This is a companion post to my Tips for Handling Chronic Illness. My friend Heather graciously agreed to contribute her thoughts and experience with living with Dyslexia, so take it away, Heather!
My Dyslexic Diagnosis:
Mom had me diagnosed with Dyslexia soon after I started kindergarten. I’m a high moderate/borderline severe dyslexic. I wrote everything mirror imaged and/or scrambled and also had other symptoms waving red flags of Dyslexia as well. My uncommon and early diagnosis proved to be true as my issues continued and grew with each grade in school. Third grade was my breaking point, and my teacher had no choice but to hold me back. At the age of 12 I still couldn’t read independently. Up to the age 16, I couldn’t process what was being said by actors in movies and it (understandably) drove my family and friends crazy by me constantly asking questions. i.e., Why did they just do that? Why are they crying? What is happening? Why are they mad? Why did they just laugh? I would also watch movies out of the corner of my eye (and still catch myself doing so today). This can be a sign of many things, but for me it was discovered to be caused by my light sensitivity (co-existing SPD [Sensory Processing Disorder]). Looking out of the corner of my eyes changed the way my brain processed the light coming in and made it more comfortable for me to process. As a kid brushing my hair and teeth was quite the chore for my mom. It would put me in sensory overload as those sensory inputs actually caused—and still causes—me physical pain (because of my brain’s special wiring) so as a kid I would fight against it and scream. We found sticker reward charts somewhat helpful, and overtime, I just learned to hold the overload inside. (Up to a certain point.) Thankfully, with age comes stronger and longer tolerance. Below is a brief description of dyslexia and helpful tips for Dyslexics and family and friends who live with and know Dyslexics.
What is Dyslexia?
There are many medical terms and ways to explain Dyslexia and explanations of how it affects each individual differently, as the symptoms and severity vary. However, it all boils down to a difference in brain wiring. Unlike professionals claim, you CAN’T re-wire the brain of a dyslexic. However, there are successful ways to teach them to learn (repetition, visuals, and hands on learning). But even after that teaching and “re-wiring”, the dyslexic is still a dyslexic and always will be. Dyslexia is more than a “reading disability. It affect so much more of daily life than information sources are raising awareness to. The dyslexic’s special wiring happens for reasons unknown in the womb, and it is hereditary. Dieting, exercise and therapy can’t cure Dyslexia; however, at times it has proven to help slightly decrease the severity of symptoms with certain individuals. (For more information: https://www.dyslexia.com/ )
Tips for those living with Dyslexia:
- Dyslexics don’t see backwards. (Unlike it’s commonly thought.) However, our mind will make things jump and jumble, and will reverse letters, music notes, and objects. (This is caused by our sequencing and decoding difficulties due to our brains special wiring)
- Never believe that false voice inside you (or real accusations you may hear from others) that says being different is something to hate, and that because of your difference you’re really just lazy, dumb or stupid. It’s been scientifically proven that our active dyslexic minds have to work 10x harder in school alone, and this isn’t considering our daily life and struggles outside of school. Once again, this is caused by our mind’s special wiring which only makes us a different type of learner in school and daily life (not disabled, lazy and stupid).
- Dyslexia is not all trials and tears though—it comes with gifts too!! (Vivid imagination, out-of-the-box thinking, and creativity to work around our barriers and difficulties, at times eccentricities, the ability to see things at multiple perspectives, a mind quick to memorize visuals and hands-on activities, and the list goes on.)
- Dyslexia is not something we can out-grow or overcome but it is something we can learn to successfully live with. Never give up!
- While others will strongly deny and detest this, I find colored overlays very helpful for me personally when trying to read with my dyslexia. (Mainly the yellow overlay works best, but under certain brighter lighting, I’ve found a light green and blue colored overlay to be of good service too).
Some issues and symptoms caused by dyslexia: (note that these symptoms will vary in each individual Dyslexic)
- Sensitivities to textures with both food and clothing
- Bed wetting issues may occur beyond normal age expected
- Sensitivity to bright lights (including sunlight)
- Sensitivity to loud noises and the space around them
- Sensitivity to scents and certain chemicals (may complain of a choking sensation in the throat and/or cough continuously around the odors)
- Because of the Dyslexic’s special brain wiring, one or more of these disorders are highly possible to co-exists along with it.
- Co-existing sensory processing disorder (SPD)
- Co-existing Tourette’s syndrome
- Co-existing ADD/ADHD
- Co-exciting auditory processing disorder
Tips for family members, teachers and friends, when communicating with Dyslexics:
- Don’t talk down to them or treat them like they’re slow.
- If you notice they start to fidget, shift their eyes, and/or sigh a lot while listening, slightly slow down talking, because either your rapid words or other background noises are beginning to put their mind into sensory overload. Either way, slowing down while talking will help them.
- If you notice they keep looking around while you’re trying to converse with them or they just stare off instead of being tuned in, don’t take this offensive. Unlike a non-dyslexic, these are NOT signs of boredom or disinterest! It simply means their mind has taken in its max, and by zoning, they can handle staying in the environment that’s overstimulating them. (Inattentiveness is also not their choice–it’s their mind’s natural way of coping overstimulation.) Just give them a moment, and they should snap back in tune, and then you can continue talking. Also (gently) calling their name can help them snap out of their mental daze. (Since they think in pictures at times, something said will send their mind into a daydream, and they’ll have no idea they stopped listening and will appreciate you kindly recalling their attention.)
- Don’t point out weird quirks you notice that the individual with Dyslexia may knowingly or unknowingly display. (Random clicking of the fingers, clapping, hitting hand/s against a hard surface, humming, looking out of the corner of their eyes, rocking back and forth, tapping/bouncing foot or legs, constant fidgeting/squirming in seat, etc.) Their mind is wired differently, so they’re going to be different and somewhat eccentric.
- Remember Dyslexics aren’t slow. They have an average or well above average/gifted IQ, and their visual mind is running 30x faster than the average human mind. (Which means they aren’t going to catch everything said or going on.) So instead of judging what you don’t understand, try to keep an open mind and accept the difference. Being different is not weird, a disease, or wrong. Differences and eccentricity add variety to our world.
- A Dyslexic stuttering, refusing to write, or mis-pronouncing words is part of their mind’s special wiring that causes a confusion with sequencing and decoding written language. To keep them from shutting down, refrain from laughing at their struggle unless they’re laughing or making a joke about it. Then by all means show it doesn’t bother you, and that you aren’t judging them by laughing with them.
- Don’t critique them for how they see and express the world. (Dyslexics are out of the box thinkers.) The majority of Dyslexics are quite enjoyable to converse with. They care very deeply about the feelings of others, and when comfortable, they can be quite witty, funny, intriguing and sarcastic!
- Because of their special wiring, dyslexics will always struggle with sequencing their whole life. (Though with much repetition and visual teaching they can greatly improve.) Things to consider being understanding with them about is: improper spelling, messy handwriting, difficulty with reading and remembering how to write checks, struggling to read non-digital clocks, their frequent struggle of having a “blank mind” when trying to remember names, months, and dates, also constant right/left & under/over confusion.
Special thanks to my dear friend Christine Eyre for giving me this very generous opportunity to do a guest post on her amazing blog! It truly is our hope that this post will help educate and encourage many others out there who are both dyslexic and non-dyslexic. God bless!