I took a bit of a self-esteem stumble after being pushed by some hurtful words over the weekend. I really let the words get to me and I started to doubt my goals because of them. They’re just words, but it seems that words have always been at the root of my self-esteem issues.
You see, I am dyslexic. And that, coupled with early speech delays, meant that growing up I was referred to as stupid and, in the eyes of some, un-teachable. Sadly, those views are still held by some people. And, sadly, some people I know think that I am, in fact, learning disabled.
Over the weekend, I was informed that I am being selfish by pursuing a PhD; just as I’d been selfish in pursuing my undergraduate and graduate degrees. The reasoning is simple: Higher education is a valuable resource and when places at higher learning institutions are given to people with learning disabilities, it means that someone without a learning impairment is being denied a chance for an education.
The thing is, some people believe that dyslexia means stupid. Some people believe that a person with dyslexia is unable to learn; that someone with dyslexia is not capable of intellectual pursuits. Unfortunately, some of those people are dyslexic themselves and they believe those things to be true because no one ever helped them to see otherwise.
But I’m here to tell you that those people are wrong.
Dyslexia doesn’t mean someone is stupid. It doesn’t mean someone is unable to learn, unable to spell, or unable to read. And it certainly doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t deserve all the same educational rights as everyone else.
Yes. I am dyslexic. But that just means I have to work a little bit harder to get my thoughts out of my brain. I am most certainly not stupid though. Nor do I have a diminished ability to learn. I think I’ve proven that on more than one occasion.
It saddens me when someone says that they have dyslexia and therefore “can’t” do something because I believe, in many of those cases, they lack self-esteem and support—not intelligence and ability. It saddens me when people continually suggest that people with dyslexia are “bad spellers” or “can’t read well” because I know that those things don’t have to be true! And when people learn that I am dyslexic, it’s almost expected that I will get things wrong.
So I work really hard to spell things correctly. Yes, spelling and grammar are hard work for me, but getting it right is worth the extra time for me. And when I do get it wrong (which does happen, I admit it) I cringe when I’m informed that it’s “because I’m dyslexic”. Because, sometimes, it’s just because I was typing so fast that my fingers stumbled over the keyboard; just like a “normal” person’s do every day.
But—guess what!—I get it right most of the time. It’s hard work and I stress out about it, but I do it. Because I can. Because I am not learning disabled. I am a smart woman who just happens to have a brain that works in a slightly kooky manner.
Of course, if those naysayers are right and dyslexic people are unable to learn as well as others, then I’d like to propose that I am, in fact, a genius of Einstein-like proportions. OK, I’m not as clever as Einstein was, but—in this theory—that’s because I’m dyslexic. If I wasn’t dyslexic, can you imagine how bloody brilliant I’d be? We’d be talking Noble Prize, baby!
But, then, Einstein was dyslexic, too. (Did you know that?) So if the idea that dyslexic people will always be less intelligent than others is true, then can you imagine how much smarter Old Albert would have been had he not been dyslexic? Wow! He could have cured world hunger in his sleep!
The point, the rambling and slightly emotional point, is that I am just as deserving as an education as the next person—with or without my dyslexia—because I am intelligent and because I am capable of learning. I know that some of my supporters today were some of my doubters from the past, I guess I’m just frustrated that some of my doubters still won’t believe that I am intelligent; they still won’t believe that I am more than capable of greatness. And that, to me, is a sign of their ignorance.