This is the first of several posts on the Vision and Mission Statements of Dyslexic Advantage (DA). DA’s Board has worked hard to create statements that clearly express the beliefs, values, and goals that drive DA’s work, and we’d love for everyone in our community to understand and embrace them, too.
We’ll start with DA’s Vision Statement. The purpose of a vision statement is to explain an organization’s ultimate goal. It’s the kind of world that organization wants to create through its work.
At Dyslexic Advantage, our vision is: “A world where dyslexic people are known for their strengths.”
There are 3 key things to notice about this vision:
1. Our focus is on dyslexic people, not just dyslexia
2. Our focus is on strengths, not disability
3. Our focus is on changing the way people think about dyslexia, not simply on helping dyslexic people cope more effectively with continued misunderstandings
DA’s Focus Is On Dyslexic People, Not Just Dyslexia
First, DA’s focus on dyslexic people means we focus on the whole person. We’re not just trying to help with reading and spelling challenges, though that’s one key part of our mission. We focus on the well-being of dyslexic people more broadly: on personal identity, self-understanding, and self-confidence; on positive relationships and community building; and on improved achievement at school, in work, and in life. DA’s vision is centered on issues that are important to dyslexic people themselves, and we try to approach those issues from the perspectives that dyslexic people have, and not just the perspectives of professionals or experts.
DA’s Focus Is On Strengths, Not Disability
Second, DA’s focus is on the strengths of dyslexic people, not just their challenges. We certainly don’t ignore identifying and helping with challenges, but we view those challenges in their proper perspective. At DA, we see dyslexia-related challenges as part of a trade-off in brain organization and function that leads to strengths as well as challenges. And we view the strengths, not the challenges, as the core of what the dyslexic mind is all about. At DA, we believe dyslexic minds are different not because they’ve suffered a mutation or catastrophic error, but because ‘dyslexic wiring’ can create benefits. In other words, dyslexic minds are different for a reason, and that reason is their strengths.
In our next post we’ll discuss why we believe that the consistent message over the last 80 years that dyslexia is a disability has reinforced a view that dyslexic individuals are ‘low potential people’. This view has come to dominate the ideas about dyslexia held by the general public. Unfortunately, research has shown that it’s the dominant view among teachers, too. Even more dangerously, this view of low potential characterizes the self-image of many people with dyslexia. And due to the strong connection between personal identity, academic achievement, and problem behaviors, this view has become for too many dyslexic people a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fortunately, DA’s strength-centered view of dyslexia is both true and life-changing, as we’ll discuss in future posts.
DA’s focus is on changing the way people think about dyslexia
Third, in order to change lives we’ll have to start by changing minds—that is, changing the way people think about dyslexia. Every change needed to create the world of our vision is ‘downstream’ from the beliefs people hold about dyslexia. Currently those beliefs are dominated by the view that dyslexia is a disability—that is, by a ‘disability paradigm’. Starting within this paradigm, researchers view every difference they observe between dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains as signs of disability. Educators and employers view all the differences they see in thinking and learning as signs of disability. Laws and practical strategies limit their focus to making dyslexic individuals function as much like ‘normal’ people as possible. And dyslexic people are led to believe that any way they differ from other people is a sign of dysfunction. To change thinking at all these levels, we’ll have to start by changing the paradigm or ‘mental lens’ through which people view dyslexic differences. Ultimately, we’ll need to replace the disability paradigm with a strength paradigm, where thinking about differences focuses on looking for potential strengths, rather than assuming deficits.
So that’s our Vision at DA. If you or someone you love has already experienced a benefit in identity, community, or achievement from changing your view from a disability- to a strengths-centered paradigm, we’d welcome you to share them here. And please join DA, and help spread this message of hope by sharing this post with others.
Together, and only together, we can create a world where dyslexic people are known for their strengths!