The most surefire way to dispel any doubts people have about your dyslexia is to show them a scan of a dyslexic brain. A number of years ago I participated in a study at Stanford Medical Center that created the image you see below. I’ve found it so useful in establishing the scientific basis for dyslexia that we’ve included it as a free downloadable handout on the Headstrong Nation website. It is a great tool to bring to teacher or IEP meetings.
The images above were provided by Ben. According to Ben, they show the difference between a dyslexic and non-dyslexic brain. These functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) highlight brain activity captured while the subjects were reading. Activity is seen in areas in color. At left is a composite scan of a typical reader with lots of brain activity in the temporal parietal lobes. The image on the right is of Ben’s brain.
The funny part about this image is that after I completed my testing, I started to get nervous. It occurred to me that all the testing might indicate I was not really dyslexic after all. If there was no dyslexia, then all of the accommodations I’d been getting in graduate school were ill-gotten. Maybe I really was lazy and just didn’t focus the way my classmates could. Maybe I was stupid and couldn’t cut it at the highest level.
When I came back to get my results, the lab coat–wearing researcher looked very nervous. She couldn’t make eye contact with me and fidgeted in her seat. The more anxious she looked, the more nervous I got that this wasn’t going to go well. She finally looked up from her clipboard, and the following conversation ensued.
“Ben, I don’t know how to tell you this...but you’re really dyslexic.” “Really? Excellent!” I meant it. I was greatly relieved. “Wait, that’s good news?” “Definitely. I’m thrilled!” “Well, you’re in the bottom 15 percent when it comes to reading and writing.” “Outstanding!” “And you’re in the bottom 1 percent on letter recognition—we don’t even really have a number to describe how bad you are at recognizing a letter when it’s shown to you.” “That’s wonderful news. I thought I might have been faking these problems. It’s great to know they’re real!”
I’d gone from not liking my dyslexia, and therefore not liking myself, to viewing it as an essential part of who I was. These days I’ll tell that story to anyone who will listen. Whereas before I hid my dyslexia, now I talk about it on national television, as I did last week on PBS.
When you’ve fully integrated dyslexia into your life—or your child feels no more shame to be dyslexic—you’ll find that you and your child take real pleasure in helping out other people who are just like you. Our schools, our workplaces and, in some cases, our families can do so much better on this issue. Every time each of us talks about our disability—or a disability we embrace in our family—positively, it works its way into the broader conversation. Eventually we can make even the largest institutions rethink what’s possible and what’s appropriate. The most interesting part about dyslexia is the future of it, and you and your child will have a bright one.
See Ben’s “Native Tongue”I have found that people have a hard time believing my dyslexia when they see only the final product of my written work. These days, I generally speak to a computer and use Dragon Naturally Speaking to have it transcribed, greatly increasing my speed and accuracy when writing. The following is the first paragraph of this blog as it was written without the benefit of spellcheck, word prediction or editing.
The most sure fure way to dispell any boudtds people hvae about dysleixa is to whothem a scan of a sylexic brain. A number of years ago I participated in a study at standorf university medical center that created a image on the right. I have found itso useful in establishing the scienticific basis for dyslexia that I have included it a free downloanable hand out on the headstrong nation webstie. It is great to bring to tracher or IEP meetings.