I am not less intelligent because I learn differently
Nor do I matter less when you do not recognize me
And though there are many like me, we seem to remain hidden in plain sight
I invented the light bulb that keeps the dark away
I am the ‘H’ of the world leading computer brand that sits atop your table
I remain the greatest Oscar winning film Director – and you may even remember my lovable alien character who finally ‘went home’
Feeling like the peacock as it proudly displays its resplendent plumage
I watch in utter fulfillment as my iconic, daring, red livery rules the skies
What joy it is to thumb my nose up to those who said I could not
You know what?
You’re probably sitting on one of my Swedish made furniture as we speak
Heck! I have even ruled nations!
So, that is why I have hope
If you like, make light of me
You would not be the first to mock me
But whatever you do, do not deny me because I am
I am smart
I am creative
I am insightful
I am famously tenacious
And when you show enough love to ‘accommodate’ me
I am unstoppable
Yes, I do not see words the same way as you do
So where you may say ‘disorder’
I will say ‘asset’
For problem solving is my thing
Thinking outside of the box?
That’s second nature to me
Oh! And just in case you’re still wondering who I am?
I am dyslexic
And I am here to stay
Welcome to my world
For I am
I hope you were able figure out who the dyslexic individuals I alluded to in my poem are? Well, here they are in the same order of reference – Thomas Edison the famous inventor, William Hewlett of Hewlett Packard, Stephen Spielberg the Hollywood Director, Ingvar Kamprad of IKEA and of course the late US President, J. F Kennedy. I wrote this poem to commemorate the Global Dyslexia Awareness Month and the Dyslexia Awareness Day on October 5.
Our country can longer afford to neglect such a large swathe of it’s population just because they learn differently. Statistics tell us that 10 – 20% of every nation’s population is dyslexic. At critical times such as these, that Nigeria urgently needs problem solvers, we need to put our best foot forward. A 2007 survey of entrepreneurs conducted by Julie Logan of Cass Business School in London discovered that a third of them were dyslexic. A 2003 BBC sponsored study also revealed that Dyslexics are far more likely to succeed as entrepreneurs than those who are not. Dyslexia was four times more prevalent amongst the 300 business leaders randomly selected for the study than it is amongst the general populace. Not only are Dyslexics typically not afraid to fail, as shown by Thomas Edison’s famed refusal to give up until he broke through, but they are renowned for being creative solution providers because of their innate ability to see the big picture. Look no further than – Steve Jobs of Apple who made it his mission not just to make devices attractive but surprisingly easy to use; Walt Disney who smashed boundaries because of his unshakable belief that once it could be imagined, it could be done; Henry Ford who created the first mass produced vehicle because he insisted that cars could be made in a way that would make them affordable to all; and Albert Einstein, who I’m sure needs no introduction – to corroborate the dyslexic’s entrepreneurial “can do” spirit. It therefore means our society wouldn’t be doing those who are dyslexic a “favour” by paying attention to them, as much as it would be doing itself a great disservice by not doing so. Sir Richard Branson, Ambassadorial President of Made By Dyslexia once famously said:
“It’s time we all understand dyslexia properly as a different thinking skill-set and not a disadvantage.”
In addition to embarking on an awareness campaign of sorts with my feature length movie titled, ÌTÌJÚ with the rider “hope heals”, which in itself is a unique collaboration with Lagos State’s Ministry of Education, I was recently brought on board ALEPH Education and Empowerment, a foundation promoted by Mr Oluwadare Daniel, a successful entrepreneur. In partnership with the United States’ premier degree awarding college for those with learning disabilities, ALEPH is looking to work with state governments, ably supported by the corporate world, to train teachers not only in identifying children struggling in class possibly due to a yet to be diagnosed learning disability, but to also know how to support such children. This would save them from an otherwise certain future of frustration and underachievement. Do not get me wrong, it’s a good thing for corporate bodies to furnish schools as part of their CSR but it would be equally good for them to remember those who beautifully furnished classrooms just will not help. The dyslexic is such a person for whom a different type of help would be more useful.
Permit me to end with this. In Public Schools By Choice, Joe Nathan made this remark. “We believe that true equality of opportunities demands that different kinds of programs be available. We think providing identical programs to all students guarantees unequal results.” Gbam!
Oladapo Akande, is the Vice President of ALEPH Education and Empowerment Foundation. Through his NGO, MINDS Reform Initiative, he and his partner on the project, Alvary Studios, are currently producing ÌTÌJÚ, a feature length movie. He is also an author. firstname.lastname@example.org