An intriguing balance of abilities

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month

Dyslexia is a learning difference, one that specifically affects language processing. 

Dyslexia is many things, and among them, it’s an intriguing balance of abilities.

“The advantage of dyslexia is that my brain puts information in my head in a different way.”
Whoopi Goldberg
Actor

Some basic facts about dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific learning difference that affects reading and spelling ability, along with literacy skills development. It’s a different way of dealing with language in the brain. The most common form of dyslexia interrupts a student’s ability to split words into their component sounds, which makes sounding out words and spelling extremely challenging.

People are born with dyslexia, and it runs in families. It’s estimated that between 15 and 20% of Americans have some form of dyslexia, but the majority of people who have it don’t know that they do.

There’s more to dyslexia than getting words mixed up or out of order – and some people with dyslexia never even display this symptom. Since dyslexia affects how the brain processes language, someone might:

  • Memorize words but be unable to sound them out
  • Substitute words in sentences for other words that make sense
  • Have difficulty with handwriting
  • Show confusion with directions (left and right, before and after, over and under – this is where the reversal of “b” and “d” might show up, a symptom of dyslexia many people know)
  • Find recall difficult, especially for names and words
“If anyone ever puts you down for having dyslexia, don’t believe them. Being dyslexic can actually be a big advantage, and it has certainly helped me.”
Richard Branson
CEO, Virgin

Some distinct advantages

While dyslexia – especially when undiagnosed – can definitely cause people a lot of frustration and problems, there are some distinct advantages to the condition. People with dyslexia often have:

  • Heightened levels of creativity
  • Higher levels of intelligence
  • Greater artistic and mechanical abilities
  • Outside-the-box thinking
  • Ability to see the big picture and connect ideas
“I didn’t succeed despite my dyslexia, but because of it. It wasn’t my deficit, but my advantage. Although there are neurological trade-offs that require that I work creatively [and] smarter in reading, writing and speaking, I would never wish to be any other way than my awesome self. I love being me, regardless of the early challenges I faced.”
Scott Sonnon
Professional Athlete

Preparing for success

Perhaps most importantly – dyslexia needs specific interventions. The earlier a person is diagnosed with dyslexia and given personal help, the better, but it’s never too late.

Effective instruction for people with dyslexia is:

  • Personal to their specific needs, including in pace
  • Delivered one-on-one or in very small groups
  • Repetitive, to allow lots of practice and error correction
  • Positive and encouraging 
“Dyslexia is not a pigeonhole to say you can’t do anything. It is an opportunity and a possibility to learn differently. You have magical brains, they just process differently. Don’t feel like you should be held back by it.”
Princess Beatrice
UK royal family

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