Ah, October. Month of Halloween, pumpkins, breast cancer awareness, pumpkins, falling leaves, pumpkins, and dyslexia awareness! As you may know, that last one has a deep, personal importance to me.
In honor of the dyslexic aspect of this month, I’m sharing some important facts about the neurological makeup I share with so many others.
One requirement of being diagnosed with dyslexia is that you must have an average or above average intelligence level. Despite what bullies and those who buy into the stigma equating poor reading/spelling to stupidity, being dyslexic is, by definition, being smart.
One of the most common misconceptions about dyslexia is those with it see words, letters and numbers backwards. In reality, our eyes see text in the same way those without dyslexia do, but our brains process that information differently. In fact, scientists are learning more about the specific neurological mechanisms behind dyslexia with the help of fMRI scans.
Dyslexia isn’t limited to text, either. It can effect our perception of left/right, spacial orientation, procedural tasks, short term memory, understanding speech, and many other things. I, for example, still have a hard time telling my left from my right without feeling for the wedding band on my left ring finger.
Because we process information differently, it can take us much longer to complete schoolwork and tasks relating to reading or writing. Since so much of our society, including our schools, is so deadline oriented, we’re often unable to finish our assigned tasks on time. This then leads to the perception that we’re lazy or unwilling to do the work.
In reality, we’re already working twice as hard as most people in our peer group. If allowed the time we need, we can excel and contribute amazing things to the world we all live in.
Because humans are complicated beings, and dyslexics are all human, dyslexia doesn’t effect everyone in the same way. My group of symptoms may not match that of my sister’s group of symptoms, yet we both fall under the dyslexic umbrella.
Its severity can also vary from day to day, just as it can from person to person. When a student is well rested, happy and ready for the day, they may be able to get all of their work done, with minimal errors, in a timely manner. If they’re tired, stressed or sick the next day, they may fall behind.
That’s a natural part of being dyslexic, but it’s still very misunderstood. That inconsistency also contributes to the “lazy” stigma. In my life, it lead directly to being told repeatedly, “You work so hard to fail”, which wasn’t the case at all.
|Well, those are supposed to be candies. They look more like bow ties. A Yale study stated that one in five people has dyslexia. In this case, the green candy is dyslexic. Mmm. Candy.|
Some studies say between 15% and 20% of the population is dyslexic. It’s almost impossible to get a specific number, because countless people go undiagnosed, and therefore un-helped, for their entire lives. Dyslexia is hereditary, so many parents only discover their dyslexia when their kids are diagnosed.
Statistics aside, dyslexia is the most common learning disability, but teachers are not required to learn about dyslexia or how to help their dyslexic students during their training. Sadly, there are still educational professionals who don’t “believe in” dyslexia, even though it’s a federally recognized disability, protected under IDEA.
Although dyslexia can be difficult to deal with in the early school years, people with dyslexia are often more likely to exhibit specific gifts that are valuable to the world at large. Some of these include:
- Big picture thinking
- Unique problem solving skills
- Extreme creativity
- Artistic talent (obviously something I don’t have)
- Excellent social skills
There are many more gifts dyslexia gives than I can list here. One of the best ways to help a dyslexic child learn the basic skills they need for their academic careers is to incorporate their natural gifts into their school work.
Is your little one a fantastic artist? There’s no reason why they can’t be allowed to use drawing or sculpting to learn their addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Do they love stories? Concentrate on having them read a favorite story along with an audiobook, or better yet, with you.
It won’t be easy at first, but fostering a love of learning with their existing interests will make the struggle worth it in the end.
This month, please read up on dyslexia, and if you have a dyslexic in your life, give them a couple extra hugs.
If you like what you’ve read here, please feel free to pass this entry around!