A Dyslexic Doctorate

I was never smart enough to get a doctorate. Frankly I probably was not smart enough to graduate high school. I see the world through cixelsyd… wait, I mean dyslexic eyes.

I have severe dyslexia. What this means is that when I read, the words on the page dance around, sometimes jumbling letters and sometimes jumbling words. This is often seen when I am reading a long passage of scripture from the pulpit, and I may mistakenly omit or jumble words while reading it. Reading usually takes me twice as long because I need to deliberately go back, reread, and then work to comprehend what was on the page.  

My story with dyslexia began in elementary school. I remember in the first grade spending recess in my teacher’s class not because I was causing problems but because I was slow. In third or fourth grade my teachers sat down with my parents to let them know that my learning disabilities would most likely prevent me from graduating, passing the state standardized test, and moving on to higher education. The teacher’s recommendation was to move me into special education where I would be passed from grade to grade but be exempted from any expectations.

This meeting over my deficiencies laid the groundwork for my future. At this meeting my parents refused to remove expectations from me, but it also spurred them to become advocates for learning disabilities in my school district. I was tested by the Scottish Rite Hospital for dyslexia and found to have a heaping helping of dyslexic brain function.

My mother pleaded, prodded, and irritated the school district into launching a dyslexia program. By this point, she had stepped out of the workforce to make me a priority, and she worked with teachers, administrators, and me to make sure I would not be a lost in the cracks kid. I remember working for hours on end with her over spelling words which were probably a quick review for others.

Over time because of my parents’ work and a curriculum specifically built to help dyslexic students learn to cope, I began to learn how to learn in a traditional school environment. Without intervention, I probably would not be where I am. Frankly, without intervention I would not have graduated high school.

Throughout the process of writing for my doctorate, my dyslexia was in full bloom. Even though I have learned to cope with the learning disability, it does not mean that I do not still struggle with it. As I finished writing papers and working on my project, my work always went to my wife who has immense skill in the English language.

My wife regularly jokes that she is not proofing my writing but instead translating a foreign Wes language into English. There were moments while proofing that she would say, “what on earth were you trying to say there?” If not for her patient and detailed eye, I would not have graduated. I jokingly tell her that half of the doctorate is hers because I would not be able to graduate without her translating my work. It’s true.

I am writing the story of my dyslexia not to somehow bolster my accomplishment or pat myself on the back but instead to serve as an example to others. I love to tell the story of my dyslexic brain because there are families struggling with the stigma of learning disabilities. School districts are often difficult to navigate regarding these needs, and parents often feel isolated and discouraged.

Dyslexia is not an excuse, but it is also a very real learning disability. My dyslexia does partly define me. It is part of who I am and how I think. I stand on the work of my mother and my wife who have toiled countless hours helping me succeed both in primary school and post graduate school.

As I have walked the education road with dyslexia, I will gladly state that God is using my learning disability. The words of Paul resound in me, that even in my desire to be free from jumbled letters and words, His grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in my weakness. “Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”

 

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