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The Importance of Support Networks

This time round I have opted to discuss a more ‘light-hearted’, yet still crucial, topic surrounding dyslexia: support networks. Whether it be family, friends, teachers or lecturers all of these individuals can play a huge role helping us dyslexics within daily life. Vitally individuals can help both academically and emotionally/psychologically. Often this can be an unconscious natural ‘helping behaviour’ or altruistic actions that people may not even be aware of. From my own personal experiences much of the support I seek is based on reassurance. Whether it be checking spelling, proofreading the phrasing of an email or written work or merely discussing something trivial through with someone else, all of these are immensely helpful for me. Within the following paragraphs I hope to shed light on the importance and formation of these invaluable modes of support.

How do we choose and decided on our support networks? This is an excellent question which I will look to theories and models from Social Psychology and Sociology to answer. Once diagnosed dyslexia becomes part of one’s identity. This ‘sense of self’ according to Sociologist Erving Goffman is based on how we present ourselves to others within daily life. Comprising of both biological genetic factors (nature) and socio-cultural features (nurture), everyone’s identity is different and unique to them as an individual. Those with similar identities, such as being dyslexic, will self-label and class themselves as belonging to a group(s) within society that are similar to themselves, including fellow dyslexics. Seeking ‘membership’, group cohesion and acceptance from social groups is a natural human desire that forms a large basis of contemporary society. This ‘safety in numbers’ can provide both comfort and protection. If we look around us we can see social groups that operate both in physical person and online/virtually, such as football fans, students and those with a neurodiversity or specific learning difficulties to name a few.

In addition to this social grouping theory, historically Social Psychologists have theorised that a Similarity/Attraction Hypothesis exists. Supporting the above theory, this hypothesis suggests that it is a natural unconscious human heuristic and instinct to gravitate to those who we share an identity characteristic with or those who have similar viewpoints, opinions or personalities. For a dyslexic, these ‘similar individuals’ can be fellow dyslexics with first-hand experiences of living with dyslexia, those who have a pre-existing knowledge, interest and background in neurodiversities or those who show empathy and sympathy towards the dyslexic community. I talk and interact with those who fit into each of the three above categories on a fairly regular basis. This can be both in person and messages via popular online forums or apps. Specifically, I have found talking with fellow dyslexics to be particularly beneficial and interesting. In doing so I have been able to share and exchange daily coping mechanisms and ‘life hacks’, had the pleasure of hearing others stories/journeys and heard their thoughts on how dyslexia affects them as a person. This ongoing process has been very enlightening and reassuring for two reasons. Firstly it allows me to learn more about the wonderful world of dyslexia. This is vital as in life we never stop learning, growing and developing as individual human beings. Secondly, this has confirmed that I am not alone and that support, help and like-minded others do exist out there. We just have to find them.

These support networks have, and continue to be, so important and meaningful. I am extremely grateful to all those who give up their time, even just for a small gesture, who I probably haven’t thanked enough. Support and help from others is so critical for building trust, rapport and self-esteem, which as discussed in an aforementioned post can be greatly lowered in dyslexics. By building these relationships dyslexics can discuss their worries and concerns in a safe space without judgement or stigma. As dyslexia is a key cog in my own identity, reciprocating that support and offering encouragement and guidance for fellow dyslexics is something I feel very passionate about, as well as finding both rewarding and personally beneficial. Consequently, I cannot stress enough how important support networks are for dyslexics emotionally and psychologically. Although we might not always say it, we do appreciate help and guidance as much as any other person.

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