Let’s Use Blue Ribbons To Show What Dyslexia Can Do

I was watching a BBC 1 program about the marches commemorating 100 years since women were given the vote. One of the commentators quoted women like Marie Wilson (from The White House Project) “You can’t be what you can’t see”.

This got me thinking – this quote is as relevant to dyslexia as to the suffrage movement, as dyslexia is a “hidden disability” for lack of a better term.

Firstly, and most encouragingly for those who feel that they are losing the battle with dyslexia, we cannot be only dyslexic, as no one can see it. Others see the stellar person who contains the learning/thinking difference we call dyslexia.

Secondly, I think part of the problem with our disabling society as that it cannot be understanding and accommodating of dyslexia if it cannot see it. Obviously no one will ever manage to make dyslexia visible and I’m not entirely sure we want it to be (because we should not let dyslexia define us).

However, I believe a good way to make dyslexia visible to society is to showcase our dyslexic talents and then say to people “and did you know that I am dyslexic and this is how society disables me”.

I believe this is especially important as dyslexia is sooo diverse. If you are a frequent reader of Dyslexia Scotland’s blog you may know that I am very creative and have begun making blue ribbons for the annual Dyslexia Awareness Week (each November). You may also have noticed that my use of the blue ribbon has changed and evolved over the months and years. One of my latest creations is in the photograph below.

DK_2018_blue_ribbon

I decided to knit these large ribbons so that they would be more visible at Dyslexia Awareness Week displays. Also I thought they could be worn by school ambassadors (possibly as a sash) perhaps even with badges attached (in order to aid in distribution).

However, this one is multi-toned partly to make what is essentially a bit of a boring scarf (ask any long-term knitter, they’ll tell you how soul-destroying such a project can be) a bit more interesting for me: but also to show how multi-faceted dyslexic traits can be (but how they are all part of the one thinking/learning difference)

Returning to the battle for equality and how women banded together and used their united cause and sheer numbers to gain the vote – if we start talking about dyslexia we can identify each other. Because,  We cannot be united when we cannot see/identify each other!

Thirdly, I’d like to ask a question of parents, teachers, tutors and employers = “How can someone be working towards success if they cannot see achievement? For example,

  • If they always see red crosses all over their work that has received a failing grade? You could use that very same red pen to write in the correct spellings and punctuation (or “I don’t understand what you mean). Also, why not add marks beside each section/answer to show where marks are won and lost”?
  • If they never get an award or certificate for anything, then certificates could be given out for creativity, showman/showpersonship and teamwork as well as academics.
  • If someone is always told “you’re bringing the team down”?  Why not try the following magic word – “THANKS”? The workplaces (I have experienced) where “thank you” is liberally used have high morale.
  • If a child is told “you cannot ever work on your passion because you really need to work on all this stuff you struggle with”. As far as I can see successful people are at the top-of-their-game because they are doing what they are brilliant at and getting others to do what they can’t. How can any human being survive, thrive and succeed: if all they seem to do is fail?

Therefore,  I suggest that everyone lets their (guiding) light shine. Don’t hide it under a bush and don’t blow it out. Hold your brightly shining light high and take it around the world and aim for the moon (even if you miss you’ll end up among the stars)…And wear dyslexia blue ribbons during Dyslexia Awareness Week (5-10 November 2018)!

Doreen Kelly, Volunteer and Member of Dyslexia Scotland

 

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Growing positively from trauma

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(Image standard copyright Dyslexia Scotland)

Several years ago, I had some negative experiences in employment.  These were caused by my dyslexia and people’s unhelpful responses to it, both before and after I was identified.  In this blog post, I’d like to tell you about 7 things that have helped me grow positively from these negative experiences.

1)    Counselling

About a year after the experiences, I started having flashbacks.  I didn’t know what they were – I was afraid I was losing my mind.  So I went for some counselling.

This gave me names for what I had experienced (trauma) and what I was experiencing (Post Traumatic Stress).  It also let me see that we can’t undo the past or forget it; but we can grow positively from it.  I started to see myself as a survivor instead of a victim.  This let me start to gain control over the traumatic experiences.

2)    Stress Control

Stress Control’ is a course that tells you how to manage stress.  I attended one presented by some psychologists from my local NHS trust.  There was a question box.  I asked ‘Is Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) different from “normal” stress?’  The short answer was ‘Yes, PTS is different.  But it’s treatable, by talking over the traumatic events in a safe environment’.  This reassured me because I’d done that in counselling.

3)    Independent research

Once I knew I’d experienced trauma, I was able to find self-help material on it.  Here are some resources that have helped me.

Trauma is Really Strange’ – comic book.

Making Sense of Trauma – How to tell your story’ – tells you how you can use narrative to grow positively from trauma.

The Forgiveness Project website and book – share people’s stories of forgiveness and photos.

4)    Ongoing support and self-help

I’ve gone to a mental health drop-in twice.  This has given me the chance to talk to mental health professionals about whatever I want help with.  They’ve been calm and non-judgemental and have helped me well.

I also asked a mental health organisation to recommend self-help resources on workplace bullying and emotional healing, which they did.

5)    Creative arts

Writing, singing and photography all boost my mood and keep negative thoughts out of my mind while I am doing them.

Attending some adult learning and Dyslexia Scotland Adult Network prompted me to start writing for publication.  My first piece was very cathartic because it let me make something positive out of my negative experiences.  Since then, writing has been a therapeutic and rewarding constant for me.

I sing in a couple of groups.  The beneficial effect of this lasts long after our practices and performances because the music we’ve sung replays in my head.  And I find myself singing it at odd moments.

I take photos of nature, for example the butterfly above.  I enjoy looking at the photos afterwards.  I often marvel at the beauty and detail in them.

6)    Lovely people

I attend an organisation weekly.  I greatly benefit from being part of it because the people there are good to be with.  They smile at me and call me by name.  They talk to me and respond to my dyslexia sensitively and intelligently.  They encourage and support me.  They are accepting, positive and kind.

7)    Being proactive

Doing things to protect other dyslexic adults from trauma has let me use my experience to help others.  For example, I wrote to my employer telling them how they could improve their management of dyslexia.

How about you?

What’s helped you grow positively from trauma?

By a member of Dyslexia Scotland