For the first blog post I will share my story: Jill Marie-Grandstaff Lam (because I am dyslexic and ADD I don't eye-read fast so I added a lot of short video clips to help tell my story).
Dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD are genetic and strong in my family tree. Like many others, I didn't know what was wrong with me or the names dyslexia and dysgraphia. I also didn't know that I had Attention Deficit Disorder, I just thought everyone lived in the thoughts in their head. Here's an example of me in school & even now -
I could always relate to these Ralph Phillips cartoons! I still don't know my math facts (times tables) and it wasn't because I was daydreaming during the lessons it was due to being dyslexic. My rote memory just isn't there. School was also challenging because I struggled with reading. I have NEVER been able to sound out an unknown word. I was taught Whole Language (insert eye-roll here & if you are educated about dyslexia I bet you did the eye-roll all on your own) and therefore was not taught phonics. I didn't even learn how to say some of the letter sounds correctly until my own children were going through their private Orton-Gillingham tutoring. Finally, my reading fluency sucks. I can't even get half-way through the subtitles of a movie before the screen changes. I had to see each of the Star Wars movies 12 times before I completely read the opening words- (okay, those of you who know me well know I was thrilled to see each one a dozen times).
Yes, I struggled immensely in school from kindergarten to now, working on my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. I could share some stories of heartache and pain, stories about how I never fit in and worked so hard to hide my disabilities; but I will not share these stories today. I want to share with you 3 SUPERPOWERS I have BECAUSE of my disabilities.
1: The Superpower of Empathy
My brain is not able to process language like a non-dyslexic brain but I have more mirror neurons than my peers which means I experience deeper levels of empathy. I knew from very early on that I felt the feelings of others. I used to take these feelings on as my own because I didn't know the difference between the other person's feelings and my own feelings. Here's a video of mirror neurons & empathy to help you understand!
So how do I know I have more mirror neurons & excess empathy? I wish I could explain it or even prove it scientifically but I can't right now (working on that). I just know. Over the years I have developed this sixth sense so well that I am able to read even subtle body language of others. When I meet people I can tell exactly what they are feeling and experiencing. I can sense those around me that have this similar Superpower and it is often very strong in people with dyslexia. Let me point out that not everyone has this as a Superpower or even a strength. They may think they do because they have some mirror neurons and can show empathy but it is very different than what I am talking about; what I mean is an exceptional level of being able to feel exactly what another person is experiencing. For those of you who have it to this degree - you know exactly what I mean.
2: The Superpower of Acceptance
I not only have an abundance of mirror neurons and empathy because these are the strength of my brain, I was also raised by parents who also have a brain wired with extra mirror neurons and empathy. My parents taught me to accept EVERYONE and to help those in need. I was blessed with acceptance and not judgment. I was taught the love of ear-reading and given audio books to listen to from Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightingale, Dale Carnegie... and many more. I was taught about Leo Buscaglia and his values. I live my life based on the teachings of Leo even when people are mean to me or treat me bad. Oh, you don't know Leo Buscaglia? Well then, here's a very short clip oh him in action:
Doesn't he just make you smile? Well that's my reaction. I have an intrinsic passion for inclusion of everyone.
3: The Superpower of Tenacity
Having dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD is not easy and as a child I didn't know anyone else like me so I knew that I was different. I was on a quest to find others like me, as well as, to find the real ME. I searched for answers in movies and books. In high school, I found the answer in Joseph Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces and knew that I was on my own Hero's Journey! I learned we are all on our own Hero's Journey and each movie and book took me on these adventures. The characters in these books and movies are like friends to me. I an not an outsider looking in but immersed in the stories as if I too were living them and experiencing the same adventures. I mastered my own Superpower skill of Tenacity! I don't give up. Watch my friend, Samwise Gamgee, explain exactly what I mean to Frodo Baggins:
Yes, I am a person with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADD but I am also a person with many Superpowers- Empathy, Acceptance, and Tenacity. In elementary and junior high my life was filled with shame and exclusion. In high school when I became "friends" with Joseph Campbell I heard my calling to help others. Like many, I refused this calling. I thought, who was I to help others- I am not worthy. Due to my inner tenacity I took the leap of faith and headed off to college to pursue a degree in Psychology (I also have minors in Health Education and Marketing). With the help of all my Supernatural Aids (the characters of my movies & books) I went on to get a Master's degree in Clinical Counseling and then Crossing the Threshold into the working world. I was taught how to diagnose all types of learning disabilities, worked in many areas of special education as a therapist, and eventually I entered the Belly of the Whale by opening my own private practice as a Psycho-educational Diagnostician and Educational Counselor in 2007- Forest Alliance Coaching (& Forest Alliance Coaching FB page). On my journey of helping others I have been down many Roads of Trials and I'm still on these roads but I have tenacity to just keep going.
As I continue my journey I have ventured into many other areas where I can help others live a better life. A few years ago I started The Dragonfly Forest a blog where I can share insights and motivate others who are different and often have disabilities (ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Asperger's...). Through The Dragonfly Forest blog and FB page I have become even more involved in the disability community and now have Dragonfly friends all over the world.
In early February 2013 I read about the Decoding Dyslexia movement in New Jersey and knew I was receiving another calling (one I didn't hesitate to answer). I contacted Deborah Lynam from DD-New Jersey and got started on Decoding Dyslexia Ohio by making a commitment to DD-NJ and then starting the Decoding Dyslexia Ohio Facebook page. The DD-OH journey has been an exciting one and I know that I was guided this way so I can continue to help make the lives of others a better place. I've met a few times with the wonderful parents of children with dyslexia in Ohio and look forward to sharing this journey with them. The parents have been such a great support system as well and suggested there be another Facebook page that focused Family Support (since the website & other FB page were focused on school and legal issues) so DD-OH Family Support FB page was started. I am so excited by all the adventures we will be having on this DD-OH journey and thrilled that God, the Higher Power, or the Universe guided me in this direction.
Here is one final video that I think really supports my life's journey and my Superpowers. Some of you will recognize a young Ben Foss (it was filmed in 2003 btw). I love being on this journey with some great people like this - and YOU! Thanks for sharing this journey with me!