Autumn is here – school is back in session!! Long hazy summer holidays are a fading memory and the work/school routine has already overcrowded our diaries.
Most of us have embraced a new term-new learn outlook, reminding us that ‘every day is a school day’ whatever the age, stage and season.
As we say ‘hello’ to October, we wanted to bring attention to Dyslexia Awareness Month. I’m not sure about you, but school for many did and still can feel like a slog – and as I watch my daughter toil through books while trying to find ways to slay her dyslexia it reminds me of the experience so many of us 70’s kids had growing up in state education that mostly termed the ‘dyslexic bunch’ as stupid or ‘not trying hard enough’. If you were a colour blind kid of the 70’s you were well and truly sorted, a team of people checked and double checked you, but if you were word blind - well, you were on your own. After watching my daughter over the years and realising it is something that I have most probably been wrestling with all my life, it begs the question – have we improved in this area?
Dyslexia struggle is real in both adults and children and affects both our mental and physical state. Dyslexia awareness is a good place to get back to blogging, learning, understanding, feeling and dealing with what is changing in this area and what can help the challenged spellers and readers among us.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which primarily affects reading, writing and information processing skills. Dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, which can affect learning and literacy skills. Dyslexia can also impact other areas such as organisational skills. Dyslexic people can have a tendency to see in pictures, shapes and colours as opposed to language.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people in the UK have dyslexia. That’s a lot of people – 6.7 million in fact. Dyslexia is hereditary, so if one parent has dyslexia the child has a 50% chance of having it also.
Have you ever flipped letters the wrong way round (b and d)?
Do you struggle to read and write fluently?
Is it easy to confuse the order of letters in words?
Do you struggle with spelling even after practising it hundreds of times?
Do you understand information in a more verbal format than written?
Is it hard to carry out a sequence of directions?
Do you struggle with planning and organisation?
Is it hard to concentrate and do you forget words?
Do you find phonics difficult?
Do you struggle to read for fun?
These are just some good questions to ask when trying to ascertain whether dyslexia is part of your brain function. These are only a narrow set of questions but for an all rounded understanding numeracy, time, reading, writing, comprehension and behavioural skills would need to be assessed too.
If you or your child are struggling with any of these areas and you think it could be dyslexia, please do contact your GP or school support staff to help guide you to assessment and support tools. If supported earlier, children can make better progress in their own unique way of learning. Dyslexia is mostly from birth but it is also possible to develop dyslexia later in life in adults who have sustained brain injury, concussion or stroke. A gentleman in his 70’s recently spoke about how he had survived 3 strokes and above all was lucky to be alive but he had developed dyslexia as a consequence and had let go of his joy of reading due to not being able to process and follow the words on a page.
How far did you get with the suggested summer reads from our previous HSF blog during the summer holidays? No shame, by the way, a read to some – especially those with dyslexia, is never going to be an easy way to wind down. We all have diverse ways that our brains and bodies wind down just like the unique ways our brains help us learn and grow.
However far we think we’ve come to understanding diversity in our world, the truth is we always have space to grow. Many children with this amazing neuro diverse gift unfortunately still do not see this as a benefit, instead our educational system hasn’t grown diverse enough to harness the gift that is dyslexia, so there remains a lot of shame, frustration and embarrassment.
We agree that every person has a brain and no two brains are the same. In that same vein, every dyslexic brain is different too. We have two hemispheres to our brain and the right side and the left side largely take ownership of different areas in which we function and process. Our left hemisphere assists us more heavily with reading, writing, language, logic and number skills, where as our right side helps with imagination, music, art, holistic thinking, visualization and non-verbal thought. That’s not to say that these two hemispheres act completely alone but there’s enough research to suggest that dyslexic people use the right side of their brain more heavily than the left – hence why the consolidation and processing of spelling, reading writing remains a challenge. This is also why dyslexic people can be great problem solvers, creative thinkers, big picture people who think outside the box, 3 dimensional thinkers, great inventors, pattern recognisers and intuitive people readers….
This might explain why some of the most forward thinking, diverse world changers were/are dyslexic: Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Anderson, Agatha Christie, Walt Disney, Thomas Eddison, Alexander Graham Bell, Louis Pasteur, the Wright brothers, Elon Musk, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John F Kennedy, William Wrigley Jr., Henry Ford, Andy Warhol, Tommy Hilfiger ….the list goes on, but I won’t.
These neuro diverse pathway forgers all have something in common – dyslexia. They didn’t imagine or create genius inspite of their dyslexia, but because of it. They were able to look beyond boundaries and build into the future. They built drawbridges to the rest of the world and what they used to build them was their gifted minds. Dyslexic people see mostly in pictures and as the age old saying goes “if you can imagine it, you can achieve it.”
Our brains don’t stay the same, they are always changing - making new links and pathways. This means that we are always gaining insight and learning as to how our dyslexia works in our world.
So what have I seen that can help people in everyday ways?
Read in large bold font on yellow or coloured background (not white paper)
Flow charts, pictograms and graphics help to explain and locate information
Lists of do’s and don’ts are more useful than continuous text
Touch typing – the accessibility of laptop and ipad learning in education opens the door to spell check, grammar and other tools – the quicker you can type the easier it is to record information and stay with the pace.
Get creative – enable colourful, bright, big and bold play while learning words and sounds. Games and repeated actions will help embed information
On RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) website you can sign up to access audio books where you can manipulate the font text and coloured backgrounds and use the read and listen function.
Dyslexia is an increasingly common diagnosed area of learning difficulty, yet more awareness and understanding needs to be raised in how we see dyslexia in education and in the world. Some see it as a gift while others as an abnormality. This is maybe the reason why 50% of prison inmates are dyslexic.
This is a shocking statistic and one that needs to change - just like our brains find a way, so must we. From the 70’s to present day our quest must always be helping people see that far from dyslexia being a disability it is in fact a different ability.
May my daughter and all the other 6.7 million people come to know and love their super power.
David’s view: Going to school in the 70’s was brutal, not only were the teachers super strict and unforgiving, class mates lacked compassion and just wanted to bully you for anything that was not the norm. I managed to scrape through school, however I never did pass English ‘o level’ even after 5 attempts!!!
With all this in mind at the age of 54 I bought a book on dyslexia to see if I could help my daughter and myself too. The book is called The Gift of Dyselxia – a practical and helpful insight in this diverse area from first-hand experience. My spelling is still miserable and I still confuse ‘there’ and ‘their’. For the past few years I have been learning French on Duolingo and am finding that it’s really helping my English too – so there is hope! Useful websites for more information:
Mical (2020) OFFICIAL FILM Dyslexia Short film
Kate Griggs Ted Talk