Did you know that the font Comic Sans is specifically recommended for people with dyslexia? Neither did I, which is ironic given I’m meant to be the font’s target audience. It’s supposed to make it easier for us to read the spaced-out letters.
I’ve actually never liked Comic Sans, but that’s another story. As someone who was only diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 17, I feel that there are plenty of misconceptions about the condition in the public domain. The most common is that everyone with dyslexia struggles to spell.
Sure, there are dyslexic people who struggle with spelling, but this is a sweeping generalisation as the condition can affect a whole host of other reading, writing and speaking-based skills – believe me, I know!
This article is an attempt to debunk some of these misconceptions, in an effort to help people appreciate the struggles dyslexic people can face, especially in academia. However, others also view it as ‘a bit of a superpower’ (according to a student in the Channel 4 documentary Educating Greater Manchester).
Hopefully this article will be a bit of a dyslexia education for students and staff alike. Let’s face it, there is always progress to be made.
According to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), approximately 10% of the population is dyslexic. The condition is widely misunderstood and often not diagnosed, though this is starting to improve in educational settings.
The form that the condition takes is unique to every person, and it can range from mild symptoms (like myself), to more severe ones. Dyslexia is also said to run in families. This is interesting as my dad also displays dyslexic traits, though only one of us is diagnosed – a generational difference in understanding perhaps?
The point I want to emphasise here is the varied nature of dyslexia symptoms, which is clear from a comparison between myself and my dad. My own dyslexic tendencies seem to play out in terms of slower reading and writing speeds alongside slower mental processing. However, my dad completely jumbles up letters and numbers with incredible consistency. You couldn’t get more varied than that!
The BDA also cites the condition affecting areas such as coordination, memory and even organisation, though these signs can be subtle and difficult to diagnose.
If more was known about the manifestations of dyslexia, then perhaps more children would be diagnosed earlier in their education and not have to suffer the feelings of inadequacy or confusion as they progress through the course of their life. This is the hope anyhow, and organisations like the BDA are doing great work to try to make these dreams a reality.
But folks, it is not all doom and gloom! I feel like dyslexia is often viewed in a negative medical light in the public discourse, and as you can see I have failed to escape this linguistic trap myself.
But what if we stopped using words like ‘condition’ and ‘symptoms’ to describe dyslexia, and instead spoke about the positive aspects of how a dyslexic brain is wired differently? That would be a much more positive and empowering conversation, right?
There has been research that indicates a greater proportion of reasoning and sometimes communication skills attributed to people with dyslexia. Thankfully, some workplaces are starting to appreciate the benefits of mental diversity.
Just this week, I read a news article reporting a new GCHQ recruitment drive for people diagnosed with dyslexia. They believe dyslexic people can spot patterns in data that their colleagues are less likely to and are an important asset to the team effort as a result. Quite frankly, I was blown away by this active encouragement for dyslexic people, but now one can only hope for more!
I hope that by the end of this article you are feeling a little bit more informed about the challenges that people with dyslexia face, as well as our future aspirations for recognition. Though I don’t claim to speak for everyone with dyslexia at this university, I do hope that this starting point for education will help people to emphasise with those of us grappling with these symptoms on a daily basis. Please be patient with us!
Photo: Si Glogiewicz via Flickr