Mark my words: dyslexia is a gift, not a curse!!!
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After learning that his daughter was also dyslexic, Karl de Leeuw set about finding a ‘cure’. His quest triggered a chain of events that will culminate in the inaugural celebration of dyslexia. The condition, he discovered, needs no cure – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
By Karl de Leeuw
Learning that your child has dyslexia can be devastating – it was for me. I grew up in South Africa in the 1970S where my own dyslexia went undiagnosed and unsupported.
I knew first-hand what lay ahead for my nine-year-old daughter. Just three per cent of Britons consider dyslexia to be a positive trait. Not only would she struggle with reading, writing and spelling, but she would have to battle societal prejudices, too.
Would she cope? And, for that matter, could I?
Seeking fresh hope, I researched as many sources as I could find. I soon discovered that conventional wisdom was – in our case at least – counter-intuitive and destructive. It posits that dyslexics should ‘correct’ their brains by developing their left hemisphere, commonly associated with logic, mathematics and writing. It’s a bit like trying to force a square peg into a round hole – it simply can’t be done, or at least not without inflicting damage.
In desperation, I turned to less traditional – some might say leftfield – sources and stumbled upon the Davis Method, which teaches adults and children to overcome academic difficulties by drawing on their own inherent natural strengths. Rather than attempting to ‘correct’ the left hemisphere, the Davis Method focuses instead on harnessing the phenomenal power of its right counterpart, thereby unlocking an individual’s power of creativity, intuition and perception. These are skills that not only weaken dyslexia’s hold but actually give dyslexics a distinct advantage. As a parent, this was a revelation. Dyslexia was no longer a curse but a gift.
The Davis Method involves hard work and even more important the dyslexic person needs to want help; My daughter’s journey involved hard work and plenty of it. But within the space of just three months my daughter, who had been moved into a learning support unit, re-joined her old class. She went through the rest of her school education having to work hard.
Dyslexia should, he said in an interview, be recognised as a sign of potential. Sir Richard Branson, who reportedly dropped out of school at 16 and is among a raft of celebrities with the condition, including Tom Cruise, said his own dyslexia was “treated as a handicap: my teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn’t keep up or fit in.”
Drawing on my own experiences, I set about promoting the notion that dyslexia should be seen as a gift. I even produced an audiobook about it, called The Dyslexia Code, which aims to support the 10% of individuals living with dyslexia and is an appeal for change on the attitudes towards dyslexia.
The International Celebration of Dyslexia is designed to bring that key message to the fore and to inspire adults and children with the “gift” to dream big. To the best of my knowledge, the event will be a world-first; dyslexia associations worldwide have yearly conferences, but none promote dyslexia as a gift – a flaw shared by almost all dyslexia charities.