We are halfway through European Dyslexia month and so far, it has been pretty low-key.
Dyslexia is part of a range of learning differences known as Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD), an umbrella term used to cover a range of frequently co-occurring difficulties. These include Dyslexia, Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD or AD(H)D).
Individuals with the same diagnosis don’t experience the same combination of difficulties and some people may exhibit signs of more than one SpLD.
The Dyslexia Association of Ireland defines dyslexia as ‘a specific learning difficulty affecting the acquisition of fluent and accurate reading and spelling skills. This occurs despite access to appropriate learning opportunities.’ Dyslexia is diagnosed as a spectrum ranging from mild to severe and so people with a dyslexia diagnosis will display differing difficulties and have different needs.
Dyslexia is a lifelong condition and brings with it many advantages. However, as it affects reading and spelling, it can be a considerable disadvantage at school. In the past, it was considered that people with dyslexia were unable to learn – nothing could be further from the truth.
Studies have shown that frequently dyslexia and high intelligence co-exist, the difficulties with reading masking the intelligence beneath. Many believe that people with dyslexia see words backwards or that the words move on the page. While a tiny minority do experience vision disturbance, dyslexia is primarily a language difficulty.
People with dyslexia tend to have difficulties connecting the sounds of words to the symbols that represent those sounds (letters). This leads to problems with spelling and results in slow and laboured reading. Often so much energy is given to reading individual words, the person has difficulty remembering what the text was about. The over-dependence on phonics in primary school magnifies the problem. This can give the misleading impression that the person is of low intelligence or just isn’t working hard enough.
Children with dyslexia, grow up to be adults with dyslexia. Dyslexia is under-diagnosed in adults, simply because it wasn’t screened for in schools. Many successful entrepreneurs, such as Virgin’s Richard Branson and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, attribute much of their success to their dyslexia. It gave them resilience in the challenges they had to overcome and forced them to take different approaches in problem-solving.
Last week, at her sister’s wedding, Princess Beatrice gave a reading from The Great Gatsby. She read it with great passion and it was an unusual reading for a religious service. However, what struck me most was what was said later by the TV commentator. Rather patronisingly, the person said that Beatrice had given an impassioned reading, even more impressive considering that she was ‘a dyslexic’. While I am certain that there was no malice intended, one could almost see the metaphoric pat on the head. Personally, I thought the comment was uninformed and condescending.
I always describe dyslexia as a superpower, but like most superpowers, when you don’t know how to control it, it can sometimes be destructive. However once harnessed, it is powerful. Learning to harness dyslexia and making it work for rather than against the person, opens up their entire future. It just takes a different approach. Confidence grows, and true potential is reached. Perhaps one day we will understand this and there will no longer be a need for a dyslexia awareness month.
For more information on how we can help with dyslexia contact us on 087-2996054 or through our website www.hummingbirdlearning.com.