Please note that this blog post contains religious content. It is written by an individual, and does not represent the views of Dyslexia Scotland.
On 12 October I went to a conference on ‘neurodiversity’, faith and church. I put ‘neurodiversity’ in inverted commas because, as one of the speakers helpfully explained, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism and Tourette’s aren’t ‘neurodiversity’; they are part of neurodiversity. I found it self-affirming to be in a social environment where the focus was these ‘neurodiverse’conditions.
The conference was in London. It was run jointly by an organisation called Inclusive Church and a church called St Martin-in-the-Fields. There were 80 delegates there. As far as I’m aware, I was the only one from Scotland.
Here are 3 things that I particularly liked about the conference.
- Dyslexia support for group discussion
For one session we split up into groups of 10. The chairperson of my group was a dyslexic PhD student. We were to discuss a story from the Bible. We were given the story in our conference packs and it had already been read out to us by someone. But discussing it was difficult for me because I find reading comprehension difficult.
So I asked if someone could retell the story briefly in their own words. The dyslexic chair did so brilliantly, by narrating the first part and presenting the second part as a dialogue. This let me grasp the story and take part in the discussion. It took all of 30 seconds.
- Contemplative photography
One of the speakers was dyslexic. He creates photographs to express himself and engage with God. It has helped him rescue his faith.
His photos are manipulated. For example, this photo is made up of photos of a statue of Jesus, a leaf and a baking tray. The photographer synthesised them to show Jesus nurtured in the leaf.
I find the Bible quite difficult to read, even if I use an accessible translation like the Contemporary English Version. In fact it’s taken me 10 years so far and I’m still not through it yet. So the idea of using photography to think about God makes a lot of sense to me.
Several of the speakers were clerics (e.g. vicars, curates). They spoke generously of their personal experience of neurodiversity, faith and church. I found it really helpful to hear them speak live. They gave me the message ‘I accept myself as I am’. Their confidence and straight talking strengthened me. You can access their stories in video and print formats here.
I also discovered a collection of stories by 30 disabled church-goers, including dyslexic ones, describing their experience of church.
Finally, there was a book on the conference reading list called ‘The Other Side of Dyslexia’ by Hope S Beale. Hope quotes from the Bible to back up what she says about her experience of dyslexia. I find this very helpful and I’ve not come across it done anywhere else.
If you’d like to find out more about including dyslexic people in churches, see ‘Dyslexia-friendly Churches’ for comprehensive guidance on this.
By an anonymous member of Dyslexia Scotland