Close
Language?
English
Español

Welcome to the Understood Community

A safe place for parents and experts to connect

Young girl writing on a tablet
The Inside Track

See what insiders are saying about learning and attention issues. Enjoy fresh insight from authors, education advocates and other influential people.

RSS Feed

Make Dyslexia About Strengths, Not Shame

Tween girl reading with headphones

Read Ben’s post as it was written without the benefit of spell-check, word prediction or editing.

Let me introduce myself: My name is Ben Foss, and I am dyslexic.

When I was a kid, my mother read out loud to me. When I went to college, I’d fax my term papers home to her in New Hampshire so she could read them to me over the phone and help me find spelling mistakes.

I know what it’s like to feel lonely, and I want to tell dyslexic people—especially dyslexic kids and their parents—that you’re not alone.

Here I’m sharing some of the insights I’ve gained on my path from special education to completing my law and business degrees at Stanford, and eventually becoming the Director of Access Technology at Intel. I hope these insights will help you learn the facts about dyslexia, tell your story and build a toolkit that will allow people with dyslexia play to their strengths.

For starters, let me tell you that when it comes to dyslexia, most people focus on reading or spelling. They could instead focus on shame. Shame is a feeling that you’re unworthy because of something you are. It’s different from guilt, which is feeling bad about something you did, like stealing or cheating.

Shame comes from not feeling normal. But what is normal? As my mom told me when I was a kid, quoting the humorist Emma Bombeck, “Normal is just a setting on your dryer!”

If you’re terrible at a thing you’re asked to do every day—in my case as a kid, reading—you begin to assume that you must be the problem, and you try to hide it. That is shame. The key to success as a dyslexic person is to understand your strengths and weaknesses.

This can be very scary, and it takes time. Finding joy as a dyslexic person or as a parent of a dyslexic child involves first understanding the facts, then starting to tell your story to people you trust. If your child has dyslexia, he can eventually create a practical toolkit—including books on tape or a computer that will write down what he says—that allows him to play to his strengths.

See Ben’s “Native Tongue”

I’ve found that people have a hard time believing my dyslexia when they see only the final product of my written work. These days, I generally speak to a computer and use Dragon Naturally Speaking to have it transcribed, greatly increasing my speed and accuracy when writing. For this blog, that material went through four rounds of edits, including structural, copy and proofing, further polishing the material.

Here’s what the first paragraphs looked like before that. I call this my “native tongue.”

Let me introduce myself. My name is ben foss and I am dyslexic. When I was a kid, my mother read outoud to me. When I went to gollage I faxed my paper home to my nother in new hampshipe so she could read them to me over the phoe and help me find spelling mistakes. I know what it is like to feal lonely and I want to tell dyslexic peopel and especially dyslexic kids and their parents.

Any opinions, views, information and other content contained in blogs on Understood.org are the sole responsibility of the writer of the blog, and do not necessarily reflect the views, values, opinions or beliefs of, and are not endorsed by, Understood.

About the Blogger

Ben Foss
Ben Foss More Posts by the Blogger

Ben Foss is dyslexic and the founder of Headstrong Nation, a national organization for dyslexic adults and parents of dyslexic kids.

More to Explore

  • Parenting Coach

    Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges.

  • Tech Finder

    Find technology to help your child.

    Select platform or device
  • Through Your Child’s Eyes

    Simulations and videos to let you experience your child’s world.

    Julia video from Through Your Child’s Eyes
  • Can an fMRI Scan Show Dyslexia?

    Can an fMRI help get a formal diagnosis? How do you go about getting one?

    Mother helping daughter who is struggling with homework
  • IEP and 504 Plan Basics

    Mar 3rd at 4:00 pm

    Woman using tablet computer
  • A Child’s View of Sensory Processing Issues

    Find out what sensory processing issues are like for kids, and what can help.

    Video - A Child’s View of Sensory Processing Issues
  • Join a Group!

    A safe place for you to connect with other parents like you.

    Parent connecting with other parents online
  • Anatomy of an IEP

    Use this handy visual aid to boost your understanding of your child’s IEP.

    Graphic of At a Glance: Anatomy of an IEP
  • Play to Your Child’s Strengths, Says Ben Foss

    We caught up with Ben Foss, dyslexia advocate and author.

    Ben Foss giving a presentation to an enthusiastic audience