Original article written by Tanja Nielsen
Growing up feeling stupid
The 10 laws in our famous Jantelov
Not long ago I had a heart to hard talk with a close friend of mine. She told me her own story of how it is to grow up in a welfare society and have disabilities. Most people will never understand her story because they don't want to but the truth is its thousands of peoples story. Thousands of people are hiding their disabilities and their difficulties. This is her story for all the people that are ready to listen and see another side of what it's like to be from the happiest country.
Though Denmark is supposed to be one of the happiest countries in the world that do not necessarily mean that growing up with any kind of handicap is easy. The Danes are open to a lot of things but one thing a lot of people hide or feel ashamed over is being dyslexic.
There's a lot of different kinds of learning disabilities and the Danish education system does a lot to help everybody and integrate people into a "normal" class. This is not something that is very popular with either the parents or the teachers but as the government says, "we have to cut down on our resources". The parents aren't happy because the children that need extra help or certain surroundings won't be able to get help and it will also affect the function of the class as a total. As a teacher, we know the children better than anyone and we also know that some children will never be able to function in a "normal" class and it will harm them more than it will do them any good. Yet all we can do is try to support and help them as much as possible. However, as more teachers bend under the pressure the teachers for the children with special needs will become the teacher for all of the children. Other times children from different schools have to share one teacher and will, therefore, have a restricted number of hours with that teacher per week or month.
I still remember when I went to school each year had two classes and there was the class for the students with learning disabilities. We didn't really socialize with any of them until one day where one of our classmates was tested positive for being dyslexic. She needed extra help and therefore needed to go the "special" class for a couple lessons a week. In the beginning, everybody thought it was really cool with all the resources she got, like a computer, but there's an end to all beginnings. When we had group work the people in her group would often take her computer and use it because they were faster at typing than she was. Most people didn't think of how it made her feel and true they were right they were faster, but they also inflicted a pain that will never go away. A pain that unless you have had the same experience you will never truly understand what is like. We are now all grown up and it turns out that another 3 people from the class are also dyslexic just not as severe as her. How did they grow up? They grew up thinking they were stupid and unable to really anything right. Why weren't they tested? Well, their symptoms weren't severe enough.
I have met a lot of Koreans that always ask me the same question when talking about this subject. What does it mean to be dyslexic? Well according to NOTA, dyslexia is to have significant difficulties to learn to read and write. The difficulties are the slow and imprecise transform of letters to sounds and reverse. Now, most people will describe it as, when you are reading, the letters are jumping around on the pages. However, keep in mind that the symptoms are different from person to person.
According to NOTA, there's no exact number on how many Danish people are dyslexic but a guess is 7 % of the Danish population. Does that seem low? Well if they counted all of those who grew up feeling like they are stupid because nobody wanted to test them, the number would definitely be a lot higher. Studies have shown that your intelligence and being dyslexic has nothing to do with each other. However, the way people look at dyslexic people and the way they talk down to them makes them feel very small. Yes, at times they need longer time to process things but that doesn't mean they won't come to the same conclusion as you or even something you haven't thought of before.
Being dyslexic is not something you can see from just looking at a person and most people won't tell you that they are dyslexic until they are very comfortable with you. Why? you might ask. Well, for people that don't understand it will ask you a lot of stupid questions that can make it very awkward. One that my friend has heard a lot over the years is "then how can you speak English?" or "but your Korean is so good". Yes, maybe she is dyslexic, but she is also a person just like you with goals and dreams to fulfill. If there's something you really want, you will be able to do it sooner or later as long as you work hard, and you truly want it. For each person's dream, there are steps to step over they are just not the same as mine.
Despite her difficulties growing up, she told me one important point that I will never forget. "Being dyslexic is like being homosexual in the way that it's something you're born with. I'm dyslexic and I have done a thing that most "normal" people haven't or haven't even dreamed of doing despite my difficulties. I grew up feeling stupid but now I know that I'm just a bit different and I'm proud of it."