We all face something at some point during our lives that challenges us in a way that can transform us. For me, this came at a very young age when I was too young to know how it would shape my future. The memories of my challenges start in kindergarten, when I could not use scissors and cut like all of my classmates nor could I tie my shoes. During my first few years in grammar school I wrote my B’s and D’s backwards, could not pass the weekly spelling tests despite hours of practice at home, and struggled with reading. Also, I was the last in my grade to ride a bicycle.
In addition, occupational therapy improved my fine motor skills and I joined a year round club swim team for core body strengthening. Finally, after seeing many specialists, learning I was dyslexic became the key to improving my struggles. Though there is no cure, a diagnosis, I feel, is what set me free.
Dyslexia is not a learning disability, just a difference in learning. It certainly made me “different.” I left school early or came in late because I had to go to a reading specialist outside of school to essentially relearn the English language. Frequent, I arrived late to practices and games. My tests were taken outside the classroom or in a small group, sometimes with my desk facing a wall or window. There were always questions from my classmates and friends. Some days I felt embarrassed, others hurt when I was ridiculed. I just wanted to be normal, like my classmates.
Sports were always a part of my daily routine. I learned years ago to use my hours in the water productively. Swimming is often called a very lonely sport. Stroking hundreds and eventually thousands of meters at practice gave me time alone to think and review what I had learned that day. I became strong, fit, and skilled at time management. At the pool, I was just like everyone else. My teammates have never cared how I spell, read, or write. They remain my closest friends.
At sixteen, I no longer feel different. My classification was removed just before high school and I entered a larger school full of mostly new students who did not know my past. I was no longer ridiculed and the things that I did to cure my issues immediately became my assets. Working twice as hard as others to keep up and accomplish what comes easy to many is second nature to me. Though my challenges seem a part of my past, they are really a part of my everyday existence and will continue to shape my future. My career choice, elementary education, emerged from my journey and the age my struggles began.
Anyone can educate themselves about dyslexia. However, every dyslexic’s story is unique. For all of us, test taking, especially those that are standardized, will always be difficult because they are language based. Personally, the inability to test well is just a small part of who I am. I can live with this being the only visible remaining “scar” of dyslexia and I refuse to let it define me. It is important to never judge another personal quickly or by appearances, even by something a simple as a handwriting sample. What is not easily seen, a person’s desire, drive, ambition and true ability, can be easily disguised.
The lessons I have received from being dyslexic are many, too long to list. Honestly, I now label being dyslexic a gift. The three most important things it has given me early in my life are my work ethic, time management, and direction in my career path. It takes many individuals a lifetime to learn the lessons dyslexia has taught me in just sixteen short years. I consider myself lucky. Dyslexia is a blessing that was simply disguised as a curse.
By: Luke Winkelman