Dyslexia is a condition that most of us think we understand, but few of us actually do. It can be defined as a difference that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. But there is much more to dyslexia than that. It is a neurodivergent condition, meaning that dyslexic brains work in a different way to the majority of other brains, and the impacts of that can and do go beyond reading and writing, and bring positives as well as challenges. Here are 7 things that dyslexic people wish you knew.
It is not just about reading. Like other neurodivergent conditions such as autism and ADHD, dyslexic brains experience the world in a different way. Not better or worse, just different. Some research suggests that dyslexia is connected to how the brain adapts to new sensations. In common with other neurodivergent people, dyslexics experience differences in all aspects of life as their brain senses the world in a different way,
Dyslexia is not linked to intelligence. While dyslexia can often make reading difficult, reading is not linked to intelligence. There are incredibly intelligent people that struggle with reading, and well-read people of below average intelligence. But as many education and qualification systems are based on reading, dyslexic people struggle in these areas despite their intelligence.
Dyslexia has positive aspects as well as challenges. Brains that work differently can see different ways of doing things, different potential solutions to problems and come up with different ideas. Research is uncovering a whole range of positive traits associated with dyslexia that might surprise you.
Accommodations for dyslexic people are not unfair. What is unfair is not levelling the playing field for dyslexic people and others who a situation or test is not designed for. Allowing dyslexic candidates extra time in an exam goes some way to removing the disadvantage they face from the exam being in written form. Research has shown that this allowance is only of significant benefit to dyslexics.
Dyslexia is not a disease to be cured. It just so happens that much of our world revolves around reading, which dyslexic brains find very difficult. Our brains learn to read, and dyslexic brains are different in a way that means that this is more difficult for them. Other brains may not be able to identify differences in smells or musical notes, but we do not think that they need a cure.
Dyslexic brains may be vulnerable to information overload. This is common to many neurodivergent people, and there are several reasons why this may occur in dyslexic brains. The key is to listen to the preferences of the person concerned, and the solution may be as simple as letting them take notes and going at their pace.
Dyslexic people may love to read. This really should not be so surprising – lots of us enjoy playing sports even though we find it incredibly difficult to do so well! Reading is a means of gaining information, whether a story or facts, and when allowed to develop their own strategies, dyslexic people can and do love reading and books.
As with other neurodivergent conditions, our understanding of dyslexia is at a very early stage. We must be careful to ensure we do not limit dyslexic people by forcing imaginary barriers or stereotypes onto them.