Healing Your Inner Child: Creating a Positive Dyslexic Identity - Part 1

Posted by Chantal Gagnon on

Dyslexic Dayna smiling in a orange bucket hat and rainbow jump suite.  Written by Dyslexicdayna

     

    Play the video above for the audio recording of this blog post - read by DyslexicDayna. 

    The written form is how we document everything significant in our world. Its value is ingrained in us from a preschool age and the educational system has set targets and milestones for each child to meet at different stages of their development. It's not surprising that this system curates negative self concepts and low self esteem in dyslexic children. Dyslexic children are swept up in a 16 year whirlwind of tests, red pen and negative feedback and are constantly reminded that their extreme efforts don't reap rewards. In a article published in 2018 it states:

    Children are expected to reach specific ‘developmental goals’ [...] the only way to establish a strong, positive identity is by achieving these developmental tasks. [...] Research consistently suggests that dyslexic children are most likely to have difficulties both in coping with school and socially, putting them at ‘risk of develop- ing distorted or damaged self-concepts'

    So… what happens to these children? Well, They turn into adults like me… and it's safe to say that I was left with some serious healing to do. I want to share the tips I've used to heal my inner child and create a positive dyslexic identity. So you can too!

    Tip one: Change how you speak to yourself. 

    In 2021, I sat in the guest bedroom at my childhood home, filling out a job application. Very quickly, I became overwhelmed by its inaccessible layout, tiny text and convoluted questions. After numerous cups of tea and many rewrites, I hit a breaking point and felt the rise of a feeling I was all too familiar with, que the … dyslexic despair. Very quickly, I was a blubbering mess convinced of my inability to do ANYTHING. My mind raced with historic phrases, “I’m thick!” and “I can’t do anything without help!”. Each wave brought on the next onslaught of tears that streamed down my face and rested in the crooks of my lips. These episodes have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember whether it was failing my GCSE English mock test or tanking an Alice in Wonderland audition by learning the wrong scene. It is in these moments I am able to see just how damaged my dyslexic identity is and in conjunction my inner child. This particular episode left me drained for days and it was here, eating maltesers in the bathtub, shrivelled up like a prune, that I began to reflect. I realised I needed to change the way I spoke to myself. 

      “I’m thick!”

    to 

    “I'm feeling overwhelmed by this task right now, that's ok,  it is not a reflection of my ability, I'm going to take a break and come back to it later”. 

     
    “I can’t do anything without help!”
    to
    “I’m dyslexic and require adjustments, these adjustments don’t diminish my achievements. My successes are my own."

    via GIPHY

    I encourage you to take the time to notice how you speak to yourself in moments of dyslexic despair and reframe them to be more in line with your values and how you’d speak to others. If you’re struggling, steal my positive phrases for a rainy day! Here’s a digital resource: 

    Socolo Phrase Bank

    EXTRA TIP: if you’re creative like me, journaling and noting down your thoughts can be a great way to unpick how you’re feeling and make changes, here's a video of the different ways to journal to get you started: How to Journal for Mental Health

    Tip Two: Find your power, learn about your rights!

    In the UK dyslexia is covered in the 2010 equality act, which means you have the right to receive ‘reasonable adjustments within the educational and workplace framework. Society relies on us not knowing our rights and unfortunately, uses this blind spot to discriminate against us. A lot of traumatic childhood memories centre around discrimination by a teacher or employer. To heal my inner child, I had to learn to fight for her and thus armed myself with knowledge and self-assurance. Now, I want to arm you, here are three key points to ALWAYS remember:  

    1. You have the right to adjustments at school and work (eg, extra time completing a task or assistive technology)
    2. You know best how dyslexia affects you, be assertive and don’t be afraid to make requests (eg, I require my work notes to be printed on yellow paper as I am dyslexic and also suffer from visual distress)
    3. Don’t be afraid to report! discrimination comes in many shapes and sizes, if you suspect you are being discriminated against because of your dyslexia rest assured the law is on your side!

    via GIPHY

    EXTRA TIP: If your adjustment in the workplace requires financial input (ie, assistive software or coloured printed pads), ask your employer to apply for the access to work scheme. This fund is set up in the UK to support disabled and neurodivergent employees.

    Video resource: Your Guide to Access to Work

    EXTRA TIP: If you are a student, Disabled students allowance is there to financially support you, speak to your universities student services and ask for their guidance in the application process.

    Video resource: A Short Guide to the Disabled Students Allowance

    Tip three: Connect. 

    In 2021 I began uploading video sketches on a video-sharing platform, which theatrically depicted my unique dyslexic experience. Every video I shared I received comments from others communicating their stories and together, we are able to create a space centred on commonality.

    via GIPHY

     You don’t need to upload sketches online to achieve this (you can if you want!) but, instead, I encourage you to connect with the dyslexic community in your own way! Whether it’s messaging somebody you know or joining an online group. There are many ways to connect and it is in these spaces you’ll find healing.

    There is much more to say, but I hope these tips support you on your journey! Stay tuned for part two!

     

    Sources: 

    Lithari, E. (2018). Fractured academic identities: dyslexia, secondary education, self-esteem and school experiences. Vol.23. Issue 3. P.280-296. [online] Available from: https://www-tandfonline-com.manchester.idm.oclc.org/doi/pdf/10.1080/13603116.2018.1433242?needAccess=true
    Siegel, L, S. Perspectives on dyslexia, Paediatrics & Child Health. (2006). Vol 11, Issue 9. P.581-587. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/11.9.581
    Halliwell, D. (2022) A dyslexic perspective on exploring individuality in an assessed reflective essay: developing an alternative submission for assessment within an acting course. Masters Thesis. Arts University Bournemouth.
    Eide, B. and Eide, F. (2011). The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. United Kingdom: Hay House.

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