Ryan Hamilton Black’s superpowers do not allow him to generate unlimited amounts of energy, travel through time and space, or manipulate matter on a subatomic level.
He is, however, especially clever “at knowing how other people feel” and “at figuring how to work out problems”.
His dyslexia is not a curse but a superpower, he says, in his contribution to an innovative book whose title he inspired: Dyslexia is my Superpower (Most of the Time).
Ryan, 12, from Kildare, is one of a number of children from across the country to feature in Margaret Rooke’s book on dyslexia, in which children talk about what it means to them.
Ryan reckons it has made him more creative, an extra good listener, and pretty smart.
“One of my superpowers is that I am good at knowing how people feel,” he says. “Everyone always says that I am very friendly and kind and good at caring for people. That might be something I have learned from having to think differently because of my dyslexia.”
In her foreword, Ms Rooke says books aplenty have been written by experts on the subject, but few feature the children themselves. For her project, she interviewed more than 100 children globally “to hear what they think is going wrong and what is going right”.
“Almost universally, they loved to be listened to,” she writes. “We can be so focused on passing our own wisdom and experiences on to children that we can forget how much we need to ask.”
“A movingly large number of the children want to be teachers, often expressing a strong desire to help others with dyslexia.
“In reading this book, it’s important to remember how many go through the whole education system unrecognised and undiagnosed.”
Dyslexia Ireland chief executive Rosie Bissett said the book reflects that dyslexia is “very much a spectrum condition”.
“Some have mild dyslexia, others severe,” she said. “The most important thing is that it is identified early and children get the supports and interventions they need because it really does make a difference in terms of the long-term impact.”
Ms Bissett said one third of assessments they conduct are with adults whose dyslexia was not identified as children, many of whom had negative experiences.
Now, with greater awareness, it is easier to pick up and children are encouraged to feel happy about being different. It is crucial that teachers understand dyslexia while at the same time having expectations for the child instead of the approach ‘we won’t ask you to do the spelling test because you are never going to learn to spell’.
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