“Many moons ago, I came home after a long day at work and instead of being greeted by my jovial eight-year-old daughter, I was greeted by stark silence. A deadly silence that resonates a sadness that hits your core. A sense of hopelessness and despair lingered in the air. Nitya was lost in a corner, invisible, buried in her study desk.
As I went near her, I could see that she had been crying. She lifted her head and overwhelmed with emotions burst into tears she was trying so hard to control.
Her entire body was trembling, swaying uncontrollably and in between those sobs, all I could hear was
"Mummy, I'm scared… I'm stupid… I'm dumb... I don't deserve to go to school. I, don't deserve to go to school!!!"
As I hugged her tight, all I could think of was- how did my jovial, full of life child
go from loving school to this?? What had happened?
to discover that like my younger brother-Kunal, Nitya also has Dyslexia- a Specific Learning Disability that impacts 35 million children in India, most not diagnosed, most accused of being lazy, “unintelligent”, bullied by teachers who do not have the ability to see this invisible disability!
So, with a diagnosis in one hand and loads of information in other, we picked ourselves up, wiped off our tears, brushed off the fear, held our head high, and marched forward, surrounded by an army of supporters, in which friends, family, teachers and classmates don't had enlisted, ready to conquer Dyslexia.
Fast forward a few years, as an empowered parent advocate, I was a speaker at a workshop that aimed to build awareness on the strengths and opportunities for children with specific learning disabilities. I was determined, I was standing tall. With a mic amplifying my voice and a presentation projected behind me, I was rattling off statistics
millionaires are Dyslexic!
Dyslexia is also known as MIT disease!
Don't Lose hope I said
I was pumped, I was on a roll! I believed that I was
preaching to the choir.
These parents were scared, just like I had
been many years ago. I was confident that if
they just had the information I now had, they would soon
join our army
These stories and statistics look good only on slides. The hard truth is, if my daughter isn’t INTELLIGENT enough to pass a basic math exam, how will she clear the competitive entrance exam to become an architect!” And that’s when it hit me.
My bubble of hope, burst! In all our struggles, never once had we believed that Nitya was not smart enough! Never once, did the thought cross our mind that she didn’t have what it takes to succeed. All we ever focused on was, what was needed to ensure that she succeeds. To me this was the universal truth! The holy grail!
But here, in front of me was a mother, filled with a sense of shame and belief that her child didn’t have what it takes to succeed. And in this moment, I realised that just like children need support to cope with their learning disabilities, their parents also need the support to learn how to advocate for them. Because if parents aren’t ready to advocate for their child, what chance does the child have?
And with this,
the seeds for
With a dream that no parent should ever feel the shame and hopelessness about their child’s learning disability, like this mother, standing in front of me was feeling.
My journey, as a mother of a child with Dyslexia has been filled with pain, anxiety and loneliness. It has been filled with nights consoling my child that her struggles with reading, writing, and spelling will get better. It has been filled with days where I have had to stand alone and shield her from the hate and judgement thrown at her by ignorant members of society. As a parent my role shifted from being a caregiver to becoming an advocate. I have had to educate myself on my child’s rights and how best to support her. I have also had to teach myself how to become the voice that must speak up so that society doesn’t silence her voice…. doesn’t crush her right to learn and thrive… but my story is not unique. My story is shared by millions of other parents like me, across the world.
It is with this hope that
Kunal and I decided
with a commitment to #speak4dyslexia, to #changeinkktheconversation about building inclusive societies that value those who think differently.
Our name is spelled "ChangeInkk" rather than "Changing" to reflect the key language challenges faced by those with Specific Learning Disabilities, & to encourage a change in the way their strengths and struggles are perceived. Through our interventions, we want to “change” the conversation about what equitable and inclusive societies should be and inspire our stakeholders to "ink change", sign up and commit to it.