If you have not taken time to check out the Made By Dyslexia website, I highly recommend you do. They have done a fine and lovely job of creating resources to teach and grow others to support and champion the dyslexic thinker. I have not found the same type of website for the ADHD thinker. Typically, I can find most things like advocacy and education of others on the ADDitude Magazine website.
When I use the word “Championing” I am using it in terms of being an advocate for a different thinker. I remember the first time someone did that for me. I was in fifth grade, and someone was picking on me for getting an “F” on a spelling paper. One of my fellow students stepped in and told them to knock it off, that I had never been a good speller, and nobody cared. They said I was good at singing, and told him he should ask me to sing. The kid bullying me asked me to sing, and I sang a song I thought he would like, really well, and he agreed I could sing, and he never bullied me again.
I was telling him to stop, I was telling him I was smart, and that I had a hard time spelling. He didn’t hear it coming from me. I couldn’t be my own champion in that situation to change his mind. He wanted to pick on someone, and I was that someone. As soon as a peer became part of the conversation it wasn’t as cool to harass me. And he could hear that other kid differently than he could hear me.
How can an eleven-year-old figure this out and yet we as adults struggle with it?
I challenge myself and others to do better.
Key Parts of Championing a Different Thinker
1. Know that they can’t champion for themselves successfully
a. When a person with a difference is given all the responsibility to train and educate others about what makes them different and why they are valuable, it isn’t very effective. It falls short in two ways.
- Other people only hear it in association with that one person, not all people with a difference.
- Judgement can be applied directly to the person about other assumptions not addressed or known.
2. Learn more about the type of different thinking and how it will balance in your workplace or school.
a. Between web browsers and AI there is no excuse to not take five minutes to learn a little more about what it means to be a dyslexic or ADHD thinker.
b. If you want to understand and learn more about that person’s differences, ask if they are comfortable having a meeting and talking more about their situation. Get curious.
3. Enroll five people to support them behind the scenes.
“It’s not what people say to your face, it’s what they say and do behind your back that matters most.” JoyGenea.
A different thinker can stand up for themselves for only so long, then they just get worn down trying to do it by themselves all the time. It works best when there is a team, they don’t even have to know about it.
a. The greatest success for anyone who is different than the norm is for them to have five people who know how to support them behind the scenes.
- These people don’t engage in gossip about the person and they call people out when they are gossiping about them.
- They check in with the person weekly and see how things are going.
- They make sure in meetings and on work sites, if the person is being harassed, bullied, or any of the other aggressive things people do when they don’t understand something. They don’t engage and they know how to call out their fellow employees. They have had some training and practice being a champion for someone.
- They stop attempts to harm the person and report it to HR if needed.
As a different thinker, it is also your responsibility to help create this system for work or school success. You may need to help lead this process. You may need to quickly find your five people and ask them to support you in the ways I have outlined. You may need to share this blog with your boss. Never expect other people to take care of this for you. You need to be your best advocate.
I have been through a wide range of training over the years about diversity, inclusion, and harassment. One time I sat right next to my biggest bully, who was just taking notes on how to better get away with the harassment he was dishing out on me. None of those trainings, written by well-meaning people ever felt like they had spent enough time being on the receiving end of discrimination. This is what I have learned firsthand from spending a lifetime of not fitting in either through my gender as a woman in male-dominated jobs or as a different thinker in typical type “A” environments. My employers and I experienced the greatest success when these three things were applied and used in their company when it came to change. Change is a team sport.
How can you be a better champion for someone in your life?
Keep following along with this series as I talk more about the ways we can become more AWARE of dyslexia and ADHD in ourselves or in others.
What You Need to Know About Being Dyslexic As An Adult – The Simple Version
Part 1 Adult Dyslexia & ADHD: How do you become Self-Aware?
Part 2 What Does Self-Care Look Like for Dyslexics and ADHD
Part 3 The Importance of Growth and Self-Improvement