathic, and can be successful. Somebody at the hundreds of good jobs that I’ve applied to and interviewed with to say YES!

What I found in all these years is that a career or even a job search is never a straight line to employment or success. My path has been difficult, interrupted and varied; I don’t (and have never) fit your perfect cookie cutter mold. This does not mean that I wouldn’t be a phenomenal employee; a hard worker who is reliable, prescient and a problem solver. I am all those. I believe people want to be inspired by what they do as much as they want to make a contribution. I believe people will go above and beyond for an employer if they love what they do. An employer only has to give those us with this type of history a chance. I could be one of your best employees…

I can’t be the only person in this country to struggle to find and have a well-paid, successful, long lasting career. At least that’s what I tell myself. I can’t be alone in this.

I do not have the answers for how to solve my problem. If I did I would do whatever it is. And before you start making well-meaning suggestions, please reconsider. I know people mean well. My experience though has been that suggestions and advice are often not based on what works for the person they are talking to but for the giver. Or the advice ends up feeling like criticism.

Since I don’t know what to do, instead I fumble around for ideas to change something.  I’ll move to a different part of the country. I’ll apply to different types of jobs than I applying to before. I’ll change my resume and cover letters. And with every difficult application or automated rejection I think I’ll write a book about what’s wrong with employers hiring practices these days. This, oddly enough has been what I’ve been doing with my free time recently; I wrote a book (fiction, not about hiring practices). Maybe one of these days I’ll publish it, become a wildly successful writer and stop living in the cycle you have been reading about.

Until then, here I am, continually trying; continually looking for a career that I haven’t had but very much want.  I’ll give you a hand if you give me one…

- Anonymous


Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing your personal experiences with our community. - The Headstrong Nation Team


Visit, like and share at our Headstrong Nation Facebook Page, and follow us on Twitter at @headstrongnatio 


Photo of Us Capitol with text Taking it to the Hill DD-national Hill Day 2015

 Photo Credit - David Acker, 2015

Decoding Dyslexia National representatives will be joining with other organizations for Hill Day, 2015, at the US Capitol, in Washington, DC, July 14-15.  DD Representatives will be advocating for positive change for dyslexic children and their families. They will meet with legislators, and will tell their stories. Moms will speak, and dads will speak. Children will speak. They will discuss their individual stories of struggle.   They will raise awareness on dyslexia and will self-advocate.  They will discuss their strengths and the resiliency that they have developed as a result of their dyslexia.  They will ask congressmen and senators to help all dyslexic children in schools through supporting dyslexia legislation regarding the early screening and evidence-based intervention that can help them thrive in the classroom.   They will call for teacher training programs and professional development on how to screen and effectively instruct students with dyslexia.  They will discuss the need for assistive technology and how it levels the playing field for children with dyslexia/LD, so that kids like themselves can keep pace with their peers and thrive as successful students.  They will discuss the challenges that the dyslexic individual may experience beyond the K-12 years, into college, and as adult dyslexics in the workforce.  

DD reps, their families, and others will come together as a united community, a movement, with a message for change.   

Headstrong Nation supports the efforts of Decoding Dyslexia National and other organizations at this year's Hill Day 2015, and although we cannot be beside you physically as you advocate this year, we are behind you,  and support your collective efforts as a force for positive change. 

Wishing you all the best in "Taking it to The Hill".  Let your voices be heard! -   Headstrong Nation

 

NoteIn Dec, 2013, Decoding Dyslexia Oregon hosted Headstrong Nation Founder Ben Foss, for a personal talk about dyslexia, his book, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan, and the tremendous growth and power of the Decoding Dyslexia movement.  If you are interested in viewing the entire talk, you can do so HERE.  Below is an excerpt entitled:  "A Message for Change" - Get Empowered! 

 

Headstrong Nation Mission Statement:

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia.  We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, understand it, and to develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles.  

Please visit our Headstrong Nation Facebook Page, and like and share our content with your friends and family.  Follow us on Twitter @Headstrongnatio. We are glad that you are part of our community!  

Thank you! - The Headstrong Nation Team

 

Note:  The following letter was submitted by a member of the Headstrong Nation community who would prefer to remain anonymous at this time. The writer discusses personal experiences living with a learning disability, and the desire to be a part of an inclusive and supportive community of other adults with dyslexia/LD.  We appreciate this writer's honesty and willingness to share with us. - Eileen, Headstrong Nation

Photo of cloud with text: The learning disability I didn't understand

(Photo Credit: Eileen Tait-Acker)


Hi Eileen,

So I feel like I need to start with this; I hope this doesn't change anything but I need to clear something up. I am not Dyslexic. I have an auditory information processing disability. Whether it is appropriate or not other LD's get lumped into Dyslexia quite often (my guess is because it's the most common LD). One of the things I have learned through reading or listening to other people with an LD is that we all share similar "symptoms", experiences and feelings.

It has never been easy for me to talk about my Learning Disability (as I'm sure others have found the same) so know that I have taken a breath and am walking really far out of my comfort zone in doing this.

Although my mother was aware of my Learning Disability (and a speech impediment) when I was a child and teenager I did not know about or understand it the way I believe I should have. I was in my twenties before I got another diagnosis and then fully learned about and understood my LD. We could have an entire conversation about the negative feelings I have about that. But it is definitely why I'm so adamant about parents telling and helping kids to understand theirs as young as possible.

My inquiry to you about including personal stories to the website came about for two reasons; first because over the years since my (adult) diagnosis I have found that many LD organizations, 'experts', people giving LD advice usually talk about us instead of to us. To parents instead of the child with the LD. Speaking to adults with an LD seems to be even rarer (Or letting them speak for themselves). To me it seems the LD adult experience on any topic has been rare. (That is one of the reasons I like Headstrong Nation so much). :)   Or everyone written about is a success story. Do A, B and C and your Learning Disabled child's school and later life will be a breeze. (Oh ok…) I have never understood those things. And I have always hated them. The other reason I asked about direct personal stories came out of frustration. Feeling frustrated one day last week I wrote my history on one topic. I've attached that experience about my life.

I always find it interesting and a little troublesome that LD organizations and others in the LD community concentrate so much on school. It’s important of course, and when you’re a child or to parents it seems like everything but the truth is more of our lives are spent as adults than the twelve (or sixteen with college) years that we spend in school.  A learning disability (of any type) doesn’t go away; you just become an adult with a Learning Disability. And “symptoms” come with you (along with long held thoughts and feelings about yourself). Those things don’t seem to be addressed much.

Lower grade school through high school were difficult and trying and awful in numerous ways for me (yes I’ve got several ugly stories just like other LD adults do) but believe it or not college was much easier (academically anyway). I was in high school before I was placed into any type of consistent “special ed”. I didn’t understand what was “wrong” with me and I didn’t know what the adults thought I was supposed to get out of the “resource” class I was in. It didn’t feel like there was “a goal”. It would be another eight years before I got the diagnosis that changed anything for me.

It was the one that actually provided information to me. The one that helped me to understand “what was wrong”, that I had strengths just as I had weaknesses, that I wasn’t dumb, stupid, damaged or just always wrong. It was the one that let me be able to starting standing up for myself.  It was the diagnosis that gave me accommodations in classes (I was in college when this happened). And It was the one that allowed me to gain some self-confidence, to believe that I might be successful in something, the ability to feel a little tiny bit less confused, ashamed, guilty and hopeless. I have no way to tell you if I would have felt and looked at school, myself or life differently if I had grown up knowing about and understand my Learning Disability, I can tell you that learning it as an adult was at once comforting, heartbreaking and devastating.

Looking back now somehow challenges and hardships in the school years look different; it’s not that you forget them or even necessarily feel different about yourself but they get blurry as the years go by. The importance of school somehow changes. As an adult I know that all grades levels in all schools are regimented in what they teach in subject and that it is done in a regimented way; it is not made for a student with any Learning Disability. It may never be. I suppose this is why all of the emphasis is on the school years though. It’s probably also why I was more successful in college.

What I know about my living with my learning disability is that the cliché isn’t true; in school all the focus was on what I couldn’t do (because curriculums are designed for “normal” students) and once I was an adult and out of school…The myth says that once we’re out of school an LD child will no longer fail all the time. Only it’s not true because I haven’t changed, I still have the same Learning Disability and I still struggle with the same processes I did in school. The difference is it no longer has to be the focus of your life. If you go into a career where your weaknesses are minimized and the things you are good at are the things you do, your learning disability will only be 50% of your daily struggle instead of 100% of it. (Calculations may vary by person). Haha.  

With my Learning Disability I still have constant frustration, constant distraction, frequent times of information overload, and constant doubt and failure.

I wish I could tell you I felt like my learning disability has had some type of benefit or strengths. I have never felt that way. I have never understood calling it a “difference” or “gift”. That has not been my experience with it. In the years after my (adult) diagnosis I wanted to find a way to share my negative experiences and hard lessons. Not for sympathy but for others lives or the people in them. I hope that one day I will be able to say that became the benefit of it.

So, this is the overview of my life with my learning disability. I have left the details and feelings out on purpose; they are difficult to get across in writing.

Thank you for listening to my ideas and experiences. I appreciate and have enjoyed our conversations very much. 

 

Thank you, Anonymous, for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts!   

Please visit the Headstrong Nation Facebook Page, follow us on Twitter at @headstrongnatio, and check out our videos on our YouTube Page.  Thanks for being a part of our community! 

- The Headstrong Nation Team

 

Headstrong Board and staff

THE HEADSTRONG NATION MISSION STATEMENT:

REVISED, JUNE 26, 2015

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia.   We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, understand it, and develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profile.

Two sentences - One movement... Focused on the needs of dyslexic adults. Created by dyslexic adults. Headstrong Nation.


AN OFFICIAL WELCOME TO OUR NEW BOARD, STAFF, AND HEADSTRONG NATION VOLUNTEERS 

The Headstrong Nation Board and Staff from Left to Right:  Larry Banks (Chair), Ben Foss, (Founder, Headstrong Nation, Member), Eileen Tait-Acker (Social Media/Communications Manager),  Joe Booth (Board Member),  Jane Cassady (Board Member) and Steven O'Brien (Board Member).  Read more about the Headstrong Nation Board Members Here .  Headstrong Nation also has two dedicated "stellar" Social Media Volunteers, Stacey Cavaglieri, from California, and Suzanne Edwards from Texas, (not pictured), who serve our followers on the Headstrong Nation Facebook page and who have contributed to our Headstrong Nation Community Blog.  Read more about Stacey HERE  and Suzanne HERE


SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE - 6 "Power Dyslexics" in one house, craft the new mission statement for the future of Headstrong Nation!  

After a year of planning and preparation, The Headstrong Nation board and staff spent four intense days in Seatte, Washington for a weekend retreat and series of dynamic strategic planning sessions, which included the creation of the new Headstrong Nation mission statement. There is much work ahead of us, and we are very excited about what's on the horizon! Our goal is to keep you informed as things unfold and we begin to move forward.  Stay with us!   

 

Visit, Like and Share our Facebook Page.  Follow us on Twitter at @Headstrongnatio and Subscribe to our YouTube Channel 

Please visit our RAZOO page and show your financial support of our work!  Thank you from the Headstrong Nation Team! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of Sunset with text - Moving Beyond the Shame


This is dedicated to Natasha, Ben, and Larry for seeing beyond my limitations while enabling me to focus on my strengths.  For this, I thank you. 

Strengths, Guilt, and Shame

There has been a lot of talk about the inherent strengths related to dyslexia, the spatial ability, creative and artistic talents, out of the box thinking, and entrepreneurial skills. This is all very empowering and wonderful to see.  However, there seems to be less conversation about the shame associated with dyslexia and this concerns me. Shame isn’t something we generally want to discuss, but until we confront our shame by revealing ourselves and sharing our fears with others, it will be very difficult to move forward. The shame associated with dyslexia will rear its ugly head at times throughout our lifespan even when we feel we are at the “top of our game”.  Some individuals experience more feelings of shame than others, based on their individual experiences. Shame is toxic, and it affects how we relate to ourselves, to others around us, and how we approach situations daily.  As an adult, the events of the past come to visit me on occasion as painful memories, and they can affect my perspective, beat me down, and wreak havoc with my self-confidence.   What goes on in between my ears can be very powerful, and at certain times, won’t be easily silenced.   

Shame is not guilt.  Guilt is an emotion that you may feel when you do something morally or ethically wrong.  When a young child takes a toy from a friend, and stuffs it in his pocket because he wants it for his own, he knows that his actions are wrong, and he may feel guilt as a result.  Guilt is linked to an inappropriate action or behavior. Shame, on the other hand, is an emotion stemming from the behavior or action of a person that is often judged negatively by another.  This emotion is one of deep humiliation.  As the behavior often cannot be changed, the person feels wrong to his core, for something that he may not have any control over. He feels powerless. Shame occurs when you personalize an action or behavior and attribute it to who you are inside, in your soul, your heart, the fiber of your being.  You give yourself permission to become “IT”.   "IT" may be translated into stupid, incapable, or a failure.  “I have failed a test, therefore I am failure”. 

Some Experiences with Shame:

Reading - Were you made fun of when you read aloud in class?   Did you dread this activity?   Did you count the number of seats ahead of yours to figure out which paragraph would be assigned to so you could attempt to practice it before it was your turn?  Then, when you fumbled through it, did your ears turn beet red and you couldn’t feel your feet on the floor?  Did you re-read passages over and over again and still not understand what you read?   Did most of your peers seem to have an easier time of it in the classroom? Did you find homework looming on forever?  Did you feel alone in this? 

Shame – I am wrong. Something is wrong with me. I am stupid. 

Writing – Did you feel like you wanted to form the letters neater but that your hand wouldn’t cooperate?  Did you secretly envy others with neat handwriting?  Did you make so many erasures that you made holes in the paper?  Did the thought of answering a prompt or short essay send you into a panic?  Were you at a loss on how to start?  Did you have a lot of ideas in your head but couldn’t get the right words to move from your brain, down your arm, and onto the paper?  Did your teacher’s frowns and the big red “D” or "F" on this paper make you feel worthless? 

Shame – I am worthless, I am deficient. I'm no good. 

Spelling – Did spelling words make you crazy?  Did you practice over and over and still get them wrong for the Friday test?  Or if you got them right on Friday, did you forget them by Monday?  Did your flash card pile get bigger and bigger?  Did you do some of your best writing and still get marked down because of poor spelling or punctuation? 

Shame –  My brain does not work, I’ll never get this, I want to give up. 

Directions and organization – Do you get lost easily, even with the GPS?   Do you lose your place, do you fight with your computer and can’t find files?  Is your left the “other left” and your right your “other right”?  Do you struggle to read a map, figure out which way to turn the key in the lock, figure out where you stored the file, which way to open the faucet, and so on. Do you move in circles?  Do you spin your wheels?

Shame – I am so incapable, so frazzled.  Why can’t I get this? 

How many self-defeating statements continue to be part of your repertoire, the tape that continues to play in your head?  Do you find that this negative “self-talk” continues to limit you?   In an attempt to move beyond it, do you also engage in self-defeating behaviors, like retreating, stuffing emotions inside, overeating, or other quick, self-soothing, yet destructive actions that serve to keep you down?  Do you blame others or play the victim?  

Have you had the desire to apply for a particular job, but feel fear at the thought of completing certain aspects of the job due to your challenges with dyslexia/LD?  Have you passed over these types of jobs because the thought of disclosing your weaknesses to your employer in an interview petrifies you?  Do you find yourself “quitting” before you even accept the job?  I have engaged in this thinking numerous times and it has cost me many missed opportunities and limited my potential.  However, I know that my situation won’t change unless I make the decision to change from the inside.  It starts with me... letting go of my shame.

 

Picture of a sky

So how can you begin to move beyond the shame? As I can only speak from my own experience, I’ll tell you what I'm determined to do, one day at a time, to work through the complex emotions that occur as a result of dealing with the shame that rears its head in my life:  It's time to re-write my script, to reinvent myself.  One step at a time.

What Helps Me

I share.  I talk about my dyslexia/LD with friends and family I know and trust (My dyslexia/LD community).  I am upfront about what works and doesn't work for me and I keep no secrets about this.  I let my guard down and let myself be vulnerable, and open to feedback.

I listen.  I listen to others’ stories of how they’ve risen above the paralyzing effects of shame related to their dyslexia/LD.  I ear-read or eye read articles and books that inspire and encourage. 

I watch and Learn, viewing webinars, talks, and videos from experts in the field on topics like letting go of shame, and letting myself become vulnerable.  I explore ways to tap into my strengths and to increase my self-confidence. I also learn much from my son, who is way less serious and intense about life and his dyslexia.  His youthful wisdom helps to keep me in check! 

I engage with and help others in any way that I can.  It’s in our relationships where we can truly flourish, learn and grow, through our shared experiences.  In a supportive community, of others who “get me”, I know I am not alone, and this is very empowering. 

I redirect myself in healthier ways.  I work daily on avoiding ineffective coping methods.  I reach out and talk to trusted friends who know how hard I can be on myself.  This is much better than keeping it all inside, over eating, or engaging in other self-defeating behaviors.  

Letting go of shame isn't easy, but it is possible.  Accepting yourself, confronting fears,  finding a supportive community, and changing your negative self-talk and behaviors, are all positive steps in the right direction.   Releasing the shame in your life will leave you open to embrace your strengths so you may begin to live your life to the fullest! 

Eileen

 

We'd love to hear your stories!  

Visit Headstrong Nation's Facebook page and share your experiences live with our community, or if you would prefer, feel free to message us privately at the page.

Follow us on Twitter - @headstrongnatio  Subscribe to the Headstrong Nation You Tube Channel.  Share our content with those you feel may benefit from it.  

Thanks! - The Headstrong Nation Team

 

Photo of celadon glazed pottery bowl

Imagine being asked to cover a lunch break at a folk festival for an artisan that you are planning on apprenticing with.  You are given a cash box, and a little worn out card with sales tax amounts printed on it. You have no calculator.  You mention to the artist, a potter, that you are not good at math, and that you are uncomfortable with this idea.  She giggles and says “nonsense! I will only be away for a half hour to grab a pulled pork sandwich.  You’ll be fine.”  You feel ashamed because she is minimizing your concerns.  You’ve always been  “math anxious”. Your inability to work with numbers has affected your life in many ways.  You always did poorly in school,  and couldn’t keep a waitress or retail job operating a cash register.  Your dreams of becoming a nurse were dashed because you failed the medication math exam and you dropped out of nursing school as you felt inadequate.  Your parents were disappointed in you. You felt lost and less than. That was almost 20 years ago.  You are only being asked to play cashier for thirty minutes but the pressure you feel is tremendous.  You tell yourself again,  "I’m an adult, how hard can this be?  You can do this!"

You are asked to take an item of pottery the customer would like to purchase, wrap it securely in paper, place in a bag, then add up the total cost of the items. Once you have a subtotal, you will look at the paper card to obtain the sales tax  and then you’ll add the sales tax onto the subtotal and let the customer know how much he owes. After you’ve been given the money, you will make change and give this to the customer.  You take a deep breath, and wait for the first customer, determined to do your best. Five people approach your stand, and your mind goes blank.  Everyone is waiting, your hand is shaking as you try to add the numbers on a pad of paper.  You’ve given back the wrong change, miscalculated totals, and forgot to add in the sales tax.  Forget about counting up! You find it difficult to breathe, your face is flushed,  you’re sweating in your long plaid skirt with a stupid frilly bonnet on your head.  You keep smiling though, pretending like you have everything under control,  handing out business cards for the potter, complimenting the customers on their choices, and wondering why you ever agreed to this in the first place. 

Graphic Numbers make me numb with math signs and numbers all over the page

A half hour later the potter returns from her pulled pork sandwich, notices your mistakes and your upsetment, and shoots you an expression of mild annoyance and disappointment when you inform her that you’ve just botched up a number of transactions.  Now, it’s your turn to take a break.  In a fog, you wander aimlessly around the fairgrounds, trying to make sense of what just happened. You don’t feel hungry, and you don't feel like looking around at the sights.  You’ve shut down.  You can’t feel your feet on the ground, as you’ve gone numb, you’ve stuffed it inside.  You count down the hours until the end of the event.  You are silent on the ride home, and you find your mind trailing off during the chatty upbeat conversation in the car. You aren’t feeling very upbeat.  You have no appetite for the ice cream that the potter stops to buy everyone in the car. You felt you didn’t deserve the ice cream anyway, since you're such a “screw up”.

You return home and the tears come.  Your husband meets you at the front door, wide eyed. You rip off the stupid skirt and stuff it, and the frilly bonnet, in a bag. It’s hard to shake these feelings off.  They are all too familiar.  You feel ashamed and inadequate. Then comes the anger. You’re angry at yourself, angry at the potter, angry at the other woman in the car who can make change.  Why didn’t she listen to me? Why didn’t she believe me? Then you berate yourself. There goes the tape again. The one that plays itself over and over when events like this happen. There is something fundamentally wrong with you. Why can’t you do what others do so easily? The tape continues, and you let it wash over you.  You feel small.

photo of small ceramic pots on a hand

A week later, you write the potter a polite note, thanking her for the opportunity to help and for the ice cream.  You repay her for the price of the clay that she had offered you in exchange for helping her out. You inform her that you are unable to apprentice with her in her studio as something’s come up, and you don’t offer her any more details. She’d never understand anyway.  You’re done.  The block of clay sits unused, and you let your dreams of working as a potter fade away.  The next folk festival you attend, you cringe when you see a sign for pulled pork sandwiches. You never liked pulled pork, anyway...

Shame. Another opportunity lost. 

I was the apprentice.  - Eileen

 

Moving Forward: 

In the past I  let my failures define me.  I know better now.  My failures are not who I am inside, or what I am capable of becoming.

Failure and missed opportunity were an ongoing theme for me.  I focused on my weaknesses at the expense of my strengths, and I was uncomfortable asking for help.  I did not understand that my failures could be opportunities for learning and growing.  I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others, and always fell short of my ideal. I dropped out, quit and started again many times.  Persistence wasn't something I was good at. I preferred to run away.

At the age of 18, I dropped out of nursing school  in the first 10 months, after struggling through the program and failing a medication math exam.  I felt the need to get away, so I applied to live as an exchange student in Sweden for a year to “find myself”.  Living away from home helped me to gain some perspective, and gave me some time to lick my wounds.  Upon my return to the U.S., I was able to begin a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. It was a major that did not have a huge math requirement, and my advisor let me work around some of this creatively through taking a foreign language.

I realized that one of the things I enjoyed most about my brief experience as a nursing student was helping each patient to feel as comfortable as possible during their stay in the hospital.  I was able to identify this desire to help others as a strength for me which helped in the selection of my new major.  I obtained my degree in a little under 10 years part-time, while I worked at a variety of temporary jobs.  The combined work and college experience was stressful for me, as I struggled to maintain a healthy GPA.

This was a time before PC’s and Macs, and Iphones with apps.  The technology that most of us take for granted now. All assignments were either written by hand or on an electric typewriter, and I used my share of Wite Out.  Toward the end of my senior year, I spent much of my paycheck from the local college diner where I worked to hire a typist who could read my poor handwriting and type my research papers.  I requested a dishwasher job working  the night shift, as I never got the hang of waitressing as I was unable to keep track of who got which meal at which table, and I was afraid of operating the dreaded cash register.   At age 27, upon graduating, I chose not to celebrate my success with a graduation party.  I felt I had taken too long, and it was time to move on to the world of work, whatever that might look like for me.  In retrospect, I wish I had acknowledged my achievements and taken some time to celebrate.

Hindsight enables me to understand my past struggles.  After my youngest son was identified as dyslexic,  I began to reflect on my past and was able to put together the pieces. I realize that my challenges in math,  although I'm not formally diagnosed,  are likely due to dyscalculia, a math disability.  I realize now that it's never too late to learn something new, to ask for help, and to choose a new path for myself that is more in line with my strengths.  It’s how I perceive my failures and how I rebound from them that is most important.  I understand that I must be vigilant, daily, at keeping those old ineffective, damaging messages of the past from occupying my mind.  it’s important for me to reach out to others early and often when I’m feeling stuck. I know that persistence and hard work pays off, and that it’s important to be patient with myself. I make mistakes daily, but I am not a mistake. I've learned that it’s o.k. to fail...Really!  It’s how I will grow.

More on the value of failure coming soon!   

Eileen

Share your stories!  We'd love to hear from you!  Please visit us at our Headstrong Nation Facebook Page and share live, or if you'd prefer, message us privately at the page. Follow us on Twitter @headstrongnatio  Follow us at our Headstrong Nation You Tube Channel too!  -  Glad you are part of our community! -  The Headstrong Nation Team

 

When I sit and reflect about my experiences growing up in school, it is far from funny. I know what it's like to endure the entire class in high school laughing at you because of your inability to read aloud. I know the feeling of embarrassment and shame when a friend gives you a spelling dictionary as a gift because your spelling is so atrocious. I know what it's like to be a dyslexic who was not identified until adulthood. The weight of finding out about your learning difference so late in life carries a heavy load and really messes with you. I carry a lot of baggage from my past and it has taken a lot of work and perseverance to iron it all out. I knew early on that I had two paths I could take to deal with my new friend called "Dyslexia." One path was to harbor anger and resentment while continuing to bury my shame and pretend everything was great on the outside. Or I could choose the road less traveled, take a deep breath and face the demons of shame, and arrive at a place where dyslexia is hysterical. I chose to do the heavy lifting and face my dyslexia head-on.

scrabble game board with dyslexia, no shame and hysterical written on it

Two years ago I might have traded my dyslexia in to be "normal." What I didn't know then is there is no such thing as "normal." Who decided what normal is, anyway? Today I live a very funny life and it provides endless comic relief. A few months ago while browsing Facebook, I saw a friend's status that said something about a gopher eating the grass in her backyard. For about 10 minutes I was trying to figure out why a golfer would be eating the grass in her backyard. Trying to rationalize this, I figured she lived on a golf course. Although this still didn't answer the question why a golfer would be eating the grass, I suddenly realized it was a GOPHER! It's like a scene out of Caddyshack but this is my real life! I spent the entire day laughing over this.

Shortly after this incident yet another prolific event sent me into hysterics. I was reading aloud a list of cities. I read placenta for Placentia. This might seem like a minor error that could happen to anyone; seriously that "I" seems pretty sneaky to me, but when your friend bursts out laughing and your daughter asks, "What's a placenta?", there is nothing more to do than laugh. How about the time I showed up to a dyslexic support group meeting when it was over? I had read the end time as the beginning time. Oh, the irony of it all is just too hysterical! These funny little things happen to me almost daily. It's so bad that my now 11-year-old tells me, "Mom! It doesn't say that!" when I read to her. Good thing the endless hours of tutoring for her dyslexia are paying off. Maybe she should start reading to me now!

Dictionary entry for shame

Sure, I could go for self-loathing and embrace a shame storm, and yes, I do find myself there sometimes. However, I try not to allow myself to wallow there for too long because I recognize nothing positive can be created from that space. To be quite honest, it's just way more fun finding the humor in my mistakes. With two dyslexic children learning to come to terms with their own dyslexia, it's vital that they learn to have a sense of humor about it as early as possible. In our family we spend a lot of time laughing. Out of all the disabilities one might have, dyslexia has got to be the funniest. That being said, would I trade my dyslexia today to be "normal?" The answer is no. Sure, there were some really difficult and discouraging times in my life, but I don't have to live in that space forever. I can move beyond the past and embrace that who I am today is a result of what I have experienced in my life. Through my weaknesses I can find strength and perseverance. I am still a work in progress and have a lot of ironing out to do in my life, but I know I have a choice of which path I want to take. I choose humor, because if I don't it's a slippery slope to self-loathing and despair. The next time you head to the city of Placentia, I know you'll be thinking of the city "Placenta" and will laugh!

Dyslexia: It's a funny life I lead and I wouldn't change it for anything!

Stacey

 

 

 

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