My palms are sweaty; I begin to feel the walls closing in on me. I glance around, and feel overwhelmingly insignificant surrounded by around 1500 other woman . Almost all are white, middle aged and female. A couple of men are scattered throughout the audience with a conference tag labeled “speaker” or “exhibitor”

I’m at the International Association of Dyslexia’s Annual Conference, in San Diego, listening to a panel on Working Memory and it’s impact on Learning. Despite my long time fascination with the topic , all I can think about is busting out,

I slink to the back of the room, abandoning my first row seating,

I quickly find an empty room and begin to speedily pace the diameter. As I mutter to my self giving voice to the thoughts and emotions bellowing up from inside my gut, the pressure begins to subside.

“Why, why, why am I here” I wonder .

I hate schools. Even visiting schools as an adult automatically makes me feel scared, alone, misunderstood and insignificant.

I hate Special Education teachers * ( not really, scroll down to my footnote) . The middle aged hair cut, the sympathy in the eyes, the evaluation reports, the exams, the talk of college readiness, the I’m here to fix- you kindness, all of it still makes my stomach queasy.*

Every neuron in my body is telling me to flee.
Flee the dyslexia- talk
Flee the conversation on deficit

Leave these kind, hard working, pity- eyed special ed. teachers.
Leave the well-meaning Psychologists and MD’s and their depressing research on malfunction.
Leave the principles,
The memories
of third and fifth and eighth grade,
so embedded in every corner of this conference.

Heck, leave the podcast and the website
Shev, go follow the light, follow the aliveness.

The pain. The nausea. The anxiety, the misunderstanding. The aloneness. The special ed. teachers. The principles. The guidance counselors. They are all behind me.

Why look back?

And then it hits me, the all encompassing, smoke coming out of my ears, outrage, that bellows up inside of me around inaccurate wording and implications around “intelligence” “giftedness’ “defect,”” deficit” and “ability” are indications not that I am in the wrong place, but in the right one.

This is my calling. ( for now)

This is why, despite almost no money in the bank,, I’ve come cross country, Left my toddler, paid for the conference, paid for the Air B N B, and I am sitting passively amongst 1500 School personal, in a big gray impersonal- corporate looking hotel.

Because, there is something that has to be said.

We need to fundamentally re-explore the way we view deficit and disability.

And yes, my opinions are very shadowed and shaped by my own personal dyslexic experiences. But maybe that’s what we need in this dyslexia- conversation, a little less reductionist objective data, and a little more humanistic subjective experience.

I’m on the plane now, and heading back to JFK. And I’m more fired up then ever on my mission: Empowering adult dyslexics by exploring our cultural conceptions of deficit.

Let’s do this, team.

*NOTE — Some of my favorite people are Special Ed. teachers, I don’t hate them, in fact , many are near and dear to my heart. I hope it was clear that this  poem is only about my triggered memories of being a little girl in school, and all those evocative feelings. Of course it is not a judgement on the *actual* teachers nor their hair, it just was a trigger for these embodied feelings and memories.

(P.S- Everything Decoding Dyslexia was amazing, enlivening and inspiring, you guys rock)


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