Guest blog by Rosa Weber: We’re all in this together (40/52)

The actual title of Rosa Weber’s, Co-Founder of the NUword charity, guest blog is ‘Why I became a Dyslexia Activist‘ but I couldn’t help highlighting the power of people with dyslexia and people effected by dyslexia working together or in the words of High School Musical, “We’re all in this together …” Sorry – you won’t be able to get that tune out of tier head all day!

Perhaps this image will help …

Guest blog by Rosa Weber: Why I became a Dyslexia Activist

“Many of my friends from school and beyond are dyslexic, so I’ve always known about it generally. They’re now a multi-talented bunch of film makers, painters, designers, social workers, leather workers, graffiti artists, lawyers, music makers… to name a few. They have succeeded despite all the difficulties on their journey through the school system. Yet it’s vital to remember that this is not everyone’s story: many dyslexic children, teenagers and adults are still being left behind, isolated, sidelined and woefully misunderstood.

It wasn’t until working closely with author Sally Gardner, as her assistant, that I began to truly understand what dyslexia is. Sally is severely dyslexic and what I’ve learnt from her is that it’s not about extra time, free computers, problems with spelling, reading, organisation. No, no, no. This is only what we are conditioned to associate with the word dyslexia. What this obscure word really means is huge imagination, holistic problem solving, visual thinking, 3D processing, divergent thinking… all skills that are now highly sought after by the creative and corporate sectors. Valuable, measurable skills that are usually repressed by Primary and Secondary schools – they go unnoticed, unnourished, unmarked.

It is the education system and the curriculum that marginalise dyslexic thinkers. It is not the fault of our teachers, for they’re being forced to work in an increasingly underfunded and unimaginative framework. The issues lie with the heavily text-based, out-dated, mind-boggling, memory-centric load of questionable questions that are perpetually asked to thinkers with dyslexia – who do not decode in text, but in images. What, then, if we were all required to draw our exam answers instead of write them? All of us strong spellers, readers, text thinkers  – well, we’d probably be pretty screwed. We’d be the disenfranchised group with the ‘disability’ label.

The bottom line is this: we are still wasting generations of brilliant minds. And it’s not the 1950s anymore. Through working with Sally – who’s experience of education was, as for many dyslexic thinkers, horror-filled – I have learnt how to develop my visual thinking, hone my imagination, solve problems from all angles – not just the angle that ticks the establishment box. What more, then, can dyslexic thinkers teach non-dyslexics? So much about resilience, grit. Hard work. Emotional intelligence. The beautiful languages of the image.

Collectively we must bring a halt to years of disenfranchisement and discrimination. We must call on schools to diversify measurements of academic attainment. Allow visual essays, spoken exams. The working world must stop binning CVs with spelling mistakes. And non-dyslexics must demonstrate more solidarity with the dyslexic people in their lives by getting to know their many strengths, not just accepting the generalising weaknesses that are associated with that misrepresentative word.

This is why I became a Dyslexia Activist. This is why, after six years of research, and with some initial core funding from the brilliant George Koukis of Temenos, Sally and I have recently set up NUword Charity. Learning and talking about the strengths of dyslexia will open up your mind. As a non-dyslexic, understanding and developing your own typical dyslexic skills will diversify, and therefore improve, the ways in which you engage with the world. It also might help us bring a halt to all these cruel years of educational and social injustice: it’s time to imagine a world beyond the word dyslexia.”

So, having read Rosa Weber’s powerful blog, what do you think the right answer to the following question, from Rosa and Sally Gardner, should be?

Nigel, would you like to be the first Chair of the Board of Trustees for the new NUWord Charity?

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

For more information about NUwords’ upcoming projects, please email nuword.london@gmail.com, see www.nuword.org (site in beta), or follow @nuword_dyslexia