Interview with Dr. Johnson-Rockmore about her new book Journey of Hope


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Editor’s Note: Journey of Hope will be available for purchase at PBIDA’s Conference on April 9th. It can also be purchased through Amazon or Vessels of Hope.

  1. We are excited to talk about the release of your book Journey of Hope. You have a number of accomplishments: your academic degrees, your mentoring organization Vessels of Hope, your recent book Journey of Hope. Is there any one you are most proud of?

Getting information out to the community that needs it is what I am most proud of. I hear about many missing pieces, people who are struggling but don’t know why. It gives me the most joy when people can begin their journey with the information they need. Through Vessels of Hope, I set up free events at libraries, churches, and community centers about what dyslexia is and how to find help. 

 

  1. You open the book with an unexpected revelation about your father. Would you say your connection with him was a turning point in your dyslexia journey? Why do you title the first chapter “I Become Aware”?

Talking to my father and learning about his dyslexia was the missing piece in dealing with my dyslexia. It was comforting to discover I wasn’t the only one who struggled. The title refers to becoming aware of this part of me and my family. Knowing that my father was successful in his life in spite of the struggles was important. He served in the military and was an advocate for youth in gangs, and he did all of that while working with his dyslexia.

 

  1. Journey of Hope focuses on coping skills for adults with dyslexia, but you include some childhood experiences as well. As an adult, how hard has it been to recover from some of the discouraging moments in school as a child struggling with dyslexia?

Sometimes adults have trigger points that have their roots in childhood experiences. Despite accomplishments and working hard, some errors or embarrassments trigger the same feelings as the shame and frustration felt in school. The pain is still there. When a mistake occurs, it’s easy to spiral down with feelings of disappointment and depression. It’s important to remember that dyslexia doesn’t go away. We have to have something in place to work through those moments. It’s easy to revert back to thinking I’m dumb or not capable. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool. Sometimes it comes from a person who knows you and knows what to say. Positive self-talk is very important. All the negative words are already in our word bank. What we need is to flip to self-compassion and encouragement. For me, writing this book offers people another voice of support. I wanted to give people another avenue to get through those moments. 

 

  1. Your book is very encouraging to those with dyslexia, reminding them they aren’t alone and offering hopeful quotes. What is your biggest concern for this population, that is, adults who are not diagnosed as children?

My biggest concern is their emotional well-being and mental health. Dyslexia is not just an academic issue. It affects your social and emotional life. Struggling with skills and the frustrations that go with those struggles can lead to issues like substance abuse and crime. It can spiral in a person’s life if they don’t know what to do or where to go. 

 

  1. Journey of Hope offers specific tips for situations like seeking help in college, preparing for a job interview, and preventing issues at work. It shows how much you have done and continue to do to work with your dyslexia in a text-based world. What qualities or traits does someone with dyslexia need in order to pursue goals like higher education and professional positions?

Persistence wins out. Pursue information. Jump into support groups. Learn how to advocate for yourself.  Get an ally, someone who can proofread, someone who understands and can offer support and encouragement. 

Once someone finds out about their dyslexia, the next question is what do I do? How does this fit into my life? Definitely get to social media and connect with someone who can help. I monitor the Vessels of Hope support group on Facebook. Overall, we need more support groups. 

 

  1. Your book addresses so many situations in daily life where dyslexia can cause difficulties. It raises awareness about the scope of the effects. Was it difficult thinking about all of the ways your life has been affected? Is there any area you would add now that the book has been published?

It was a combination of my own steps and what other people have shared. I am fortunate to hear so many stories through Vessels of Hope. I wanted to be able to give people a broad range of situations and strategies. 

We may need a sequel. I’d like to go a little deeper into the social aspects. Other aspects of dyslexia affect daily life like time management and organizational skills. These skills affect relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. Those need to be considered as well.

 

  1. You have a wonderful section about successful adults living with dyslexia. How hard was it to find people willing to talk openly about their successes and struggles with dyslexia? Do you feel people in general are more accepting of people with dyslexia?

All of the people are personal friends, and they were willing to talk. Because of work I have done on podcasts, the HBO special Journey into Dyslexia, through Vessels of Hope, and throughout my education, I have been fortunate to become friends with people who felt comfortable sharing their insights and experiences.

Because of the shame involved with dyslexia and the general lack of knowledge by others, it’s hard for people to talk about their dyslexia unless you know them personally. I would encourage those with dyslexia to begin a conversation with their personal strengths and then lead into dyslexia rather than start out with talking about dyslexia. It would help dyslexics to highlight their gifts as well as the difficulties. By telling people more, we have the chance to educate others about dyslexia because a lot of people just don’t know.

Overall, it’s a growing awareness for those who want to be aware. I’ve been a part of the dyslexia community for a long time, and it’s like we’re preaching to the choir. We talk to educators who know but not always the people who don’t know about it. The truth is that nine times out of ten, a child who is struggling with reading is probably dealing with dyslexia. It shouldn’t be such a mystery.

 

  1. Thank you so much for your work in supporting the dyslexic community. Do you plan to have Journey of Hope available as an audiobook in the future?

I do. It’s a different process. Learning Ally is already working on it. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

 

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