How a Gameboy Color Helped Me Overcome My Disability


(Taken from Reddit but I had this exact same gameboy color and Pokemon Blue)


I am going into my final year of college and I will graduate at the top of my class as well as being part of an Honors program. This is a modest achievement but it is something that I am immensely proud of because of what I had to overcome to make it to this point. When I was six years old, my parents discovered that I have dyslexia. Although most people's understanding of it is that it makes you spell or read things backwards, that is not a true representation. Dyslexia is a learning disability that can affect you in a myriad of ways and the classic example of spelling or reading backwards is just one way it can affect you*.

My parents had already known that something was wrong with me because of the struggles I was having to even learn the alphabet. While I was having no problem learning simple mathematics at that age, even learning simple words like "stop" eluded me. I was tested for many other potential problems before being tested for dyslexia. At one point my parents thought I had either a speech impediment or a hearing disability because I was unable to pronounce the simplest of words. This is a common problem for dyslexics because a core aspect of dyslexia is that the phonetics of words and letters do not connect correctly in our brains. Luckily for me, my kindergarten teacher took an interest in my difficulties and suggested I get tested for dyslexia.

After the diagnosis, my parents found a computer software program called FastForword that was created to help dyslexic children overcome their disabilities by using the plasticity of the brain to work around the difficulties caused by our "faulty" wiring. Up to this point, I had hated trying to learn the alphabet and words with a fierce passion because of how impossible it seemed to me to even learn the alphabet. This is about the time that the gameboy color and a simple Pokemon Blue game started to change my life.

Going into 1st grade, I had already done several months of the FastForword program on a computer and had begun to seen some improvement on recognizing words and letters and being able to correctly pronounce them. It was still a very slow process and one that I did not enjoy. To this day, I have an image burned into my brain from one of the "games" that the program used to help me understand the different sounds of letters. The scene is a carnival and there are three seals balancing balls on their noses in a ring. You are told to pick which two make the same sound. Then each seal bounces the ball into the air and barks a noise.

Going back to the gameboy, in 1st grade I often had to stay in the after school program as my parents were busy working and couldn't pick me up when school ended. That was where I was first introduced to a gameboy. There was this group of third graders clustered around a little rectangular device and I came over to see what they were doing. What I saw was them playing Pokemon Blue on a Gameboy Color and I was hooked from the start. I fell in love with the images of these "monsters" fighting each other and getting stronger and turning into even bigger and stronger monsters. However, one major obstacle stood in my way of truly enjoying the game. All those words that I could tell were flashing across the screen were still an incredible challenge for me to even make out two or three at a time.

It was at that time that I realized there were all these cool things that were happening that were being blocked from me because of my inability to read. It sparked a renewed desire to find a way to overcome my disability and learn to read so that I could play this Pokemon game and understand all that was happening. By the end of 1st grade, I was almost caught up to the regular students in their reading comprehension and I had the greatest gift I had ever gotten, my own Gameboy Color and a Pokemon Blue game. I played that game for hours on end and never got tired of finding new Pokemon and battling the Elite Four again and again and again.

The crazy thing was that once I finally started being able to read some of the words and understand them, it sparked a love for reading that has never faded. I went from struggling to remember the alphabet in the beginning of 1st grade, to tearing through the Redwall books, if anyone remembers how awesome Martin was, in 2nd grade to being moved to the advanced reading group by 4th grade. Dyslexia never goes away and it will be something that I will deal with for the rest of my life. However, I have been able to find ways to overcome it and not let it stop me from reading and succeeding in my classes.

I have been able to enjoy a large amount of success in college and other parts of my life, and a good portion of that success can be traced back to a Gameboy color and a Pokemon cartridge. I think that is one reason I will always have a love and appreciation for Pokemon games and why I continue to buy the new ones as they come out. I know the impact it has had on my life has gone far beyond an appreciation of video games.

*If you are truly interested in learning more about Dyslexia, this website is a great source for information.http://www.dyslexia-reading-well.com/