If you’re not one of the ten to fifteen percent of the population with dyslexia, it’s really hard to understand what it’s like.
It’s easy to think that it’s a bit of a scam. That if people with dyslexia worked harder, and really applied themselves, they could “get over it.” But that’s not the case.
Life is actually much more difficult for people with dyslexia. They have brilliant minds, but they’re hard to focus.
Dyslexia is a gift—the gift of being able to see things from lots of different points of view, all at once. But the gift comes with a curse, and the curse is that it’s hard to prioritize, or make sense of, all those perspectives.
People with dyslexia can be hard to live with, and hard to love, because their brains work so differently to ours. Even if you love someone with dyslexia, the day-to-day living with it can drive you insane. Because they can forget things, believe they’ve said or done things they haven’t, be incredibly messy and disorganized, and be less socially aware than other people.
The best thing you can do is to understand more about dyslexia, so you’re less exasperated and more sympathetic.
This is an insight into how their minds work.
1. They have lifestyle challenges.
Dyslexia is much more than just having difficulty reading, writing, and using numbers. They see the world in a completely different way, communicate differently, and have trouble organizing things.
Some people describe it as a lifestyle challenge, others as a lifestyle curse, because it affects almost all aspects of their lives.
2. They can seem weird.
Despite their high intelligence, and because they see so many different perspectives at once, they can appear incoherent in conversation. They can come out with strange ideas, and lack the ability to check if their thoughts are suitable for conversation. They can seem almost autistic because they’re often unaware of social rules.
3. They find details exhausting.
Because their brain is less efficient at processing letters and sounds, it has to work harder—much harder. So any time spent reading, using numbers, or focusing on details is really, really exhausting.
4. They function differently on different days.
Some days they seem to function better than others, and can appear to be improving. Other days, it’s like everything is getting worse. There’s no reason, and no pattern. It just is.
5. They are highly creative.
Their ability to view the world from all perspectives makes them highly creative. They can come up with wildly creative ideas, partly because they’re not constrained by the laws of physics, mathematical logic, or the impossible.
6. They see things that others don’t.
Like words moving on the page, or even off the page, and letters flipping about. You know how challenging it can be to read letters and numbers in captcha? Imagine reading a whole book like that. Or reading a book through a magnifying lens that a child is holding, and moving about.
They can even see the word cat more than 40 different ways.
7. They get overwhelmed by what they see.
They see so many possibilities that their thoughts can become garbled and distorted. It’s hard to sort through all that information and work out what’s important or appropriate. Without the ability to filter, this special gift becomes a tragic, confusing, disability.
8. They are more likely to have ADD.
People with dyslexia are more likely to have ADD. About 40% of people with dyslexia have ADD, and 60% of people with ADD have dyslexia.
9. They can experience thoughts as reality.
They can fully believe they’ve told you something, that they haven’t, or swear that you haven’t told them something that you have.
Often they express themselves in such a unique way that their message hasn’t come across coherently. And they may not realize that this aspect of their communication is part of their dyslexia.
10. They may not know they have dyslexia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dyslexia can go undiagnosed for years, and may not be recognized until adulthood. This is one reason why it’s hard to calculate the number of people with dyslexia. And, unfortunately, people with undiagnosed dyslexia often label themselves as stupid or slow.
11. They think in pictures instead of words.
Not surprisingly, they tend to be highly visual, think in pictures, and utilize visual aids to help them plan and organize their lives. Rather than using self-talk, their thought processes are more subliminal. Most people with dyslexia are not even aware that they do this.
12. They will always have dyslexia.
They can learn to read and spell, but they will always have dyslexia. To make life easier, a font and a dictionary specifically for people with dyslexia are on the way.
The font is designed to avoid confusion, and add clarity, while the dictionary will favor meaning over alphabetical order.
13. They use their brain differently.
People with dyslexia don’t use their brain the same way that most of us do. Their brain underutilizes the left hemisphere—the area required for reading—and the bridge of tissue between the two sides of the brain (the corpus callosum) doesn’t function in the same way. So, their brain doesn’t always direct information to the correct place for processing.
14. They get it from their family.
Dyslexia is inherited, and most people with dyslexia have an aunt or uncle, or a parent or grandparent with dyslexia. Scientists have discovered that the DCD2 appears to be a dyslexia gene.
15. They often have low self-esteem.
People with dyslexia are just as intelligent as the rest of us. And they’re fully aware that other people can read and write much more easily than they can. So they feel stupid compared to other people.
As Albert Einstein said:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life thinking it’s stupid.”
16. They have different symptoms.
Dyslexia is a tricky thing, because no two people have the exact same symptoms. Some lose things, or have poor organization skills. Some are slow at reading or have poor comprehension. Some may have difficulty organizing ideas to write, or have difficulty processing auditory information. Some also have difficulty sequencing the days of the week, or months of the year.
17. They are full of contradictions.
They may be highly aware of their environment, but appear lost. They may recognize, or read, a word on one page but be unable to recognize it on the next. Their brains are often very fast, but they appear slow, because they’re filtering through all the possibilities that they see.
18. They have great strengths.
People with dyslexia are often very good at reading people, and have great people skills. They usually have fantastic memories, and rely on them. They’re often good at spoken language, and frequently spatially talented (think architects, engineers, artist and craftspeople). They are highly intelligent, and intuitive, with vivid imaginations.
19. They can be incredibly successful.
People with dyslexia can be incredibly successful, often because of their dyslexia.
Famous people with dyslexia include entertainers like Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Henry Winkler, Danny Glover and Cher. As well as artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Tommy Hilfiger, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.
Carole Grieder and Baruj Benacerraf utilized their dyslexia to become Nobel prize-winning scientists. People with dyslexia also go on to be writers and journalists like Scott Adams (of Dilbert), Agatha Christie, F Scott Fitzgerald, and Fannie Flagg (the author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café).
20. They can change the world.
People with dyslexia can, and have changed the world. People like George Washington, Richard Branson, Henry Ford and Stephen Spielberg have changed, and continue to change, the world we live in.
People with dyslexia are kind, creative, highly intelligent beings who are just as frustrated at their inabilities as you are. They just can’t take a break from the way their minds work.
Instead they rely on the people that love them to help them interpret the world, and to help them function in a world that’s not adjusted to their needs.
Yes, they can be frustrating to love at times, but they have incredible, unique, world-changing gifts.
With your help, maybe the person you love can change the world too.
Dyslexia is all too often regarded as a stigmatizing label and there are many misconceptions about this minor learning disorder. If you love someone with dyslexia, you may well have come across some of these myths and stereotypes. So, to set the record straight, here are 15 reminders if you love someone with dyslexia. Pass it on to anyone else who may have the same problem.
21. They are just as intelligent as everyone else.
Dyslexia is just a minor difference in the way the brain processes sounds, letters, words and can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It is just that the dyslexic sufferer’s brain is wired differently. Richard Ford and Albert Einstein are two inspiring examples of extremely gifted people who had the same problem, yet they made an enormous contribution to knowledge, literature and science. Dyslexia is not a measure of anyone’s intelligence.
22. They need to be spotted early.
The earlier the better. If you have noticed that there are problems with your child in processing letters, sounds, spelling and reading and maybe writing, then it may be time to get him/her tested. The Woodcock-Johnson-Revised Test of Cognitive Ability is one the tests used. Edison’s teacher had no idea what dyslexia was and sent home a note which read, “Too stupid to learn.” With the right help, dyslexic children can thrive and succeed. Look at the list of famous people here who had dyslexia and you will be amazed.
23. They are at risk of falling through the cracks.
The sad fact is that many people who struggle with dyslexia just give up because they are not helped or encouraged enough. We are in danger of losing dyslexics and the figures from one UK prison confirm that. They did a survey at Chelmsford prison of over 2,000 inmates and found that 53% had a problem with dyslexia. That is an incredibly high figure when compared to the rate for the law-abiding population which is around 10%.
Richard Branson’s teacher had a similar premonition when he remarked that he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire!
24. They need better support at school.
With the right training and use of special techniques, children can overcome their difficulties. A survey in UK found that many dyslexic students ended up frustrated because of unhelpful comments from their teachers. For example, 83% of them were told just to ‘try harder’. What was even worse was the fact that two thirds were forced to read aloud in front of their classmates.
25. They are likely to have inherited this disability.
Scientists have now identified 6 of the genes they believe are responsible for reading and spelling difficulties that children and adults encounter. These genes are those we all use to be aware of sounds, verbal memory and also verbal processing speed. Most experts agree that this is neurological disorder which is often genetic
26. They have problems with letters, sounds and spelling.
From the age of three, you can spot a child who may be dyslexic when they have problems matching sounds of the alphabet with the objects they can represent. For example, one student could not identify the picture of an apple which would illustrate the letter ’A’. Other examples are where words of several syllables may all get jumbled up such as “pasghetti” instead of spaghetti or they may spell animal as “aminal. They will often write the word “said” as “seb”.
27. They can spot what is out of place.
A dyslexic person is often quicker at discovering what is out of place in a problem, theory or experiment. This ability is what has driven dyslexic scientists to discover anomalies which have led to dazzling awards and prizes. An excellent example is Carole Greider (Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2009) whose discovery of the telomerase enzyme has led to extraordinary advances in the study of aging and cancer. It all started when Carole started investigating a research area which was so far off the beaten track that it was almost off topic.
“One of the things I was thinking about today is that as a kid I had dyslexia. I had a lot of trouble in school and was put into remedial classes. I thought that I was stupid.” – Carole Greider
28. They cannot be creative and they are bound to fail.
This is the greatest myth of all because dyslexics have a lot going for them. Not only are they intuitive and creative but they can be brilliant at hands-on learning and solving three-dimensional problems. These are all abilities which require a lot more than verbal skills, yet our society has always placed a premium on reading speed. What a pity that dyslexics’ talents are not appreciated more.
29. They can take meds for dyslexia.
No, there are no pills to take! There is no cure or medical treatment for dyslexia. Either you manage to use coping mechanisms or you may drop out. Using memory a lot more and substituting acronyms and nonsense words to represent words are ways that children can cope with their reading and spelling difficulties at school.
30. They need more support and encouragement.
If your loved one has dyslexia and missed out at school where it was never even recognized, you may want to offer help and support now. They may still have problems remembering a name or a fact. Help them get assessed if necessary and then encourage them to get coaching where they can learn more coping strategies. They may need specific help with time management, planning and passing on phone messages, for example.
31. They may need help to discover how they learn best.
Supporting a loved one with dyslexia will involve examining what their learning style is. They may benefit from getting instructions through the auditory channel. Max Brooks, the Hollywood screenwriter, who is dyslexic was helped by his mother when she recorded all the material he needed for learning on audiocassettes!
32. They often hide their problems at work.
Between 10% and 15% of the US population are thought to have dyslexia. In spite of that, dyslexia is often a closely guarded secret as individuals are afraid that disclosure may damage their career. A lot depends on the employer’s attitude to the problem. If they are committed to helping their workers reach their full potential, they will provide screening and support. The problem is that many employers do not.
33. They may have problems at college.
Dyslexic students find that using audio recordings are a great way to fast track their studies because reading is, inevitably, slow. If you need to download recordings of a vast array of literature and textbooks together with magazines, you may find the Learning Ally site is useful. Voice recognition software is a great help too in writing essays and assignments.
34. They use a different part of their brain to read.
When a neuroscientist discovered that her son was dyslexic she wept because she realized how many obstacles he would face in life. She has written a book on this which has the fascinating title, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. She explains how the dyslexic brain has to learn to juggle letters, sounds and words in the phonological part of the brain, on the right hand side. The non dyslexic person uses other areas and the result is faster reading and writing. The dyslexic’s brain is wired differently to everybody else’s and it takes more time. Reading aloud to a child from an early age may give them an advantage.
35. They are at a disadvantage if they are English speakers.
Part of the problem is that the letters in the English language can have many different sounds. Think of the letter “a”. It can have five different sounds as in safe, apple, alive, acorn and wash. Now in Spanish, the letter “a” always has the same sound so that is why there is not nearly as much dyslexia among Spanish speakers or other languages where there are regular phonetic rules.