Oh, yes, I can
“My Gutsy Story®” by Leanne Dyck
A social worker told my parents that they’d have to take care of me for the rest of my life. My principal told them I was uneducable. Thankfully, a resource teacher stepped in on my behalf. She taught me that learning was fun.
The commonly held definition of dyslexia is that it is a difficulty with learning to read. But this is a condensed definition. The challenges people with dyslexia face and the severity of these challenges vary from person to person.
For me, deciphering the social codes has always been a challenge—I never received my copy of that handbook. When I manage to figure out how to respond often it’s too late or, in a rush to be on time, a jumble of poorly pronounced words. Writing allows me to slow down and think. It gives me an opportunity to select the right word, tone, tense and to check for clarity and accuracy.
At a young age I learnt that even though my tongue may fail me, my pen seldom would. My first publishing success came when I was still in elementary school—one of my poems was published in the school newspaper. I repeated grade two but once in middle school I was determined to excel. So I divorced myself from any social interaction and books and studying became my world. A middle school Language Arts teacher introduced me to John Steinbeck and I fell in love with his writing. Mr. Steinbeck gave voice to the voiceless. Writing gave me a voice. I had lots to say but needed a venue. Through my writing I began to feel heard. I graduated from high school with an award in Language Arts.
After graduation, the question of what I would do next paralyzed me. I thought living the rest of my life on my parents’ sofa was a solution. However, my parents wanted more for me. From early childhood, despite what they’d been told, my parents continued to believe in the soundness of my intellect. Responding to my dad’s not so gentle pushing, I decided to join Katimavik—a government-run youth group. You’d think that living communally for nine months wouldn’t be the best situation for someone with limited social skills. But you’d be wrong. Katimavik was one of the most important experiences in my life. I completed the program and won newfound confidence. With that confidence I entered university. And I was amazed to find that I was able to obtain and maintain a decent grade point average. I graduated from the program and gained employment as an Early Childhood Educator.
Throughout my life I’ve been able to play the ‘help me’ card. But in my late twenties I met a man who refused to play the game. That man became my husband and his special brand of tough love continues to be one of the driving forces behind my success.
Becoming an author had been a dream I’d hidden away since my teens. Weakened by a family tragedy, I shared my dream with my husband. I thought he was going to laugh or…—but not him. “So, what are you going to do about it?”
The choice was clear either act to fulfill my dream or abandon it. From 2006 to 2009, I self-published an audio book, paperbacks and Ebooks. Buoyed up by these successes, I decided to pursue traditional publishing. So I made a pact to submit one story—of whatever size—every month until something happened. Well, things did start to happen. Within the last five years I’ve had short stories published in Island Writer, Kaleidoscope, Canadian Stories, Icelandic Connection and Island Gal. And I’ve also completed five book-length manuscripts.
But years of self-doubt and low-self esteem have taken their toll and have resulted in stress related health problems. I thought joining a peer support group would help. But when I was unable to find a group, I became my own advocate. I now practice Tai Chi and Yoga as well as take Bach flower oil to help me cope with anxiety.
I’m enheartened by the support now available for children with learning disabilities. But am disappointed by the lack of support for adults with learning disabilities. Simply because we manage to jump through academic hoops and graduate doesn’t mean our problems disappear. We still face them—everyday. Lack of support leaves learning disabled adults with health and employment problems—some of us wind up on the street or in jail. Potential lost. Lives wasted. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Something must be done. All of us deserve to have an opportunity to have our own success story.
Increasing society’s knowledge of dyslexia is a good starting point. And through non-fiction books such as The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis and Understanding Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities by Linda Siegel this goal is slowly being met. Hoping to help obtain this goal, I’ve written a novel about my own experiences with dyslexia. And I continue to push myself out of my comfort zone by, for example, reading my writing during open mic nights.
I’d like to conclude with a poem…
I need you to know that I am capable—even when I show my inability
I need you to have faith that I will be able to pick myself up when I fall
I need you to let me show you what I’m capable of—before you help me.
I need you to shout at the top of your lungs, “Yes, you can! If not now—someday; if not without me—with me.”
I need you to believe in me—even when, especially when, I don’t.
LEANNE DYCK is a women’s fiction author. Her stories are about outsiders facing challenges. Within the last five years, her writing has been published in Island Writer, Kaleidoscope, Canadian Stories, Icelandic Connection and Island Gals magazines. Leanne has written a fictionalized account of her own experiences with dyslexia. She’s seeking a publisher for books one and two in this series, and is currently writing book three. To learn more about this series and to follow her author journey, please visit her blog: http://sweatercursed.blogspot.ca
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SONIA MARSH SAYS: Your story is inspiring to all those who believe that dyslexia will prevent them from accomplishing their goals of becoming a writer. I’m happy to hear your husband encouraged you to pursue your lifelong dream.
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