Finding their superpower

In 2006, GUY POPE-MAYELL co-founded the Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand to advocate for children and adults with dyslexia. The foundation continues to seek ways to provide support, and its latest initiative focuses on building self-esteem.

Guy Pope-Mayell, his wife Suzanne, and Lorna Timms started the Dyslexia Foundation because in 2006, dyslexia was not officially recognised.

“The Minister of Education at the time said on TV that dyslexia doesn’t exist. That grated with us because that had not been our experience with our own family. So initially, we decided to form the foundation to have dyslexia officially acknowledged. The journey from there has been one of advocacy and struggle – with some progress and some lack of progress. The journey continues,” says Guy.

Initially the foundation’s work centred around education. The group provided professional development for schools and ran awareness weeks. They also ventured into justice, helping to raise the youth court age from 16 to 17 and above.

Increasingly, the foundation noted that by far the most disabling aspect of dyslexia was the formation of limiting beliefs caused by years of running into obstacles within the education system. “Beliefs such as ‘I am lazy’, ‘I’m not intelligent’, ‘I’m the odd one out’ become ingrained,” says Guy. “These beliefs have a lasting impact on both the sufferer and their family, with widespread effects on relationships.”

To combat the disabling effects of low self-esteem and limiting beliefs, the foundation launched The Family Journey Belief Change programme. Families can now access a service tailored to those with dyslexia and designed to retrain the brain to stop limiting beliefs and negative self-talk.

The process is simple, involving a 15-minute discovery call and three one-hour sessions, and the results so far have been exciting.

Guy says, “I spoke to a young guy who had always wanted to be in the army, but he needed to pass the aptitude test. Within a school environment, as a person with dyslexia, he would have been entitled to a writer/reader or other support, but in this case, there is no provision for neurodivergent candidates. He sat the test, and he failed. After that, he went through our Belief Change programme. All he did was attend those sessions to help him with limiting beliefs, and the next time he sat the test, he passed. It changed his whole life trajectory.”

For families affected by dyslexia, Guy says the most important thing is to take responsibility rather than wait for the system to change. 

“There has been great progress in the education system, but the reality is the struggle of navigating education is still traumatic and can lead to all sorts of issues. My advice is to tackle it as things come up, think what’s the one thing I can do now to help. Maybe that’s a tutor or a change of school. But because the landscape is changing all the time, it’s best to take it one step at a time.”

For families who wish to access the Belief Change programme, the first step is to register on the foundation’s website. The cost for the three sessions is $595, and Guy says this is an investment in your family’s future as the results can be life-changing.

dyslexiafoundation.org.nz