If you are reading this because you think you may have dyslexia, you may be feeling a little apprehensive about what it means for you. Has your child just had a diagnosis and you recognise their issues in yourself, or have you recognised your difficulties through reading sites such as this one? However you came to think this, you are probably worrying about what to do with this knowledge, whether to find answers to your questions or just leave them be. I hope you find this blog is useful; it is not an academic analysis of dyslexia and its implications, it is a personal reflection of dealing with dyslexia as a teacher and as a parent.
What is Dyslexia?
The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek; ‘dys’ meaning difficulty and ‘lexia’ meaning words. So there it is: dyslexia is a difficulty with words. You probably already have some idea of what dyslexia is. The most common aspects of dyslexia are:
- Difficulty with learning to read
- Problems with learning to spell
- Always being late
- Being disorganised
Dyslexia however, is much more complex. I know students who enjoy reading and have no problems. Other students have coped with spelling and time management by a range of strategies. Some of my students are more organised than me. If you look for a definition, Google will provide many organisations and academic sources with differing definitions. The one common aspect is a difficulty in processing information, and this is what links the above. This means dyslexia affects the ability to demonstrate what you know, and what you can do with the information you have, through literacy skills. This is how dyslexia affects learning. As a child progresses through school, the main teaching methods focus on the ability to read and write to the level expected of the National Curriculum. As adults we are all judged on our ability to spell and communicate in writing.
There are many well known celebrities who have bravely identified themselves as having dyslexia. Most recently Kara Tointon, winner of Strictly Come Dancing and East Enders actress, has made a programme about her difficulties called ‘Don’t Call me Stupid’. Other well known people include entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, architect Richard Rogers, comedian Eddie Izzard and many more.
How Do I Know If I Have Dyslexia?
To diagnose dyslexia, a specialist will look for a pattern of difficulties. The diagnostic procedure will depend on the age of the person, and more crucially, perhaps, why they need the diagnosis. Mostly a diagnosis is carried out to access funding for support, and the information it is likely to yield is more useful for funding bodies than for the individual. Whatever the outcome, more importantly to me is the fact that I know and work with students with dyslexia who manage their lives as teachers, academics, builders, electricians, and nurses — to name just a few.
Dyslexia affects everyone differently, but it can be managed and can make more committed students and colleagues. In my experience those with dyslexia know they have to put in the extra work. They know they have to be organised and often organise everybody else around them. They also know they forget things so make super organised lists and stick to deadlines. They are also the people with creative ideas, they are hard working problem solvers. The downside of this is that it can get very stressful. Does this sound like you or someone you know?
In summary dyslexia is a combination of difficulties that affect organisation, time keeping, reading and writing. For some these difficulties may be apparent, others may have developed strategies to cope. Someone with these difficulties may look and act as if they are super efficient but underneath may feel extremely anxious, tired and stressed. A diagnosis will assess the nature of difficulties and a good practitioner will explain how learning strategies can work best for the person affected. It will also explain how some strategies may be making life difficult. Whether the outcome is dyslexia or not: we could all benefit from this information.
- Search Google for “dyslexia” and see what you find
- Watch ‘Don’t Call Me Stupid’ on BBC i player.
- Learn to recognise and celebrate your strengths and weaknesses
- Find support groups in your area. Your local further education college may be a starting point.
- Take advice and research funding for a diagnosis. You can contact PATOSS for advice and find a specialist tutor in your area http://www.patoss-dyslexia.org
- The British Dyslexia Association website is very useful. Have a look at http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/about-dyslexia.html
Jane Freshney was one of the first people in the UK to obtain a Masters Degree in Adult Dyslexia Diagnosis and Support (MA ADDS). She is Cert Ed, a member of The Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties (PATOSS), and a member of The Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education (ADSHE). Among other things Jane currently provides specialist support for many students on degree courses at her local university college. For more information visit www.dyslexia-worcestershire.co.uk