Out of the darkness and into dyslexia

Gil Gershoni
Published in
4 min readMay 23, 2022

Before I was a dyslexic design thinker, before I was a creative director, before I even knew I was dyslexic, I was just a kid trying to figure out how my mind worked. Working together with Understood.org, I’m exploring my relationship with dyslexia and seeing how each step along the way led me to where I am today. You know how it’s going. Here’s how it started…

Gil Gershoni
Gil Gershoni and the neurodiverse Gershoni Creative team in motion

For much of my childhood, I grew up in Israel. It was the early ’70s, and dyslexia wasn’t really recognized then. So, until I was in fifth grade or so, they just labeled me as lazy. Stupid. Daydreamer.

It was very difficult for me to read, and I had no interest in it. The school system didn’t recognize any learning differences, which meant I spent my first five years of education trying hard to fit a square block into a round hole.

My parents believed in education and wanted to support me. But they didn’t know how. I had afterschool tutoring. It was traditional tutoring, which really didn’t help me. On the weekends, I had additional tutoring. And over holidays and vacation breaks, I continued studying.

In the end, the results weren’t equal to the effort, and I still struggled. But my mom knew that outside of this rigid learning framework, I was a curious, innovative, smart, playful young boy. She couldn’t understand how, when everything else I did was so whimsical, I was below average in a traditional school system.

People often think that dyslexics can’t read and write, and that’s often bundled in with low IQ. Mom knew there was a gap and talked with me about it. She said, “You’re not stupid and you’re not lazy — there’s something else going on.”

My response was, “Every mom says that about their kid.” And she laughed with a bit of a tear in her eye — a little heartbroken by the honesty of a young boy saying that to his mother. She said, “Look, if that’s what you think, why don’t we get your IQ tested?”

I didn’t know what IQ was, so she explained it in words that a child could understand. Then, she continued: “So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go through someone outside, not through the school system. You’re going to go on your own — I’m not going to be there to influence the process. And we’ll see how you score.”

I trusted her and went, terrified of being tested. But the man who tested me was very sweet and understanding. After the testing, he brought my mom back into the room. He said that when it came to reading and writing, I was below average. But in every measure of non-linear thinking, I was “way off the charts.”

After that, my mom moved me to a different school district that had a curriculum for kids with learning differences like mine, and the teachers started to teach me how to read and write. They had ways of teaching that were multisensory and much more varied.

We moved to the U.S. in my early teens, and I needed to start again with English as my second language. But by that point, dyslexia awareness was on the rise. And as I learned traditional linear methods for reading and writing, it came with lots of support from my school.

I got a lot of support from my mom, too. She realized that if all the effort at home was focused on what I can’t do, then we were developing the muscle of my “half-empty cup.”

She often said that if my brothers (who aren’t dyslexic) and I focused on what we can do, we’d develop a healthier way of understanding our strengths and powers.

Over the years, I’ve talked to enough dyslexics to know this story is not just mine. It’s a common human story.

We humans, dyslexic or not, all have a little part of our childhood in us where we either felt unseen or misunderstood. Or where we didn’t understand ourselves or why we were different.

But having somebody — a parent, a teacher, a neighbor, a friend — who sees the magic in you, can help find the thread that can pull you through.

This story is part of an ongoing series exploring the relationships between neurodivergent people and their families. Read more.



Gil Gershoni
Writer for

Founder and creative director, Gershoni Creative. Frequently speaks on dyslexia and its impact on problem solving, design thinking and workplace collaboration.