I Can’t Spell Dyslexia – Do I Have It?!
No matter how brilliant a person is, no one is immune to having a few academic challenges. Even those “child genius” competitions always have some kid who mastered calculus at age 4, but for the life of them can’t point out Europe on a map. Challenges are normal and can be overcome, but managing dyslexia can be an especially tricky obstacle, as the ability to read and write impacts many important areas of life.
Why does reading seem easy to others?
As effortless as it may look, reading is an incredibly complex operation for the human brain. It requires matching letters to their assigned sounds, placing sounds in the correct order, conveying them into sentences, and comprehending what they mean. People with dyslexia have trouble with the first step - matching letters with correct sounds. This in turn makes the rest of the steps a lot tougher.
Howd o i k nowif Ih av it?
If all sentences look as confusing as that headline, there’s a clue. Dyslexia manifests itself differently at different ages. A few common issues associated with dyslexia include:
Trouble with memorization
Difficulty finishing tests and assignments within time limits
Seeing spaces in incorrect places or having words appear squished together
Spelling words exactly as they sound – not comprehending “silent” letters
Rearranging letters in words. I.e. – reading “dim” as “mid” or “net” as “ten”
The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity is a great resource to what symptoms may look like across all walks of life from preschool to adulthood: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/dyslexia/signs-of-dyslexia/
How did I get dyslexia?
The causes of dyslexia are not fully understood, but we do know that it is a neurological condition that is often hereditary. Research suggests that the brain connectivity in children with dyslexia differs from that of children with typical reading development. This impacts their ability to process “phonemes” which are the sounds that letters make when grouped together.
Face it, I’m just not that bright
Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, individuals with dyslexia tend to be fast, highly creative thinkers. They generally test well orally, as their issues are with reading and writing but may articulate very well. Since rote memorization is difficult, they gain an aptitude for “big picture” thinking and deeper understanding. With the right support, they can be very successful students and employees.
How do I deal with it?
Far too many people with dyslexia are left behind because they simply don’t have the tools and understanding to reach their potential. If you or someone you love is struggling with dyslexia, try taking these steps:
1. Get an eye exam
Though some people with dyslexia have issues with eyesight, vision problems are unrelated to dyslexia. However, sometimes people with vision problems mistake their symptoms as signs of dyslexia. Getting an eye exam can determine if vision plays a role in your challenges with reading; if your vision is 20/20 or glasses don’t seem to be helping, you may have dyslexia or another learning disability.
2. Set “micro-goals”
Taking on huge projects is intimidating for just about anyone, especially if you have dyslexia and know that it will require extra time and focus to get the job done right. Break projects down into smaller parts and set weekly micro-goals to tackle each piece. This will ease the intimidation and your smaller victories will add up to your end goal.
3. Master time management
Individuals with dyslexia require additional time to read, comprehend, and spell out answers to show their true understanding. Ask teachers for extra time to complete tests and find out test formats ahead of time to be prepared for what you’ll be tasked with. Work on time management by looking ahead to upcoming assignments; if your work load is light one night, start working on that essay that’s due at the end of the month. Giving yourself extra time will curb your anxiety and allow you to show your true mastery of the subjects at hand.
4. Find your inner “techy”
The first documented case of dyslexia was written by a British doctor in 1896. He wrote about a boy who was remarkably bright but had difficulty reading. Unfortunately for that boy, dyslexia didn’t even have a name at that point, much less an abundance of tech resources to make life easier. You on the other hand, are living in the age of smart phone grocery shopping and robot vacuums! Embrace the latest technology to work around your challenges.
A few techy tricks:
Read with your ears – Sight isn’t your only sense. Give your eyes a break and try audio books. There are tons of services that offer audio versions of popular novels and textbooks.
Become a dictator! – Easy Napoleon, we’re not saying to take over the world so you can ban reading and writing. We mean to explore dictation software so you can save time by talking instead of typing.
Use your image-ination – If you have dyslexia, relying on reading to process information can be difficult. Use image searches to add visual aids to your study tools and presentations. Printing images on flash cards will make memorization easier. A PowerPoint full of pictures will help you get through your presentation without the anxiety of having to read every point.
Space out – Some research suggests that increasing spaces between letters helps individuals with dyslexia read. Program your computer settings to add more space between letters in MS Word.
Upgrade your Bic – Ditch your dollar store pen pack and consider investing in a smart pen; these nifty gadgets will record everything you write and hear, eliminating the stress of trying to quickly write notes in classes or meetings.
5. Don’t Hate - collaborate!
When you’re struggling with completing tasks or just need someone to review your work, reach out to a teacher or friend for help. Seek support from coworkers who have strengths in writing and reading comprehension. Show them your appreciation and make yourself available to assist them in areas that they struggle with.
6. Unleash your superpower
Don’t let dyslexia’s difficulties overshadow the exceptional traits that it tends to yield. You have unique skills and talents to share, and the world needs them! With support and perseverance, individuals with dyslexia emerge from school and career life with exceptional work ethic, management skills, adaptability and creativity - all traits associated with success!
7. Get Tested
If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have dyslexia, the best way to have your questions answered is by getting tested by a specialist. A specialist in learning disorders can help you identify your challenges and create a customized plan to overcome them.
What’s more, many schools and universities have policies in place to support students diagnosed with dyslexia. A diagnosis and thorough understanding of your symptoms will help educators and employers make appropriate accommodations in school or the workplace.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology. If you’re uncertain if your child has dyslexia, Dr. Shinn can provide an educational consultation to guide you and recommend tests for your child, even if they’ve already been tested before. If your child is already classified with a learning disorder but not receiving the help they need, Dr. Shinn can assist with advocating for your child to ensure that their academic environment provides a supportive place for them to reach their potential.
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