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Jack White, Obstacles, and the Gift of Dyslexia

(This is a rough draft for the final post, because I knew if I didn't write it, it would't get done. So let's just call it "The Writing Process" in action, and please forgive the inevitable typos. Also... If you happen to find the specific clip in "It Might Get Loud"where White talks about creating obstacles, let me know!)

There's this scene in "It Might Get Loud," a music documentary featuring musical pioneers Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. It shows Jack White – the front man of The White Stripes, drummer for The Raconteurs, writer of "Seven Nation Army" and "We Are Going to Be Friends" – intentionally imposing obstacles on him self as he makes music. Why? Why would you intentionally create obstacles for yourself? Because those obstacles catalyze the creative process. If you don't have a full band, or even a "professional" drummer (See: Meg White, of the White Stripes), you have to come up with something fantastic to circumvent the problem. You have to look beyond the conventional, the accepted, the "normal."

Children (and adults) with learning differences like AD/HD don't have to create obstacles – they have them built right in! They can't do things the normal way. (Well they can, but it's awful: slow, frustrating, and difficult). These obstacles DO make things harder. A lot harder. But when you have an obstacle, you have to find a way to overcome it. Or go around it. Or break it down. Whatever it is, it demands more of you.

Without awareness and help, you may respond to the obstacle of dyslexia and/or AH/HD in negative ways: acting out, withdrawing, giving up. Those are all ways of coping with obstacles. But they don't have to be.

BUT. Let's see what Jack White says about obstacles:

"You absorb so much from whatever your environment is, as an artist, and you learn to take from it what can help you create. Many people in the neighborhood liked hip-hop and house music, and I couldn’t play that. You can’t perform that on guitar or drums, which was what I was playing, at the time. But, I got so much from mariachi bands that were constantly playing in the neighborhood, and even Tejano music or Banda music that was playing, all around. I absorbed all those melodies and I love those rhythms. Eventually, we finally got to use it on the last White Stripes record, in “Conquest.”

Jack White couldn't play two incredibly popular kinds of music. He's an insanely gifted and successful songwriter, guitarist, drummer, and entrepreneur (he owns the very first Superman comic book... and an upholstering business?!?), and he couldn't play hip-hop or house music. I don't think he's kidding, by the way. If you know anything about Jack White, you'll believe that despite his genius, he probably couldn't play house or hip-pop. And that obstacle helped him become who is: prolific, influential, extremely rich, and terrifyingly cool.

Overcoming dyslexia isn't simply a matter of breaking the alphabetic code, or increasing fluency, or even building "reading comprehension." It's about identifying and accepting a problem, taking appropriate steps to address it, and learning how to use that problem as a tool. Limitations catalyze growth. What can you learn from your dyslexia? What solutions AD/HD make you come up with? What conversations did your learning difference force/ allow you to have? I'm not putting a happy face on things, or sugar-coating "reality." I know how overwhelming AD/HD can be – I am AD/HD! And it's hard.

For example, I love to cook, but it's so hard for me to actually follow recipes, or to time things properly, or to clean as I go, or to remember all the ingredients... who can make a delicious meal out of pretty much anything? I CAN! Who can cook without a recipe? ME! Who figured out to use ground pepitas when she forgot the corn mean, and createdmultra-healthy and delicious crackers? I DID! A neurotypical cook wouldn't have forgotten the corn meal. But they wouldn't have found a much cooler alternative, either.

Dyslexia Therapy isn't just about breaking the alphabetic code. It's about finding the strength to persevere when things don't come easily. It's about finding and accepting help. It's about understanding how your particular mind works and getting creative to discover what you need to succeed. You can see the treatment of dyslexia, or of any learning difference, not as a frustrating hindrance, but as the very key to your unique success. Learning differences are obstacles, there's no denying that. But they are precisely the obstacles that can lead you toward finding your true voice. Whatever kind of voice it is. It might even get loud.

Pretty sure Jack White didn't play football, but all these fans are singing his song! (he gets paid every time it plays, brtw). Do you think it would have existed if he could have played hip hop and house music?

#classroom #writingutensils

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