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15 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Dyslexia

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15 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Dyslexia

Dyslexia is all too often regarded as a stigmatizing label and there are many misconceptions about this minor learning disorder. If you love someone with dyslexia, you may well have come across some of these myths and stereotypes. So, to set the record straight, here are 15 reminders if you love someone with dyslexia. Pass it on to anyone else who may have the same problem.

1. They are just as intelligent as everyone else.

Dyslexia is just a minor difference in the way the brain processes sounds, letters, words and can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It is just that the dyslexic sufferer’s brain is wired differently. Richard Ford and Albert Einstein are two inspiring examples of extremely gifted people who had the same problem, yet they made an enormous contribution to knowledge, literature and science. Dyslexia is not a measure of anyone’s intelligence.

2. They need to be spotted early.

The earlier the better. If you have noticed that there are problems with your child in processing letters, sounds, spelling and reading and maybe writing, then it may be time to get him/her tested. The Woodcock-Johnson-Revised Test of Cognitive Ability is one the tests used. Edison’s teacher had no idea what dyslexia was and sent home a note which read, “Too stupid to learn.” With the right help, dyslexic children can thrive and succeed. Look at the list of famous people here who had dyslexia and you will be amazed.

3. They are at risk of falling through the cracks.

The sad fact is that many people who struggle with dyslexia just give up because they are not helped or encouraged enough. We are in danger of losing dyslexics and the figures from one UK prison confirm that. They did a survey at Chelmsford prison of over 2,000 inmates and found that 53% had a problem with dyslexia. That is an incredibly high figure when compared to the rate for the law-abiding population which is around 10%.

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Richard Branson’s teacher had a similar premonition when he remarked that he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire!

4. They need better support at school.

With the right training and use of special techniques, children can overcome their difficulties. A survey in UK found that many dyslexic students ended up frustrated because of unhelpful comments from their teachers. For example, 83% of them were told just to ‘try harder’. What was even worse was the fact that two thirds were forced to read aloud in front of their classmates.

5. They are likely to have inherited this disability.

Scientists have now identified 6 of the genes they believe are responsible for reading and spelling difficulties that children and adults encounter. These genes are those we all use to be aware of sounds, verbal memory and also verbal processing speed. Most experts agree that this is neurological disorder which is often genetic

6. They have problems with letters, sounds and spelling.

From the age of three, you can spot a child who may be dyslexic when they have problems matching sounds of the alphabet with the objects they can represent. For example, one student could not identify the picture of an apple which would illustrate the letter ’A’. Other examples are where words of several syllables may all get jumbled up such as “pasghetti” instead of spaghetti or they may spell animal as “aminal. They will often write the word “said” as “seb”.

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7. They can spot what is out of place.

A dyslexic person is often quicker at discovering what is out of place in a problem, theory or experiment. This ability is what has driven dyslexic scientists to discover anomalies which have led to dazzling awards and prizes. An excellent example is Carole Greider (Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2009) whose discovery of the telomerase enzyme has led to extraordinary advances in the study of aging and cancer. It all started when Carole started investigating a research area which was so far off the beaten track that it was almost off topic.

“One of the things I was thinking about today is that as a kid I had dyslexia. I had a lot of trouble in school and was put into remedial classes. I thought that I was stupid.” – Carole Greider

8. They cannot be creative and they are bound to fail.

This is the greatest myth of all because dyslexics have a lot going for them. Not only are they intuitive and creative but they can be brilliant at hands-on learning and solving three-dimensional problems. These are all abilities which require a lot more than verbal skills, yet our society has always placed a premium on reading speed. What a pity that dyslexics’ talents are not appreciated more.

9. They can take meds for dyslexia.

No, there are no pills to take! There is no cure or medical treatment for dyslexia. Either you manage to use coping mechanisms or you may drop out. Using memory a lot more and substituting acronyms and nonsense words to represent words are ways that children can cope with their reading and spelling difficulties at school.

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10. They need more support and encouragement.

If your loved one has dyslexia and missed out at school where it was never even recognized, you may want to offer help and support now. They may still have problems remembering a name or a fact. Help them get assessed if necessary and then encourage them to get coaching where they can learn more coping strategies. They may need specific help with time management, planning and passing on phone messages, for example.

11. They may need help to discover how they learn best.

Supporting a loved one with dyslexia will involve examining what their learning style is. They may benefit from getting instructions through the auditory channel. Max Brooks, the Hollywood screenwriter, who is dyslexic was helped by his mother when she recorded all the material he needed for learning on audiocassettes!

12. They often hide their problems at work.

Between 10% and 15% of the US population are thought to have dyslexia. In spite of that, dyslexia is often a closely guarded secret as individuals are afraid that disclosure may damage their career. A lot depends on the employer’s attitude to the problem. If they are committed to helping their workers reach their full potential, they will provide screening and support. The problem is that many employers do not.

13. They may have problems at college.

Dyslexic students find that using audio recordings are a great way to fast track their studies because reading is, inevitably, slow. If you need to download recordings of a vast array of literature and textbooks together with magazines, you may find the Learning Ally site is useful. Voice recognition software is a great help too in writing essays and assignments.

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14. They use a different part of their brain to read.

When a neuroscientist discovered that her son was dyslexic she wept because she realized how many obstacles he would face in life. She has written a book on this which has the fascinating title, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. She explains how the dyslexic brain has to learn to juggle letters, sounds and words in the phonological part of the brain, on the right hand side. The non dyslexic person uses other areas and the result is faster reading and writing. The dyslexic’s brain is wired differently to everybody else’s and it takes more time. Reading aloud to a child from an early age may give them an advantage.

15. They are at a disadvantage if they are English speakers.

Part of the problem is that the letters in the English language can have many different sounds. Think of the letter “a”. It can have five different sounds as in safe, apple, alive, acorn and wash. Now in Spanish, the letter “a” always has the same sound so that is why there is not nearly as much dyslexia among Spanish speakers or other languages where there are regular phonetic rules.

The best way of all to encourage a loved one is to push them to get assessment, training, coaching or other support at school and at work and remind them that failure is often the way to success.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

Featured photo credit: Reading together /San José Library via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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