Dyslexia – The Gift and the Curse – Part Two

Eleanor Clarke, December 19, 2017

In the first part of this blog, I attempted to dispel some myths about Dyslexia. No, it doesn’t make me stupid. No, it isn’t a spelling or reading problem. Yes, there are positives/advantages to being Dyslexic. In part two, I’m going to be taking a look at living as a Dyslexic and the various things that are available to us to help us overcome the challenges that we face.

What to do if you think you could be Dyslexic?

First things first, get a diagnosis. The earlier you can get this the better but it’s never too late for help. Not only will it get you in front of specialists who can help you manage your condition and get you funding for practical aides, it will also give you peace of mind and protection.

I’ve had so many adult friends tell me the diagnosis changed their lives. They suddenly realised that they weren’t useless, incompetent or lazy but rather their whole lives up until this point had been judged on criteria they could never meet. As the old saying goes, “Everyone is a genius but if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree. You will be disappointed and the fish will believe it’s stupid.”

Embrace Technology

Here’s the good news. The technological revolution has smashed a lot of the obstacles in our way. There’s amazing technology for dyslexics out there now, from specially developed programmes that convert text to speech and vice versa, to things like YouTube were you can learn by watching and apps that teach you through games. = I’m not saying you’ll never have to read again but these tools can be used as part of a holistic learning process.

Explore multi-sensory learning

Many Dyslexics find engaging their other senses whilst reading or writing very helpful. For instance, I have to read and write out loud. There’s sometime about the movement of the lips and sound of the syllables that helps me understand the words. This means I spend a lot of time sat at my desk looking like I’m communing with the spirits of the dead. Other people find it helps them if they can trace the letters on their arms and many draw diagrams and charts.

Mind mapping is also extremely helpful to dyslexics as it’s allows us to arrange and visualise our messy thoughts. Everyone is different, find what helps and don’t be embarrassed to do it public.

Stop avoiding

This really hard to do because we trained ourselves to avoid from such a young age. Distracting your friends, misbehaving, playing with your phone, not turning up at all. Basically, doing anything but the task you’re struggling with. These are all avoidance tactics we learned as children. I once found an old school book of mine that was full from cover to cover with drawings. On it’s own merit it was a pretty impressive art project, unfortunately it was meant to be a maths book.

These habits are hard to break as an adult, especially when we’re under pressure. Learn to recognise when you’re avoiding and stop it. Turn your phone off, stop chatting to your mates, just focus on the task at hand. This doesn’t mean that you have to exhaust yourself doing something you’re not capable of.

Remember, we work five times harder than most people to process language. This is an exhausting process in itself. You can walk away from things, take a break and figure out why the task is so difficult. Are you distracted by something external? Can you get this information via a different medium? Can someone help? These are all perfectly reasonable things to consider. What isn’t reasonable, however, is ‘entertaining’ your whole office with an hour-long comic reinterpretation of Game of Thrones.

Figure out what you’re good at and pursue it

You are really good at something. Figure out what it is and incorporate it into your life. If it doesn’t already exist as a job, create it. A staggering 40% of successful entrepreneurs in the U.S are dyslexic. They saw a gap in the market and filled it with their own skills, you can too.

When I was eight, a teacher told me I would never pass my G.C.S.Es. I was still basically illiterate at twelve, then when I was sixteen I was given an unconditional offer to my first Drama school. By the time I was twenty-one I had a first class degree in creative writing (Yep you read that right) and a very high 2:1 in devised theatre (damn dissertation). I’m now seriously considering going for a Masters Degree.

Once you find your groove nothing can stop you. This applies to work as well. I work in a job that relies heavily on communication because I know that’s what I’m good at. Show people what you can do and get them to take you seriously. Every workplace is looking for talent you just need to step up. Why be defined by what you can’t do when you could be defined by what you can do?

I hope that these past two blogs have been at least some use. I hope that I’ve either influenced the way you think about Dyslexia (either your own or other people’s) or given those of you with Dyslexia something to think about in terms of embracing their condition and finding positive ways of moving forward.

There’s loads of resources and further reading out there, a quick Google search will unveil a wealth of research. The key message I want people to take away is that Dyslexia does in no way mean that you’re stupid, it doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve absolutely anything that you want to. All you need to do is find the way of working that works best for you and you can overcome anything that’s thrown at you.

Go get ‘em!!