INTERVIEW WITH GEORGIA RYAN
Inclusivity Advocate + Youth Ambassador for Dyslexia Mid North Coast.
We've long admired your pursuit of open-mindedness, understanding and support of those who have dyslexia. Briefly tell us what triggered your pursuit of this cause.
I myself have dyslexia and dysgraphia, which means my brain uses a different part to most people when processing written material and language.
I didn’t find out I had dyslexia until I was in Year 6 and up until that time, not one of my teachers realised that this might have even been an issue for me.
This made me realise how little most people actually knew about dyslexia and how some people even think that having dyslexia make us ‘lesser’ in some way. I wanted to try and change that perception and to try and get people to ‘own’ their dyslexia and to see it as a positive thing, which is the exact opposite of how it has traditionally been seen.
My parents had taught me that learning how to self-advocate would be the most important tool I would have and it was also around that time that I read a quote from Barack Obama and he said;
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”.
That made me realise I couldn’t just wait for somebody else to do something, if I wanted things to change then I had to do something about it!
FINDING MY VOICE. SHARING MY PURPOSE
Many of our Tween community have a passion or purpose but perhaps haven't found their voice yet - or the appropriate platform to share their message.
What practical and emotional barriers did you have to overcome to get your message out there?
I guess the main barrier to having a voice was finding a platform that suited me. I had just turned 13 and was beginning to explore social media.
I actually read a quote that Lisa Messenger from The Collective Hub had posted that said, “Nothing changes if nothing changes”. This really said something to me and the more I thought about it the more I decided to just go for it, so I signed up to Instagram and this quote was the very first thing I posted!
It made me realise that unless we are brave enough to speak up and try and change things, then everything would stay the same.
When I started on social media I decided I wanted to talk honestly about dyslexia and some of the challenges that a learning difference involves but I wanted to do it in a positive way. It was also around this time that I started my online petition to try and get better training for preservice teachers to identify, teach and support those with a learning difference. I think being brave enough to talk about your own experiences is the way to spread your message.
Do you have a top tip you'd recommend to other young readers to help get their message heard or help them form a movement?
I personally have found that seeking out others and ‘owning’ my dyslexia has been an amazing experience. I think a lot of people feel isolated because they just haven’t found the right people to connect with, which is where, for me personally, social media has been amazing!
I know that there are a lot of pros and cons to joining social media and it’s not the right fit for everybody, but I have been fortunate that my experiences have been so positive. Social media has given me a platform and allowed me to connect with so many people going through the same things as me, not just here in Australia but all over the world.
Connecting with others that share what you are going through has been amazing and has helped me to find my tribe and to become part of a bigger community.
MY PERSONAL WINS
Of course we HAVE to ask this question: what are you most proud of having achieved in the pursuit of your purpose?
Whenever I get a personal message from somebody that has reached out to me or whenever I’ve been stopped in the street by somebody wanting to chat about what I’m doing, these are the times I am most proud of. Knowing that you have connected with others going through the same thing and that your experiences or thoughts may have helped somebody is the most amazing feeling ever!
I am also extremely proud to be a Youth Ambassador for Dyslexia Mid North Coast.
I think it has made me realise how much I love to help others. It’s also made me realise how much I would love to teach and to help other kids like me!
YOUR PURPOSE - YOUR FRIENDSHIPS
Did your purpose affect your friendship group or popularity or socially gain you respect in any way?
Not in the slightest! My friends still just see me as their friend Georgia. The social media stuff and accolades hasn’t changed the way my true friends and family see me, I’m still just me.
EMPOWERED THROUGH PURPOSE
Please offer your best piece of advice to any Tweens affected by dyslexia - practically or emotionally
School is hard! Being a tween or teen is hard!!
Having dyslexia and navigating through a school system not designed for our way of thinking is really, really hard!!!
What we just need to remember is that having something you may think is a negative can actually be a positive.
It is also only one small part of who you are.
And sometimes we just need to concentrate on the other things we love.
Having other passions and interests is so important as is connecting with others that might be going through the same experiences.
I have been extremely lucky that I go to a school that is inclusive and supports me in everything but I know this isn't the same experience for everyone.
I guess my most practical tip for any high school kid with dyslexia is to learn how to self-advocate, to try really hard to be organised and to embrace the use of Assistive Technology.