Marcia Brissett-BaileyCo-founder of the British Dyslexia Association Cultural Perspective Committee and editor of Black, Brilliant and Dyslexic
Editor of Black, Brilliant and Dyslexic, a book telling the stories of “neurodivergent heroes”, Marcia Brissett-Bailey explains the role of her book in highlighting black, dyslexic voices.
To inspire current and future generations, as well as amplify black voices in education, entrepreneurship, and the workplace, my book highlights positive role models of people within the dyslexic and neurodiverse community and society. In addition, this book also hopes to promote more lived experiences and build on evidence-based research.
This book highlights my lived experience, together with 24 other voices. I have come to learn there is so much greatness in dyslexia, some call it superpowers. Seeing patterns others do not see, being able to visualise solutions to problems, creatively thinking ‘outside the box’ can come with dyslexia.
Dyslexia is unique to the individual and I would go as far as saying there is no pure dyslexia. This is why there are over 35 different definitions in my research findings. Alongside the fact that dyslexia can co-occur with ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and Tourette’s syndrome, all examples of neurodiverse learning differences, which are also highlighted in this book by myself and contributors. It has been these diagnostic labels that have been used to explain the diverse ways of thinking, learning, and processing information, which have nothing to do with the colour of skin.
In this book, the contributors share their own talents and challenges and how education, class, environment, race, and culture are possible factors that may have had an impact on them accessing the right support.
I could not begin to imagine how many people out there are undiagnosed in the UK. I have been told by many of my fellow dyslexics, especially those from the black community, that I was lucky to get a diagnosis as a teenager. Many of my dyslexic peers had late diagnoses, as you will also hear in this book. For many, that was not until they went to university.
As the title suggests, this book views from an intersectional lens, discussing race and social or cultural factors. This book highlights the effects on those with dyslexia that have not been fully explored in literature, worldwide. With contributors from countries such as the USA and Nigeria, this book can claim to fill that gap. It is also apparent that black dyslexic stories are a rare and limited resource when looking at publications, research, or data on dyslexia and organisations. What is important to say is that dyslexia does not discriminate on race. It occurs in all countries and cultures and has a genetic base that is hereditary.
From a black perspective, it also has links to childhood trauma, generational trauma, community trauma, and collective trauma. This is especially true when a group of people may be marginalised or faced with systematic barriers, resulting in their voices not being heard.
This book cannot represent every black lived experience with dyslexia but it does do very well in touching on a raw, honest, and enlightening collection of experiences from across the black and dyslexic community. It gives an intersectional perspective on topics including the education system, the workplace, daily life, and entrepreneurship. These stories highlight the challenges, progress, successes, and contributions of the black and dyslexic community, helping others to find their voice, feel empowered and be proud of their differences. It charts journeys from early childhood through to adulthood and, despite the lack of representation within the public arena, how black dyslexic people of all ages are changing the world.
I believe sustainability should come as part of early intervention to build a blueprint for the future. There is a systemic dilemma for children in that you have 21st-century young people born with technology, being taught by 20th-century adults in education, using 18th-century calendars. Education is creating trauma for some of our children who think differently, leaving them to feel they do not fit into mainstream education.
We must remember, as children grow up, adults need to ensure we can provide them with the right tools and a safe environment for them to be their whole, true, authentic selves. This, in turn, will give them the confidence to reach their potential, which should result in having different types of learners and innovative thinkers for the 21st century, thus moving beyond limitation and working from a strength-based approach with innovation in technology and teaching.
Technology has a key role to play in improving assessment and outcomes for dyslexic individuals. This cannot be achieved without significant investment to update old educational infrastructure, in the context of today’s society, where the use of technology is ubiquitous. This is an exciting opportunity to increase engagement in the process of diagnosis and education.
We need to discuss innovative ideas, such as multi-sensory, interactive learning and peer-led reading programmes, which could help overcome these fears and encourage participation, ultimately improving outcomes.
An additional factor to consider is intersectionality. This may also have an impact on one’s life, including class and social economic factors, environment, education, limitations, lack of opportunity, and language variants. Furthermore, there are still countries where students are not identified and do not obtain evidence-based early intervention. Hence, both parents and teachers require information concerning methodical, specific reading and spelling guidelines. Many countries have taken positive action to enhance the education, learning, and overall lives of people with dyslexia. However, in some countries, dyslexia is still not acknowledged or well understood and people with these special reading needs are stigmatized, which this book highlights very well.
Raising awareness, breaking silences, and tackling the stigma around dyslexia and the difficulties stemming from a lack of support, contributors share how they tackled their unique adversities and provide practical tips for others to live proudly at the intersection of blackness and dyslexia.