By Nancy Price
Famous innovators such as Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Agatha Christie and Walt Disney, have changed the course of history and the way we live our lives.
What else did they have in common?
They were all dyslexic.
A COMMON DISORDER
“As many as one in five people are dyslexic, so it is extremely common,” said Abigail Griebelbauer, a native Southsider, graduate of Roncalli High School and author of a children’s book about dyslexia, D is for Darcy Not Dyslexia.
Griebelbauer was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in second grade while attending Nativity Catholic School. “The biggest reason I wrote this book was the lack of understanding about dyslexia that I had seen over the years,” she said. “I knew the best way to help bring awareness to dyslexia was to create a book that could be used with young children.”
“If we openly discuss disabilities with younger students, they have a better grasp of what it means to live with that disability,” Griebelbauer continued. “Sometimes people with disabilities feel like it is something that can’t be discussed or shouldn’t be talked about, and I think that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The more we discuss topics like dyslexia, the more people can understand what that means.”
A DIFFERENCE IN PROCESSING INFORMATION
Griebelbauer was tested for dyslexia after she was falling behind her peers in class. “Dyslexia isn’t a visual problem, lack of intelligence, or laziness,” she said. “It’s a difference in the way we process information that makes us think differently. It’s genetic and is lifelong. Some signs include reading well below grade level, problems with spelling, confusing right vs. left and trouble telling the difference between letter sounds.”
“When you are dyslexic spelling can be difficult because you want to spell words phonetically (sounding out the word and writing the sounds you hear in the same word),” added Allison Kelly, a Kindergarten teacher at Saint Lawrence Catholic School in Indianapolis. Kelly, who was diagnosed with dyslexia in the fourth grade, grew up with Griebelbauer. They are lifelong best friends.
“My diagnosis came with the diagnosis of dyscalculia, which is the condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills,” Kelly said. “Abigail struggled in reading when that was my strong suit in school. I helped her in reading, when she helped me in math because Abigal’s strong suit was math. We pushed each other to overcome our difficulties and helped each other out.”
Griebelbauer was helped by a tutor a few days each week, who introduced the Orton-Gillingham approach. “This is a multisensory phonics technique, which is now highly recommended for students with dyslexia,” said Griebelbauer, who also received accommodations, including taking tests in a quiet room with additional time, an audiobook format for textbooks and the use of a calculator. “Some others include spelling not being counted wrong unless it was a spelling test, seating near the front of the class and help with note taking,” she said.
Griebelbauer also learned that dyslexia includes strengths such as creativity, storytelling and empathizing. “These were essential while I wrote and created the book,” she said. “Another dyslexic strength that I use daily is problem solving. If you look at famous people with dyslexia, there are a lot of similarities between them. One of these is they are highly innovative because dyslexia gives them a unique perspective. Dyslexia has also taught me a lot about perseverance and patience. I know that if I keep working at something, eventually I can get it right.”
These skills helped Griebelbauer to succeed in high school and college. “I would absolutely say that my self-esteem grew the more I learned about dyslexia because my struggles went from ‘being my fault’ to just something that I get to learn how to overcome,” she added.
Griebelbauer shares those strengths through the main character in the book, Darcy. “I created the title to show that Darcy is more than her dyslexia. Dyslexia is a part of us, but it doesn’t define us,” she said.
The book is printed in Open Dyslexic font to aid those with dyslexia in reading it. Griebelbauer also worked with her friend and illustrator Cecilia Edwards to create images that would appeal to children. “Visually representing dyslexia was a challenge for me because I didn’t have any idea what it’s like, but I went in depth with Abigail about the emotions that go along with it and specific experiences that she and others have had,” Edwards said. “Some things were very relatable to me, such as being nervous to read out loud in class or being discouraged by bad grades even when you know the information. I latched onto some of those feelings and was able to translate that into imagery. I’m excited to see what comes next for us!”
Griebelbauer and Edwards will collaborate on their next book in January. “We plan on creating books similar to the first one by focusing on one disability at a time,” Griebelbauer said. “We are hoping to have at least one book published in 2021 and two more by 2022.”
D is for Darcy Not Dyslexia is available for purchase on Amazon.com for $14.99. For more information, please visit thepassagepress.com.