The other day my son over heard me on a conference call with several people where we were discussing IDEA. He waited a few days, clearly processing what he over heard, then he walked into my office and said he needed to talk to me.
My son asked, with a quivering chin and tears in his eyes, “Mom, is dyslexia a disability?”
My heart sank.
“And, if it’s a disability, does that mean something is wrong with me?”
I took a deep breath and a substantial pause while I carefully considered my words.
“No, dyslexia is NOT a disability, and there is nothing wrong with you. Legally, it’s classed as a disability because it’s the only way we, as parents, can get public schools to give you what you need.”
Inside my head, “Because they don’t actually care about education? Because they don’t understand dyslexia? Because to be different in any way requires a label so they can even begin to process the ways by which they’re going to fail you? Because people are stupid and unless we label what we don’t understand we can’t cope as a society?”
Instead I responded with, “Because like I’ve said for years, people just don’t understand. I’m sorry that they don’t. I wish they did. This is one of the reasons why I’m so vocal.”
“I’m angry that people think I have a disability. Nothing is wrong with me!”
“Baby, I know that and you know that, and you knowing it is all that matters. There’s nothing at all wrong with you, or with your brain. What people don’t understand is exactly that, that your brain is just wired differently. Because of this you have to work harder at your reading, but no, nothing at all is wrong with you. You’re not stupid or broken. You’re the smartest person I know! Never let someone who doesn’t understand tell you that you’re less than, or try to make you feel that way.”
“I know I’m smart. I know nothing is wrong with me. I don’t feel like anything is wrong with me. I just don’t understand. It isn’t right.”
“I know, baby. I’m glad you believe in yourself and understand that. It’s an unfortunate reality. People think the only way laws can help is to say you’re broken, when you’re not. Not in the least.”
“This makes me sad, Mom. Well, maybe not sad. I mean, I am sad, but mostly I’m angry.”
“I know you’re sad, but please don’t be sad. We’ve talked about this for a long time haven’t we? People just don’t understand. I hope one day to change that. It’s part of the beauty that is you, and part of the beauty that is every other dyslexic, just like the color of your eyes, the thick head of hair on top of your head, your beautiful smile, and your obsession with gaming. It’s just who you are, and no one gets to label you, or classify you, or measure you. We are all beautiful. Be YOU in all of your you-ness and never apologize for it!”
His tears had stopped flowing by now. He dried his face with his hands and said, “I know. I am and I will be. I just don’t understand why people need to call it a disability. It isn’t fair.”
“No, it’s not fair. Are you going to be ok?
“I am ok, Mom. I just wanted to talk about it.”
“I’m glad you did, baby. I’ll always talk about anything you want to talk about.”
“I know. I’m going back to my game now.”
“Ok. Have fun. Love you!”
“Love you too, Mom!”
One comment on “Mom, Why Is My Dyslexia A Disability?”
This is why I balk at the definition of dyslexia as a disability, as “word blindness”, as something that can be prevented if caught early enough. Our kids are born with a neurological profile that makes reading difficult. However, they have other processing difficulties such as random automatized naming, working memory, auditory memory, long-term memory, and such that age t more than just word reading and aren’t comorbidities, though of course our children may have those, as well.
Telling a child that his/her brain is disabled, when that only applies to eye reading, a socially chosen ideal, is cruel.
In our education system, we’ve had to label dyslexia a disability to require legal protection. Otherwise, our children would be deemed unteachable and not the responsibility of the public education system. It’s a trait that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem with ear reading.
All disabilities have had to be protected under IDEA and ADA to force the U S. education system to educate our children.