HomedyslexiaWhat Dyslexia Is, and what Dyslexia Is Not

Despite the fact humanity has known about dyslexia since 1877 and huge advances have been made since then, ignorance still runs rampant. As a small way to fight that, I’ve compiled the most common myths and answered them.

These spiffy glasses help me see, but they don’t change my dyslexia.

“People with dyslexia just need special glasses.”
Although many dyslexic rock their glasses, eye function has nothing to do with dyslexia. If reading problems are completely corrected with glasses, the issue at hand wasn’t dyslexia.

That said, it is entirely possible to have vision problems and dyslexia. In my case, I have astigmatism in my left eye, and didn’t start wearing glasses regularly until a couple of months ago. Since my brain is now relying on both eyes, my depth perception is finally normal, and I get fewer headaches, but my dyslexia is the same as it was before wearing them.

There’s also the possibility of having both Scotopic Sensitivity Disorder (Irlen Syndrome) and dyslexia. If reading is corrected completely by color overlays or glasses, the struggles were from Irlen Syndrome, not dyslexia.

Although glasses make it easier to see, and different background/text colors can take stress off of the eyes, dyslexic errors cannot be completely fixed with these measures.

Confusion enters the picture when a person is initially misdiagnosed with dyslexia, and these corrective measures fix their problems with written language.

“Dyslexia is like a terrible disease. It must be cured!”
I’ve seen dyslexia compared to cancer before, which was incredibly weird. A person can’t die from dyslexia, and there are no drugs to treat it, despite the fact I’ve seen companies try to advertise just that.

Dyslexia is just a different neurological makeup. Barring physical difficulties in ears and eyes, we receive information just like everyone else, but that information is processed differently in our brains.

This variation is usually only caught when we start learning how to read and write. Since our brains are doing more work to interpret language signals, it takes us longer to interpret things like questions, text and directions. That means we lag behind our peers, and we’re given the ‘disability’ label.

The best accommodation a dyslexic child can get is the opportunity to have a multisensory education, like that offered in the Orton-Gillingham method. There are also apps, computer programs and lower tech measures many dyslexics find helpful.

Lastly, but most importantly, dyslexia doesn’t need to be “cured”. The weaknesses should be addressed, but the strengths that come with it must be nurtured.

Flu is a disease. Dyslexia is not, though dyslexics have played huge roles in each of these fields.

“Dyslexia never changes.”
Thanks to stereotypes reinforced by the media, many people still believe dyslexics either can’t read or their dyslexia never changes over time. It’s not known as a spectrum neurodiversity like autism is, and it’s usually perceived as either something that dooms that child to a life of mediocrity when they grow up.

This is all false.

Dyslexia can change over the course of a single day. Environment plays a huge role in how easy or hard it is to process language. For example, I can spend hours reading a good book in a quiet environment, but if I’m in a loud crowd with people trying to talk to me, I can’t even read a fast food menu.

Dyslexic children also learn how to live with their dyslexia with time. Even if they never learn how to read fluidly, that doesn’t mean they don’t find ways to work around that. Audiobooks are great tools, as are text-to-speech programs. Family and friends also often help out. 

It’s also possible for dyslexics to have different symptoms and ways of seeing things. For some people, words squiggle around on the page, while letters and words look like they’re reversed. Or letters morph into different shapes. There are countless ways in which dyslexics see text.

Some people also have more difficulty than others, or related difficulties, like the word recall I struggle with, are more difficult than others. Dyslexia, like all neurodiversity, comes on a spectrum.

Although kids struggle at first, it’s common for those same students to excel as soon as they enroll in more complicated lessons. Because we think differently, supposedly easy tasks end up being difficult for us, but tasks others struggle with may be easy for us.

There are dyslexic adults in every professional field. Our unique way of processing information makes us ideal innovators and managers. The main problems dyslexics face are ignorance and discrimination.

It’s hard to stand up in the face of those difficulties, especially when you feel alone in your experience. Fortunately, things are starting to turn around, and there are communities available to support us.

“Dyslexia’s just an excuse to get attention.”
This spews from the mouths of people who either don’t believe dyslexia exists or think it’s over-hyped.

Most kids with dyslexia want nothing more to direct attention away from their struggles. Many just want to shrink into the background, and those who seem to be attention seekers only act out as a way to escape pressure to concentrate on what they struggle with.

Here’s part of what the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has to say about dyslexia:

“Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. […] In individuals with adult onset of dyslexia, it usually occurs as a result of brain injury or in the context of dementia; this contrasts with individuals with dyslexia who simply were never identified as children or adolescents.  Dyslexia can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to developing dyslexia.”

According to LD Online and other sources, small studies have also indicated both structural and functional differences in how dyslexic brains in comparison with non-dyslexic brains. Research is still ongoing.

Dyslexia is real, and it is not an excuse for extra attention.

At the end of the day, while dyslexic people do face challenges most never will, we do still have a lot to offer. Our differences can be our strengths, especially when we’re given the chance to nurture them.

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