Homeadults with learning disabilitiesHow Dyslexia Effects Adults

This weekend, my sister interviewed me for one of her classes. One of the questions involved how my learning disability effected me in the workplace. Last week, I read a fantastic entry about how there’s little available to help adult dyslexics over at Dyslexia and Me.

Even ibuprofen has its dangers to
watch out for.

Naturally, those to things got me thinking about just how profoundly dyslexia can influence adult life.

Reading
When I stop to think about it, American culture is saturated with words. Even if you’re not a bookworm like me, you still do a lot of reading in your every day life. Signs, captions on television programs, instructions on products, ingredients in food, and all sorts of other things.

Every type of job I can think of also involves some degree of reading or another. Retail workers read prices, display guidelines in bigger stores, and schedules. Kitchen workers may need to read tickets in restaurants, ingredient labels, recipes and cleaner labels. Office jobs naturally have a high volume of reading related tasks, since most of them are spent in front of a computer.

If you still have severe reading problems, it can effect every facet of your life. Accidentally giving your child, or yourself, too much medication for a cold, because you couldn’t read what the instructions were could have disastrous consequences. Most companies only tolerate a small number of mistakes, before corrective action is taken. Constant mistakes related to reading errors can result in job loss.

Illiteracy also increases your chances of jail time. According to a study cited in this article, 85% of juvenile offenders and 60% of prison inmates are unable to read. I always have a hard time finding statistics of LD in prison, but one study done with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found that 48%, just under half, of their inmates were dyslexic.

I’d say those figures alone demonstrate just how important reading skills are in adult life.

Procedural Problems
Another extremely common issue dyslexics share is difficulty with following procedures.

This is something I hadn’t known about until well into my adulthood. When I was tested as a child, one of the identified problems was a deficiency in short term memory. That short term memory issue is what I blamed for my inability to consistently remember the steps in certain tasks.

I had no idea of its connection to dyslexia until well after I’d been bitten repeatedly by that problem. The accommodations I’ve slowly figured out over the years have helped immensely for the procedures I can’t avoid, but now I generally stay away from jobs that require a strict sequence of steps.

However, I spent a long time thinking I wasn’t quite as smart or capable as the people around me, and that lead to a huge amount of personal hardship. I know I’m not alone in that experience, either.

Negative Thought Patterns
I don’t know why so many people seem to think childhood lessons vanish with age. It seems that as soon as a teenager leaves high school, some adults think, “POOF! These graduates are grown! Their childhood has become obsolete, and they should be able to handle everything we can throw at them!”

Of course, things that were important to you in childhood aren’t quite as important as in adulthood, but what we learn in our early years sticks with us throughout our lives. The majority of LD adults I’ve met struggled in childhood, in one degree or another.

Regardless of how much we grow as people, no matter how much we can build our self esteem, the way we’re treated when we’re small will continue to have an effect on us.

Unfortunately, the concentration on our struggles as children often evolves into a concentration on those same struggles as adults. Early intervention helps a lot, but sometimes that insecurity and low self esteem can linger. Too often, it evolves into depression or other forms of mental illness.

That makes accepting our LD even harder, which makes seeking needed accommodations, an exercise in shame. That may be reality for too many people out there, but it’s not the way it should be.

I was trapped in the pit of negativity for a long time, too. It took a lot of hard work to get to the point of looking for the positive in any situation and build off of that, but sometimes, I still catch myself back sliding.

Realizing my tendency to fall back into old, negative thought spirals is rooted in patterns unintentionally established in my youth helps me break free before they get too bad.

Of course, I can’t speak for everyone. This is my experience, and I’m pretty sure others share similarities to it, and my coping mechanisms, but we all must find our own paths.

The thing is, while early intervention is hugely important to the adults of tomorrow, the adults of today do need more support than they’re getting. Internet communities, like Dyslexic Advantage and Headstrong Nation are absolutely wonderful resources, but there needs to be more help easily available for those without internet access or money to buy technological accommodations, too.

I wonder, are they out there? How can we establish more?

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