The scars stay with you.
This week while explaining to a dad and his high school age daughter the difficulty that she was having reading complex words and how there might be some associated embarrassment, the dad was brought back to a painful memory from his childhood.
“Oh, yeah, I can relate to what she is going through. When I was a kid I was asked to read out loud and when I came upon the word ‘nearby,’ I read it as ‘nerby.’ That was it. From that day on for a long time that was my name – ‘Nerby.’ Like, ‘Hey, Nerby!’ I can remember it like it was yesterday. There’s a lot of shame. There’s a lot of embarrassment.”
A second example from the dyslexia front came from an extremely bright, but severely dyslexic 17 year old. We were talking about “assistive technology” as a possible support for him. When I started talking to him about it, I could see the look of skepticism and doubt on his face. He wasn’t buying it.
“How come you look doubtful about trying some of these things, “ I asked.
“Look, the last thing I want,” he said to me, “is to feel even more different than I already feel. Last year, teachers would come into the class and call me out to put me on this machine for writing or spelling – I don’t know. Give me a break. I don’t care that it may have helped me. It embarrassed me. I was singled out.”
I know there are lots of gifts and associated strengths with dyslexia, but I also know there is a lot of pain. Some of this pain is visible, but much of it lies unseen.
For “Nerby” the pain was well below the surface, probably not spoken of to anyone. Who knows, it may be that when the dad shared his memory with his daughter and me, that may have been the first time he told that story to anyone.
But, you can bet he replayed that day of embarrassment over and over again for many years to come.
Keep reminding yourself to walk in their shoes.