Date of Award

5-1-2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Pensoneau-Conway, Sandy

Second Advisor

Gray, Jonathan

Abstract

A common understanding is that dyslexia is the inability to spell words, the inability to recall symbols, the inability to recognize sight words, or the inability to decode. Dyslexia is often described in deficiency language—the inability to do something. Deficiency language is a product of special education and continues to dominate common understandings of dyslexia. Additionally, special education views dyslexia as an isolated variable, an object to assess, measure, and rehabilitate, and does not take into consideration systemic factors that may influence learning. In this dissertation, I ask three primary research questions: (1) What are the influential areas of study in the academy that have shaped our contemporary understanding of dyslexia? (2) What is a dyslexic way of knowing and writing? How can we make our classrooms more accessible? And (3) What can we learn about the educational institution from a dyslexic positionality? After reviewing the literature on dyslexia from the areas of special education, disability studies in education, critical communication pedagogy, and crip theory, I identify that dyslexia tends to be object of study, and very few people who identify as dyslexic are writing about dyslexia. The dyslexic scholar is rendered invisible. An undergirding principle of this dissertation is that dyslexia becomes visible only through communication: the miss-reading of a sign, a miss-spelled word, a misunderstood text, mistakes. If we come to know the world through writing and communication, then the “mistakes” that are common to dyslexia are actually another way of knowing the world, a legitimate way of knowing. Through performative writing, I articulate a dyslexic way of knowing, and show how this way of knowing can help us rethink course design and classroom communication. I also offer course design strategies that aim to disrupt ritualized educational practices, subvert scriptocentricism, embrace universal design for learning, and promote personalized education. In the process, I legitimize a dyslexic way of know, and by effect, legitimize dyslexia.

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