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Local superhero inspiring students, one word at a time

Doctor Dyslexia Dude helps children overcome dyslexia

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June 3, 2024

OSHKOSH – The well-known motto: “Leave the world better than when you  arrived,” Shawn Robinson said, is at the heart of everything he does.

That’s why the local entrepreneur, author and public speaker said he knew he needed to do something that would have an impact while working on his peer review journals for his PhD –which focused on the intersection of race and disability.

“I noticed there was a gap – not just in the intersection but also in how young Black boys were seen in literature,” he said. “I mentioned to my wife, ‘hey, let’s try something different, and let’s try to turn my work into something more creative that can have a larger impact than just peer review.’”

That decision, Robinson said, led to the creation of Doctor Dyslexia Dude: an African-American boy with dyslexia (a neurobiological reading and learning disability), who is also a superhero.

As an African-American with dyslexia himself, Robinson said he wanted to take his personal experiences and put them into an accessible format to inspire children who also have a learning disability – specifically young boys of color.

This, he said, led him to create his own business around the character.

Robinson said he and his wife, Inshirah, and illustrator, Brandon Hadnot, began working on the first Doctor Dyslexia Dude comic in 2018 – which was “a narration of my experience with dyslexia.” 

Six years after creating Doctor Dyslexia Dude LLC and finishing the first comic, Robinson said they have self-published two more comic volumes, created a mascot and he has been able to travel the world to speak about dyslexia and the importance of persevering.

“We’ve been blessed to do something not many people have done before,” he said.

Inspiring the next generation

Doctor Dyslexia Dude, Robinson said, represents a myriad of things – from believing in one’s capabilities to learning about word families (which Robinson said involves students taking words apart and putting them together). 

Robinson said his drive to keep moving forward, even if it didn’t work out, can be credited to Doctor Dyslexia Dude’s character.

“The world doesn’t want to hear excuses,” he said. “The world wants to hear about solutions, and so I try to use Doctor Dyslexia Dude as an example of (those) solutions.”

The superhero, Robinson said, also shows students that they’re not alone.

Shawn Robinson

“(When) I do book readings and talk to students about dyslexia and my journey, I try to give them hope,” he said. “I try to use my experiences to help somebody else and give them encouragement.”

Robinson said it’s important for students to recognize that having dyslexia is not a bad thing.

“Having dyslexia is not a crutch, it’s nothing negative,” he said. “You’ve got to figure out how to live with it, figure out how to navigate, tap into your gifts and keep moving.”

The Doctor Dyslexia Dude mascot, Robinson said, also helps garner engagement and make people feel comfortable when he does readings or presentations.

“I try to bring my mascot with me to do something entertaining with the crowd…” he said. “I try to break the barrier of being vulnerable.”

Many students, Robinson said, will run up to give the Doctor Dyslexia Dude mascot a hug when they see him.

“Particularly kids of color – you don’t see a mascot that resembles a human, (and) that is empowering…,” he said. “It’s good to see smiles on kids’ faces when we travel and bring the mascot.”

Robinson said he, his wife and Hadnot make the Doctor Dyslexia Dude graphic novels relatable by putting the characters in a setting familiar to children.

For example, he said, the third volume – Doctor Dyslexia Dude!: Cracking the Code – features a hip-hop battle in an urban setting.

“We wanted to give it a different feel than the typical graphic novels we’ve done,” he said. 

Between the three graphic novels Doctor Dyslexia Dude LLC has produced, Robinson said more than 12,000 copies have been sold, which is unusual for self-published books. 

“It takes time,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate.”

More on Robinson’s story

Robinson said he’s familiar with many of the struggles kids with dyslexia are facing today. 

By the time he had graduated high school, he said his reading level was one of an elementary school student – “the odds were already stacked against me.”

Once Robinson “cracked the code” and learned to read while attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (UWO), he said he kept going.

“(I earned my bachelor’s), master’s, PhD – 18 years nonstop,” he said.

William Kitz, former director of Project Success at UWO – a remedial program for students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities – said when Robinson first entered the program in 1996, it took a bit of convincing to show him he was capable of overcoming the challenges of dyslexia.

“Once he got the idea that ‘hey, this could make a difference for me,’ and believed – that made the difference,” Kitz said. “We opened the door of opportunity, and he walked through it.”

Since starting Doctor Dyslexia Dude LLC, Robinson said Kitz has been both a colleague and a mentor.

“I give Shawn and his wife, Inshirah, credit – saying ‘oh, here’s a problem,’” Kitz said. “I think many times in our research community, we’re always fast to pick out problems but not so fast to do as much as we can. And for Shawn taking this up, I think it was a brilliant move.”

Kitz said Robinson has “committed himself entirely” to Doctor Dyslexia Dude LLC and its mission.

“(He’s) helping people who can’t read feel like they have the right to do it – they can do it (and) it’s not too late to do it,” he said. 

Working with organizations

In addition to managing Doctor Dyslexia Dude, Robinson said he has also helped out with other dyslexia organizations – including being on the board of directors for the International Dyslexia Association for a few years. 

This summer, he said he will also be attending a few different conferences across the globe to speak about dyslexia.

Shawn Robinson said many students run up to give the Doctor Dyslexia Dude mascot a hug when they see him. Submitted Photo

“This June, I’m going to London to speak at the University of Westminster about the work I do,” he said. “This July, I’m a keynote speaker at the (Wilson Reading System Certified Teacher) Conference, which is a prestigious organization on dyslexia.”

Robinson said he was also a keynote speaker at the OGA (Orton-Gillingham Academy) Annual Conference in the past.

Social Impact Excellence award

This year, Robinson said Doctor Dyslexia Dude LLC was recently awarded the Innovation & Strategic Achievement: Social Impact Excellence award from the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts (an assembly of professionals of visual arts that embraces the progress of traditional and interactive media).

It’s a recognition he said, “speaks to the work my wife and I do.”

“(It was) validation, in a sense – not just of the characters we’ve developed, but also the purpose and mission behind the work we do,” he said. “To reach the most vulnerable students who might not otherwise have access to high-quality content, particularly graphic novels – (I feel) blessed to be in this situation.”

Though the award, he said, is a great feat, Robinson said he is not one to rest on his laurels and acknowledges it’s taken a lot of hard work – and sometimes failure – to be in the position he is today.

“The journey I’ve been through speaks volumes to (the concept of) never stopping believing in yourself,” he said. “If you want something, you’ve got to go get it. If it doesn’t work out… you’ve got to keep moving.”

These core beliefs are ones Robinson said he shares with students when he does his book readings. 

“I tell students that my failures are the things that helped me get to where I’m at today,” he said. “I tell (them), ‘I’ve failed, but I’m not a failure – it’s different.’ I try to encourage students to think positively because once your mind goes, everything else goes after.”

To learn more about Robinson and Doctor Dyslexia Dude, visit

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