"Being dyslexic can actually be a big advantage"- Dyslexia Awareness Week 2020
It's Dyslexia Awareness Week this week, so I thought I’d write a little bit about what dyslexia is, how it can be a strength, how it’s portrayed in the media, and what support there is available for those living with dyslexia.
What is dyslexia?
The following information has been taken from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) website, where you can read more about what dyslexia is, and what support there is available.
Dyslexia is a learning difference that mainly affects reading and writing skills, but is actually about the way someone processes information. People with dyslexia may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, which can affect learning, and the acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia can also influence other abilities, such as organisational skills.
Dyslexia can have a significant impact during education, in the workplace, and in everyday life. As each person is unique, so is everyone’s experience of dyslexia. It can range from mild to severe, and it can co-occur with other learning differences. It usually runs in families, and is a life-long condition.
It's not uncommon, either. Around 10-15% of people in the UK have dyslexia, so it's really important that we all try to understand the condition a bit better.
Can dyslexia be a strength?
The theme of Dyslexia Week this year is ‘dyslexia creates’. Dyslexia creates artists, entrepreneurs, and game changers, but we know that it also creates challenges, inequality, and prejudice.
People with dyslexia are often more creative and better at problem-solving, and some jobs are known to have far higher numbers of dyslexics, including:
- Video game designers
Here are some people with dyslexia who have become highly successful in their chosen field:
- Muhammad Ali
- Keira Knightley
- Orlando Bloom
- Albert Einstein
- Agatha Christie
- Richard Branson (who said the quote in the title of this post)
How is dyslexia portrayed in the media?
Dyslexia is one of the more commonly represented learning differences in the media, but that’s not to say that these portrayals are always accurate. They are often based on simple stereotypes, and fail to explore the impacts of dyslexia beyond difficulty reading and spelling. They also tend to focus on the impacts of dyslexia of children, and omit the experiences of adults with the lifelong condition.
A TV show I watched recently that explored the longer-term consequences of not adequately supporting children with dyslexia in school was Channel 4’s ‘The Write Offs’. The show depicted a group of illiterate adults, many of whom had dyslexia. They were each given intensive, personalised, one-to-one tuition, and were set tasks that would take them out of their comfort zone and test their skills of reading and writing. By the end, they had all made massive improvements in their literacy levels, but also gained the confidence to further improve their skills and become more independent.
What support is there available?
The following information has been taken from the European Dyslexia Association website.
Without appropriate support, children who are dyslexic can sometimes struggle in school. However, they can be helped to learn with teaching that is success orientated, structured, systematic, and evidence-based.
They will also require a great deal of support and encouragement, as dyslexic people are often so used to being wrong that they are afraid to take risks and lose all belief in themselves and their abilities. They often underestimate their skills and knowledge and seem to assume, because they have difficulty in reading, spelling and writing, that they can't do anything well.
What support can the BDA offer?
- A national helpline offering free advice
- Campaigning for better diagnosis and support in education
- Championing and share new research and ideas
- Raising awareness
What support can I get at school and work?
- Teaching in small groups with a learning support assistant
- One to one lessons with a specialist teacher
- Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)
If you have dyslexia, you could qualify for reasonable adjustments at work, including:
- Assistive technology, e.g. digital recorders, speech to text software
- Verbal instructions rather than written instructions
- Extra time for tasks you find difficult
- Providing information in accessible formats
Did you watch Channel 4’s ‘The Write Offs’? What did you
What do you think schools and employers could do to support people with dyslexia to reach their full potential?
Do you know of any other famous or successful people who have dyslexia?
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