I have what I like to think of as a blog bank, a document that contains questions I ask myself about dyslexia and links to articles that provoke thoughts that are relevant to discuss here. Top of that list for a long time (because more pressing things have got in the way) was a blog on a survey that was conducted last summer about how, as a result of social media and reality TV, one in four British people think that Britain is a nation of over-sharers. Although in some instances the survey is correct (I don’t need to see what people are eating for dinner or have scores of people commenting on the aftermath of the Lucy Beale storyline in EastEnders on Facebook), the new everything must be shared mentality may be good for some things. Important things.
While some people may have thought it ill-advised and tasteless, there is no denying that Jade Goody’s decision to fight cervical cancer in the public eye raised awareness of the disease, she herself of course having become famous as a result of Big Brother. More recently, Katie Price’s stint in the house has led to a discussion about the provision of resources allocated to children with additional support needs, following her admission that her disabled son’s Harvey’s transport to and from school is not something she pays for despite her considerable wealth. While in no way related to dyslexia, the stories of these two women do teach us something relevant: Very few subjects are taboo anymore.
While dyslexia isn’t in itself taboo in the sense that it is now well understood and openly discussed, what is more taboo, despite the number of successful people in the public eye that happen to have it, is seeing dyslexia as something that does not define an individual. As a consequence, people with the condition still may have trouble articulating not only what they find difficult but also how it makes them feel and how these things combined impact upon their daily lives. In short, there is a massive difference between understanding what dyslexia is and being understanding about dyslexia.
Before volunteering here, I had no idea that Jamie Oliver and Keira Knightley have dyslexia. I’ve only recently found out that Jennifer Aniston has it too. While it is great that people with dyslexia have role models that they can relate to, let me put it another way: If it doesn’t concern us why should we know? How would we know for certain unless someone told us? We wouldn’t. While that is exactly as it should be, it is doubtless that continued misconceptions about the condition, as well as the lack of empathy some people seem to have towards it, discourage people from talking about their experiences of it. Anything that can reverse such feelings, whether that be talking via an internet platform as opposed to face-to-face or relating their feelings to the experiences of another person (reality TV sob stories were also blamed for the erosion of Britain’s so-called stiff upper lip), is surely a good thing. I’m not saying that people need to broadcast their innermost thoughts and feelings on dyslexia to the world in the style of Jeremy Kyle, but why does stoicism have to be seen as a good thing all the time? Why does it have to be one extreme or the other? Stoicism versus over-sharing? I’d rather be over-sharing than overbearing. Because by criticising those who you deem to be over-sharing, you may be the overbearing force that discourages them from speaking out about dyslexia. What would that achieve?