This week, nearly a year from ‘going public’ as an academic with dyslexia, I was asked two questions I found difficult to answer.
Firstly, What have you achieved, as a person with dyslexia, to this point in your life – being widely acknowledged as a leader in academia, business and the community?
And secondly, What would you say to your eight year old self struggling to understand why others around him could read and write whilst he was increasingly being labelled stupid and lazy?
Whilst the questions were asked separately, I now realise the answers are inextricably linked and help explain why I decided to Chair the Board of Trustees at NUWord (See – Dyslexia Superpower: A new dawn)
My answer to, What have you achieved? Was, I have survived – I am a survivor of dyslexia.
This immediate and heartfelt response says much about my journey through education and work – and is so often heard from people with dyslexia – success is to survive. I went on to explain that as a dyslexic, I live in a hostile world full of words and with the constant fear of exposure. So, to survive each day is a big achievement and far from any notion of public recognition or superhero status.
But, said the questioner, you have achieved so much – what would you say to your younger self? That mere survival is all he has to look forward to?
Therein lies the critical flaw in my position. To survive is not enough – we need also to hope. So, that is the message for my younger self – the hope of a better future, to reinvent dyslexia not as a disability or even a difference but an advantage. This is the mission of NUWord.
Ask me again, What would you say to your younger self?
I would look that boy straight in the eye and say, You have been born with a great advantage. Nurture it and it will be your true superpower and it will help all around you to have richer lives.