The stigma of disability

I have been in school for 16 years and I am still learning how to spell and read fluently. After years of tests and being diagnosed as dyslexic and disabled I have begun to believe that maybe dyslexia isn’t a disability. Rather the school system that I am a part of is not the right environment for my brain to function in.

Throughout my many years of school I have spent more time trying to figure out how I can adapt into the American school system than focusing on the material put in front of me to learn. But several years ago I heard a quote by Albert Einstein that helped me see that dyslexia as something entirely different than a disability that I need to overcome.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Yes, my brain is a minority. I am part of the 10 percent of Americans who are diagnosed with dyslexia, according to the Dyslexia Research Institute. I am not saying that we need to restructure the whole American school system, but I do think that we need to change how we diagnose and also identify dyslexic students.

After going though many years of tests and having to be parts of alternative classrooms to learn, I have found that dyslexia has become taboo and unspoken. Students diagnosed with dyslexia face years of embarrassment, confusion, frustration, and feeling like they are stupid. Like the fish in Einstein’s quote, dyslexic children can be geniuses as much as the next student, but the negatives associated with dyslexia make it hard for them to find their smarts.

We need to shift from the label “learning disability,” to something that focuses on the idea that all our brains function and learn differently. I can say with confidence that having dyslexia means I have many gifts that others don’t have. Yet the constant need to try to dismantle the stigma behind the idea of disability means I don’t have space to fully embrace and use my gifts in school.

I have been constantly trying to understand how everyone else’s brains work. So I would challenge everyone to learn a little more about the dyslexic brain. There are many articles and books out there about dyslexia. This is just one article to start with.

Categories: Academics, Campus, Community, Diversity, Opinion, Other, PLU, Student Life

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