This is a fair question. Some of our favorite organizations have chosen to answer it differently than we have, and to work with these broader groups and issues. But here are 3 reasons why Dyslexic Advantage believes it’s important to remain a dyslexia-focused organization.
Reason One: Research
First, there’s an entire research literature focusing on dyslexia. Some of this research is applicable to broader groups, but much of it isn’t. Keeping our dyslexia focus allows us to use the insights gained from this research—and to participate in new research—with confidence that it applies to our community. This is true not just of the research relating to reading, but also to research about learning, memory, and processing more broadly, including the information relating to dyslexia-associated strengths and talents. Since understanding, building, and using these strengths is at the core of what we’re trying to do at Dyslexic Advantage, it’s essential for us to build the strongest case we possibly can for the existence of these strengths. Maintaining our dyslexia focus helps us do this.
Reason Two: Community
Second, keeping a dyslexia focus is important for building a strong community. We’ve been privileged to witness the amazing bond that often connects individuals and families with dyslexia. This bond is much easier to see than it is to describe. For example, we’ve often said of our annual conference, where over 2/3 of attendees are dyslexic, that it’s “the family reunion for the family you never knew you had”. Attendees often tell us it’s the first time in their life they really felt surrounded by people who understood them. This bond seems to be built both on shared experiences and on shared ways of seeing and processing experience. It’s not that all people with dyslexia come to the same conclusions—no one who’s ever sat on the board of a dyslexia organization could think that! It’s more that the ways dyslexic people process their experience and develop their answers are often much more similar and understandable to each other than to non-dyslexics. So many things that meet with empty stares from non-dyslexics get nods of comprehension from other “members of the tribe”. Keeping the dyslexia focus creates opportunities to bring people together to share and support each other in this important way.
Reason Three: Advocacy
Third, dyslexic people share certain distinct and important needs for learning that make it essential for them to advocate for specific interventions. We’ll explain this more fully in a later post, but recent happenings in the Senate illustrate this. Without going into detail, interventions that were important for dyslexic students were voted down in large part due to the opposition of pro-literacy groups that were aimed at the needs of broader groups of readers. This is a helpful reminder that dyslexic students have unique needs that will be overlooked unless we band together to make sure those needs are addressed. This should certainly be done in part by building better understanding of shared needs and goals with these other literacy groups. But at the end of the day, dyslexic students make up the bulk of struggling readers and special education students, and it is up to us as a community and not anyone else to make sure their needs are addressed.
We’re Better Together
It’s certainly important for people with dyslexia and their families to remember all the broader communities of which they are also members, and to be good members of these communities. But there are also many important reasons to remember the unique benefits that can come from joining together as a “dyslexic community”. It’s by working together that we can change the world.