Hadley woman’s podcast seeks to inspire those with dyslexia

  • Gibby Booth, a massage therapist, who is dyslexic, does a weekly podcast featuring others with the disability from her office in Hadley. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Gibby Booth, a massage therapist, who is dyslexic, does a weekly podcast from her office in Hadley. The program features those who have the disability GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Gibby Booth, a massage therapist, who is dyslexic, does a weekly podcast featuring others with the disability from her office in Hadley. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Booth is also writing a memoir about her life coping with her disability. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Booth, who is also writing a memoir, says dyslexia has made her tenacious, entrepreneurial and hardworking. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Booth says dyslexia has made her tenacious, entrepreneurial, hardworking. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Booth says dyslexia has made her tenacious, entrepreneurial, hardworking. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

For The Recorder
Friday, February 16, 2018

The words on a page have always seemed to be floating on the paper to Gibby Booth. When she’s reading, she says, she just can’t keep her place, so she has to go over the same paragraph several times. Often the information gets jumbled and just doesn’t make sense.

Booth, who live in Hadley, says it’s as if her eyes are playing tricks on her.

It wasn’t until she was in college, she says, and on the verge of failing out that she got a diagnosis that explained it all. She suffers from dyslexia, a learning disability known to make reading and writing difficult.

Booth, 27, got the help she needed, finished her degree, started her own massage therapy business, and now is reaching out to inspire others like her through a weekly podcast.

“Dyslexia is my superpower,” she says.

The disability, she explains, is part of the reason she is a tenacious, entrepreneurial, hardworking person. Through her podcast, which she calls Dyslexia Is Our Superpower, she hopes to help others see the disability in a positive light as well.

Lonely struggle

Dyslexia, which affects 10 to 15 percent of the population in the United States, varies in severity from person to person. Symptoms can include difficulty recalling words, a tendency to mix up words, trouble with spelling and problems with handwriting, according to The Dyslexia Research Institute, an advocacy organization based in Florida. Some people also struggle with math.

Only five out of every 100 dyslectics receive assistance, the institute says.

When Booth was a child, she says, her struggles with reading and numbers embarrassed her.

She remembers being unable to learn to read a clock at age 5, while her sister, two years younger, got it right away.

“I thought two things: one that I was stupid and two that I can’t let anyone know… I was worried that if my family saw it they wouldn’t love me as much because I was flawed.”

She tried to compensate by spending long hours studying. She’d go straight home from school every day and bury herself in homework.

“I would often pretend to go to bed and then turn my lights back on and stay up for hours into the night,” she says.

Still, others were noticing her difficulties. Her teacher in 6th grade suggested she opt out of taking a language course to enroll in a special reading class instead. Mortified, she took a French class anyway and by sheer determination made a decent grade.

By high school, she says, she was spending five hours studying every night.

“I found a way to power through it,” she says.

The struggles caught up with her when she landed at the University of Maryland, studying animal science. With her grades hitting rock bottom, she realized she needed help. “There were not enough hours in the day,” to study enough, she says. “It snowballed into a nightmare.”

Her mother’s suggestion that she get tested by a clinical psychologist led to the dyslexia diagnosis.

“There certainly was relief,” Booth says.

She was then allowed extra time on exams and homework assignments. She also got access to audio books that were easier for her to get through. Her grades went up, she says, and she finally realized that she just has a different learning style that needs accommodating.

Reaching out

Now running her own massage therapy business, Booth decided in August to reach out to others through a podcast.

Every week, she hosts interviews over Skype with people who have dyslexia and have worked to overcome it, like Sophia Torrance from California who was featured in a recent program.

Torrance says she landed a job as a bank teller despite her dyslexia which causes her to struggle with numbers. Knowing a calculator would help and that she could seek assistance from colleagues, she approached the position with the confidence to persist, she says.

“I stayed on for eight years,” she says in the podcast.

In another recent episode, Booth chatted with three siblings in Michigan who created an organization called KidsRead2Kids, where they record videos of themselves reading books and post them online for other children with learning disabilities to listen to.

“Having reading disabilities themselves they know how difficult reading can be, but they also know how amazing it is to get lost in a great story and to be transported to another world,” Booth says.

Part of the podcast’s mission is to make sure that children who suffer from dyslexia know that they aren’t alone. She says that when she was first diagnosed, she would have appreciated the support of others who have the disability. “I was really looking for a tribe, a community full of people who I could relate to and exchange stories with,” she says. “I really couldn’t find it.”

Finding an audience

Booth records the program in her Hadley office and it airs on her website. It is available on iTunes every Tuesday.

Over the last few months, Booth says, the podcast has soared in popularity, reaching a global audience of 10,000 to 12,000 listeners each month, according to the podcast hosting and publishing company Libsyn.

A listener in San Diego, Skip Bardin, said in a phone interview that the podcast has been a great resource for his family. His two teenage sons, 14 and 18, both have dyslexia and he stumbled upon the show when researching podcasts online three months ago. Now he and his sons regularly listen to Booth’s program when they are in the car.

“I think it is an inspiration, informational and it is comforting,” he said. “You think ‘Oh, my gosh, other people are going through this and I’m not crazy and I’m not dumb.’”

The podcast, he found, is also a resource for his children to discover ways to cope. In one episode, they learned about a technique called mind mapping, which is a way to visualize information in a diagram with pictures instead of words. “If you can create a picture in your head you are more apt to remember because you would otherwise get lost in all the words,” he says.

In addition to doing the podcast, Booth is working on her memoir, which she plans to self publish in the fall. She describes the book-in-progress as a “love letter” to her younger self.

It will show her journey with dyslexia, she says, “how I went from being embarrassed by and hating it, to gradually accepting it, to where I am now, loving it and calling it my superpower.”

The writing, she says, has been therapeutic, both to tackle her fear of writing and to confront the difficult moments from childhood.

She hopes that through her podcast and her book she can provide support and encouragement to others.

“I want fellow dyslectics to know that they are not alone,” she says. “I need to make sure that especially kids know that they are not stupid because of their dyslexia.”

For more information about the “Dyslexia is Our Superpower” podcast or to listen, visit gibbybooth.com.