Dyslexia affects different people in different ways. Information on the characteristics of dyslexia and how you might spot the condition are given in Identify. We think it’s important that people with dyslexia have their own voice and so below you’ll find out more about their experiences. These are grouped around three key themes which represent a lot of the things people with dyslexia spoke to us about.
Confusion is something people with dyslexia have to deal with a lot. Initially this confusion is around why they seem to experience many aspects of learning differently from other people. In all likelihood this will start early in their lives at school because this is where we first encounter words on a regular basis. We’re surrounded by words the moment we are born, yet it is not until we reach the classroom that things get a little tricky or sometimes just impossible, such as:
Many people with dyslexia will recall a time when they came to the realisation that their peers did not find these things half as difficult as they did and at the same time had no idea as to why this should be the case.
Dyslexia has no effect on general intellectual ability meaning that many children will experience some variation across a range of cognitive abilities. This variation gives rise to confusion both in people with dyslexia and those around them; parents, teachers, friends and family. Why should a child who appears bright and able in some areas struggle with the basics? Sometimes assumptions are made about a lack of effort, motivation or concentration and so naturally we attribute these difficulties to the individual themselves.
Most people with dyslexia will come to terms with their difficulties, whether or not they ever receive a formal diagnostic assessment. Dyslexia is a life long condition, people do not grow out of it. However, children and adults can learn how to compensate for the challenges and learn strategies and support systems that, taught well and early, they will carry through life.
Alison, teaching assistant
Comparing yourself to others is pretty common – we even encourage it as a society. Score charts and league tables record how well we’re doing compared to other people. School is no different except that we’re not yet mature enough to understand why someone is better at things than we are. Understanding why sports men and women are world champions is easier; training, ability, even genetics could all be possible explanations. If we’re expected to learn 10 spellings for a test next week then presumably it must be possible – those pupils in the class with top marks prove it.
Struggling to master something most people seem to do without difficulty can be a baffling and stressful experience, even more so if you have no explanation as to why this should be the case. When this situation carries on all through your school life, it can be crushing. Having confidence and self-belief is important – we all know that. Without it you’re much less likely to:
Having a literacy difficulty, such as dyslexia, may mean that reading is difficult to begin with and, despite your best efforts to improve, progress is slow or nonexistent. Such experiences put children off practising and so starts a cycle that can feel impossible to break.
What confidence we do have, in our sporting, musical or artistic talents or just in our personalities can be eroded by a focus on what we can’t do. Being taken out of your favourite class to practise something you find either bewildering or burdensome reminds us constantly that in some way we aren’t as good as everyone else. However, if withdrawal is time limited, negotiated (I don’t have to miss P.E, Art, Music) and fun filled, then we are likely to be much more agreeable.
Archie, age 16
There are many changes and challenges that young people experience in their educational journey. There are transitions from:
Settling in to a new routine, learning new skills and doing things in a different way all take time but for people with dyslexia they can take even longer. This delay is stressful for people with dyslexia as well as those around them. Readjusting coping strategies that may have taken years to develop can be hard work, especially when there is such an emphasis on speed and accuracy. In a competitive world it’s easy to see why some people may decide to conceal their dyslexia. No one wants to be labeled in a particular way, especially when those labels come with negative stereotypes. What is really needed is some appreciation or understanding that, for people with dyslexia, the way they experience the world can be quite different from other people.
Despite all the challenges, generally we’re able to adapt and overcome many of the difficulties we face. We learn ways of:
This must begin at school and as early as possible. Generally dyslexics are resilient and determined bunch and as many of the high profile people with dyslexia demonstrate, dyslexics can be very successful too.
Daniel, English teacher
Alison, teaching assistant