Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the U.S.; it’s estimated that one in five Americans are affected by it. While 20 years ago educational provisions for the reading disorder were virtually nonexistent, the government now spends around $11 billion annually to help support school children with dyslexia (and other disorders).
Despite this, there’s still a disturbing lack of knowledge about the condition. For example, there are 14,000 online searches for “what is dyslexia” and an additional 18,100 for “dyslexia test” every month in the U.S. While organizations like the Michigan Dyslexia Institute (MDI) aim to improve national awareness, unfortunately for people with dyslexia, this lack of knowledge means they still have to deal with offensive perceptions from colleagues and peers daily.
What is Dyslexia
Before we fully dive into the topic of Dyslexia it is important to have a clear understanding of what exactly it is. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that impairs the ability to spell, read, write and even speak.
Signs of Dyslexia in Kids
One major sign or symptom of Dyslexia in children is found in their reading comprehension skills. They may read at a slow pace or make frequent mistakes when reading, especially reading aloud. According to the Mayo Clinic, young children who learn words slowly, start talking later, and or reverse sounds in words may have Dyslexia. A child who has Dyslexia in the school setting may read below their age level, have difficulty processing words, and struggle to find the right words to use when speaking. These are just some of many signs of Dyslexia you can look out for.
If you are a parent concerned about your child’s reading and speaking ability you may want to reach out to a professional. If you notice your child struggle with their reading and writing, and these skills are below what is expected at their age, it is important to bring this up to a doctor or a speech-language pathologist.
Aside from the symptoms, the stigma around dyslexia means many people with the condition have to deal with offensive stereotypes regularly. One of the most common and harmful misconceptions is that a person with dyslexia has low intelligence.
In reality, the opposite can often be true. Dyslexics are often very gifted, very intelligent individuals. Many books and articles have been written about successful dyslexics who have lived very productive lives despite their dyslexia. From Steven Spielberg to Richard Branson, there are countless examples of hugely successful people with the condition, especially in the creative industries.
While there are obvious obstacles in learning development for people with the condition, dyslexia is no reflection of IQ or intelligence. And, the difficulties it does pose, can be, and often are, overcome. A person with dyslexia will always struggle with reading when compared to non-dyslexic peers, but they can learn to use strategies that help them function well and be successful members of society. They can learn to read, and they can even learn to enjoy reading.
Dyslexia at Work
Today, schools and support organizations do more than ever to ensure dyslexic children are supported from an early age. Teachers can have a tremendous impact by helping these students be successful in reading by allowing them to ‘read’ audiobooks and ‘write’ reports through other media, such as making a video or 3-D project. Tactics like these can help guarantee that by the time they’re adults and entering the workforce, they’ve already developed coping mechanisms to overcome typical obstacles.
Despite perceptions, there are many advantages to the condition as well. The dyslexic mind processes information differently, and while this can make reading difficult, it can also make some thought processes much easier. For example, they approach problems differently and can often see the big picture differently from non-dyslexics.
A person with dyslexia can often face frustration at work if they are expected to fit into a mold rather than being allowed to use their creativity to approach problems and find solutions. For many, their inability to master the written word keeps them in jobs that fail to allow them to flourish.
So, what can employers do? Recognizing both the strengths and weaknesses of a person with dyslexia is vital, and can go a long way toward feelings of support. Employers who listen and attempt to find projects and tasks that align with the strengths of a person can help them flourish in the workplace.
A complex condition
While difficulty with reading is a major symptom of the disorder, there’s a lot more to it. Dyslexia is a reading disorder that goes well beyond writing letters backward or flipping words in a sentence. These can be symptoms, but the condition itself is much more complex.
It can, for example, affect other things, such as memory. While someone with dyslexia may have trouble remembering sequences and numbers, they often have a fantastic long-term memory for experiences and faces.
Dyslexia manifests itself in different ways from person to person, which is part of the reason why so many people still do not understand it. Tera Tuten from ProCare Therapy explains the importance of education, “Working with school nurses and therapists every day, we see how important it is to teach staff about the intricacies of conditions like dyslexia. A comprehensive education strategy from workplaces, but also just a little common sense and compassion will ensure that those with dyslexia don’t have to deal with misinformed stereotypes, and their colleagues, friends, and family get a better insight into what it’s like to live with it.”