It’s hard to understand it, isn’t it?
If you’re not one of the ten to fifteen percent of the population with dyslexia, it’s really hard to understand what it’s like.
It’s easy to think that it’s a bit of a scam. That if people with dyslexia worked harder, and really applied themselves, they could “get over it.” But that’s not the case.
Life is actually much more difficult for people with dyslexia. They have brilliant minds, but they’re hard to focus.
Dyslexia is a gift—the gift of being able to see things from lots of different points of view, all at once. But the gift comes with a curse, and the curse is that it’s hard to prioritize, or make sense of, all those perspectives.
People with dyslexia can be hard to live with, and hard to love, because their brains work so differently to ours. Even if you love someone with dyslexia, the day-to-day living with it can drive you insane. Because they can forget things, believe they’ve said or done things they haven’t, be incredibly messy and disorganized, and be less socially aware than other people.
The best thing you can do is to understand more about dyslexia, so you’re less exasperated and more sympathetic.
This is an insight into how their minds work.
1. They have lifestyle challenges.
Dyslexia is much more than just having difficulty reading, writing, and using numbers. They see the world in a completely different way, communicate differently, and have trouble organizing things.
Some people describe it as a lifestyle challenge, others as a lifestyle curse, because it affects almost all aspects of their lives.
2. They can seem weird.
Despite their high intelligence, and because they see so many different perspectives at once, they can appear incoherent in conversation. They can come out with strange ideas, and lack the ability to check if their thoughts are suitable for conversation. They can seem almost autistic because they’re often unaware of social rules.
3. They find details exhausting.
Because their brain is less efficient at processing letters and sounds, it has to work harder—much harder. So any time spent reading, using numbers, or focusing on details is really, really exhausting.
4. They function differently on different days.
Some days they seem to function better than others, and can appear to be improving. Other days, it’s like everything is getting worse. There’s no reason, and no pattern. It just is.
5. They are highly creative.
Their ability to view the world from all perspectives makes them highly creative. They can come up with wildly creative ideas, partly because they’re not constrained by the laws of physics, mathematical logic, or the impossible.
6. They see things that others don’t.
Like words moving on the page, or even off the page, and letters flipping about. You know how challenging it can be to read letters and numbers in captcha? Imagine reading a whole book like that. Or reading a book through a magnifying lens that a child is holding, and moving about.
They can even see the word cat more than 40 different ways.
7. They get overwhelmed by what they see.
They see so many possibilities that their thoughts can become garbled and distorted. It’s hard to sort through all that information and work out what’s important or appropriate. Without the ability to filter, this special gift becomes a tragic, confusing, disability.
8. They are more likely to have ADD.
People with dyslexia are more likely to have ADD. About 40% of people with dyslexia have ADD, and 60% of people with ADD have dyslexia.
9. They can experience thoughts as reality.
They can fully believe they’ve told you something, that they haven’t, or swear that you haven’t told them something that you have.
Often they express themselves in such a unique way that their message hasn’t come across coherently. And they may not realize that this aspect of their communication is part of their dyslexia.
10. They may not know they have dyslexia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dyslexia can go undiagnosed for years, and may not be recognized until adulthood. This is one reason why it’s hard to calculate the number of people with dyslexia. And, unfortunately, people with undiagnosed dyslexia often label themselves as stupid or slow.
11. They think in pictures instead of words.
Not surprisingly, they tend to be highly visual, think in pictures, and utilize visual aids to help them plan and organize their lives. Rather than using self-talk, their thought processes are more subliminal. Most people with dyslexia are not even aware that they do this.
12. They will always have dyslexia.
They can learn to read and spell, but they will always have dyslexia. To make life easier, a font and a dictionary specifically for people with dyslexia are on the way.
The font is designed to avoid confusion, and add clarity, while the dictionary will favor meaning over alphabetical order.
13. They use their brain differently.
People with dyslexia don’t use their brain the same way that most of us do. Their brain underutilizes the left hemisphere—the area required for reading—and the bridge of tissue between the two sides of the brain (the corpus callosum) doesn’t function in the same way. So, their brain doesn’t always direct information to the correct place for processing.
14. They get it from their family.
Dyslexia is inherited, and most people with dyslexia have an aunt or uncle, or a parent or grandparent with dyslexia. Scientists have discovered that the DCD2 appears to be a dyslexia gene.
15. They often have low self-esteem.
People with dyslexia are just as intelligent as the rest of us. And they’re fully aware that other people can read and write much more easily than they can. So they feel stupid compared to other people.
As Albert Einstein said:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life thinking it’s stupid.”
16. They have different symptoms.
Dyslexia is a tricky thing, because no two people have the exact same symptoms. Some lose things, or have poor organization skills. Some are slow at reading or have poor comprehension. Some may have difficulty organizing ideas to write, or have difficulty processing auditory information. Some also have difficulty sequencing the days of the week, or months of the year.
17. They are full of contradictions.
They may be highly aware of their environment, but appear lost. They may recognize, or read, a word on one page but be unable to recognize it on the next. Their brains are often very fast, but they appear slow, because they’re filtering through all the possibilities that they see.
18. They have great strengths.
People with dyslexia are often very good at reading people, and have great people skills. They usually have fantastic memories, and rely on them. They’re often good at spoken language, and frequently spatially talented (think architects, engineers, artist and craftspeople). They are highly intelligent, and intuitive, with vivid imaginations.
19. They can be incredibly successful.
People with dyslexia can be incredibly successful, often because of their dyslexia.
Famous people with dyslexia include entertainers like Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Henry Winkler, Danny Glover and Cher. As well as artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Tommy Hilfiger, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.
Carole Grieder and Baruj Benacerraf utilized their dyslexia to become Nobel prize-winning scientists. People with dyslexia also go on to be writers and journalists like Scott Adams (of Dilbert), Agatha Christie, F Scott Fitzgerald, and Fannie Flagg (the author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café).
20. They can change the world.
People with dyslexia can, and have changed the world. People like George Washington, Richard Branson, Henry Ford and Stephen Spielberg have changed, and continue to change, the world we live in.
People with dyslexia are kind, creative, highly intelligent beings who are just as frustrated at their inabilities as you are. They just can’t take a break from the way their minds work.
Instead they rely on the people that love them to help them interpret the world, and to help them function in a world that’s not adjusted to their needs.
Yes, they can be frustrating to love at times, but they have incredible, unique, world-changing gifts.
With your help, maybe the person you love can change the world too.
Featured photo credit: US Department of Education via Flickr via flickr.com