On Being Dyslexic

Dyslexics Are Exceptional

Today I would like to write about being dyslexic. Before I began, I debated whether I should write about having dyslexia or being dyslexic.

In the past politically correct individuals have chastised me when I spoke about dyslexics. They pointed out that it was politically incorrect and that I should say people with dyslexia. In spite of the fact they tended to be constipated nitpickers, I can understand their confusion. We talk about a person having cancer or heart disease. However I don't think of dyslexia is a disease. As my old friend Margaret Rawson often said, dyslexia is a kind of mind. I think of it as how: "I'm wired" or "my basic programming". We never say, "It was a computer with an Apple operating system. Instead, we say it was a "Mac."

As a child, I knew very early that I was different. As a successful entrepreneur once said "I always thought I was left minded." The most obvious manifestation was that I could never learn to read. In spite of all my teachers and parents efforts I was completely illiterate until I was about 14. I also seem to see and understand things differently. My observations often came out of left field. I remember vividly hating the fact that I was different. I dreamed of waking up one morning and being able to read. I wanted a magic pill.

As I got older I noticed that I could do things that other people couldn't. I was good at fixing things and solving visual puzzles. Furthermore, I was good in mathematics although I never showed my work. However, I couldn't remember my multiplication tables. I was able to see solutions in mathematics much as a gifted musician might be able to play from just listening to a song.

Now that I've worked with hundreds of dyslexics and raised two daughters who are dyslexics, I know that most dyslexics are exceptional. In short, even if I could find that magic pill, there is no way I would take it! I enjoy being dyslexic. I love the way my mind works. The crazy way I combine ideas and understand the world. I love that I can see humor in almost any situation, even if it gets me into trouble. You have to pay a price, I work harder than most of my colleagues and I know I'm hard to live with. But, I love my creativity and the fact my desk looks like New Orleans after Katrina.

Every dyslexic has a unique set of strengths. One of my daughters is gifted in mathematics and my other daughter is an exceptional artist. Most of us are visual thinkers, creative, persistent and have great empathy for others. There are now many videos on dyslexia. However few capture the joy of being dyslexic. The one exception is a video made by a group of English teenagers, 'Dyslexia the Unwrapped Gift'.

Be well and make a bit of noise,

Dr. Michael Ryan

Dr. Michael Ryan