The second great paper from the Frostig Center (here) focuses on self-awareness, one of the six ‘success attributes’ we described in our previous post. (If you missed that first post, it’s here.) The paper’s concept of ‘self-awareness’ is a lot like our term ‘identity’. So ultimately this paper is about how people with dyslexia can develop a positive sense of identity or self-image.
The authors discuss five stages by which individuals with learning differences, like dyslexia, can progress from uncertainty and confusion to a deep self-understanding and sense of empowerment. Although their title is “Stages of Acceptance of a Learning Disability”, for those who reach the highest stage the journey is much more about ‘embracing’ than just ‘accepting.’
The Five Stages
1) For a person with dyslexia the first stage involves simply becoming aware that in certain ways you’re different from most other people: you learn differently; you’re developing in a different way and at a different rate; the ‘standard package’ of assumptions baked into the school system doesn’t fit you very well. Typically, you sense that other people can see you’re different, too. You don’t yet understand why you’re different, but you recognize that something important is going on.
2) The second stage is the labeling event. This is when—often after a long series of examinations and specialists—your difference is finally labeled ‘dyslexia’. Often, this comes only after a long period of searching, uncertainty, and other labels.
3) The third stage is understanding and negotiating the label. ‘Understanding’ means becoming aware of what ‘being dyslexic’ means regarding the kinds of things are likely to be hard, and what kinds of help you might need to deal with those challenges. Often this stage involves negotiation and a gradual coming to terms with the kinds of interventions and accommodations you’ll need.
4) The fourth stage involves developing the kind of ‘self-awareness’ the authors spoke of in their other paper. They use the term compartmentalization to describe the process of placing challenges in context, so that their downside effects can be minimized. The goal at this stage is to ‘minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths’. In other words, it’s to focus on maximizing your positive ability. As you do this, you begin to center you personal identity on strengths and abilities rather than deficits.
5) The fifth and final stage is transformation. The authors state only a few of
the people they interviewed reached this stage. It’s where you move beyond simply accepting and minimizing the impact of your differences, to recognizing the positive impacts and potentials those differences can have on your life. It includes recognizing the two kinds of values. First, the value of what you’ve learned from the process of dealing with your differences. And second, the potential benefits those differences might have in themselves.
Transformation Is What Dyslexic Advantage Is All About
Helping people with dyslexia recognize, understand, and benefit from their differences is the heart of the Dyslexic Advantage mission. We do this by creating precisely the kind of transformation in self-understanding that the Frostig researchers describe.
There’s lots of evidence linking self-image to self-confidence, self-efficacy, achievement, life satisfaction, social relationships, and well-being in general. There’s also evidence that historically a diagnosis of dyslexia has been correlated with low-self esteem and poor self-image. That’s a direct result of our failure to understand what being dyslexic is all about.
By promoting a positive understanding of the value of the dyslexic mind, Dyslexic Advantage seeks not just to help people with dyslexia feel better, but also to live better, more productive, more connected and fulfilled lives.
Working together, we can make this transformative understanding the normal understanding of what it means to be dyslexic.