Today we’ll discuss the second key aim in DA’s Mission Statement: promoting positive community.
At DA we envision a world where dyslexic people are:
- known and valued for their strengths
- proud of their identity
- confident of their abilities
- and routinely enabled to reach their full potential in school, work, and life.
To create this world, dyslexic people have to work together. This job is simply too big for any individual or small group. However, it’s well within the capacity of a connected, informed, inspired, and engaged dyslexic community.
A Strong Dyslexic Community Supports Its Members
How can such a positive community—that is, a community built around the shared sense of positive identity we described yesterday—benefit dyslexic individuals, and help to change the world?
First, a strong and vibrant dyslexic community would be a wonderful source of encouragement and emotional support for individuals with dyslexia. As we discussed yesterday, the deficit paradigm dominates current thinking about dyslexia. In this environment, having the support of others who hold a strengths-centered paradigm is essential to escape the feelings of shame and isolation many dyslexic people have experienced.
We’ve seen this positive change at work in many of the dyslexic adults who’ve attended one of our leadership conferences. For the first time they’ve encountered an environment where most of people are dyslexic, and where the context is strengths-centered, and the experience has been empowering and even revolutionary. Building a strong and positive community will create opportunities for all dyslexic people to experience this empowerment, whether online through our forums or social media group, or in some of the local are interest-based groups that are forming through our network.
A Strong Dyslexic Community Has Knowledge, Creativity, and Power
Second, a more united and engaged dyslexic community would create an unparalleled network of knowledge, experience, talent, and connections. Together dyslexic individuals comprise one of the most creative, innovative, and resourceful groups in the world. United they’d create a “crowd source” consultancy of unparalleled brilliance. There’s simply no challenge facing dyslexic people that together they couldn’t solve.
Many of the things we do at DA seek to provide opportunities for dyslexic people and those who care for them to come together and share their knowledge. The web forums, Facebook page, and comment sections of the blogs in particular provide places for online sharing, and we also have a number of groups actively meeting in our chat rooms around shared areas of interest. As we continue to grow we hope this sharing increases. As the numbers of DA supporters in local regions increases, we’ll also have opportunities for people to gather informally and create their own in person networks locally.
As the community grows stronger and more cohesive, the chances for dyslexic individuals who are already solidly on their path to success to lend helping hands to those still finding their way should also increase. We’ll continue to collect and share information through interviews, webinars, blogs, and other resources, but over time we would hope that direct networking and sharing through the networks also increases. And increasing numbers will allow us to increase our capacity to act in an advocacy role, connecting people to exert influence on their legislators in ways that will benefit dyslexic people.
In the future, perhaps private companies offering the services of dyslexic employees, like some of the autism-specific employers who’ve begun to sprung up. But as with other excluded groups, it would be wonderful to see a mentality of mutual help and concern spring up among dyslexic people. One of the attendees at our first DA conference asked on a comment sheet, “Why don’t we feel like we belong to each other?” This sense that dyslexic people constitute a true ‘we’, and share both an identity and a personal connection, will be essential if we’re to really change the world.
A Strong Dyslexic Community Changes Perceptions
Finally, working together dyslexic people will have tremendous power to influence the way dyslexia is understood by the public, the educational establishment, and the research community. Organizations such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure (breast cancer) and Autism Speaks provide examples of organizations that have helped to bring a more positive and person-centered perspective to their respective fields, and as an even larger community, there’s no reason that working together dyslexic people couldn’t exert an even greater influence.
These are just some of the reasons DA is so committed to building a strong dyslexic community. Alone we are powerless, but together we can change the world!
We’d encourage all of you to find a way to get involved with the community here at DA. And if you have more ideas of ways to increase the growth of community, please share them!