Everything you thought you knew about dyslexia

There are still so many misconceptions

I didn’t know I had dyslexia until I was 17. It had never previously been flagged up to me until my Politics teacher suggested that I went to learning support to be tested. Once I had taken the test it turned out that I was well in the spectrum, I was allowed to have 25 per cent extra time in all exams and there was even talk of having a scribe.

To me this all seemed quite baffling, I knew I was a slow reader but I had never really thought that far into it. But it appeared that I was actually coming across a lot smarter in person than I ever could do on paper. To be perfectly honest my first response was to be pissed off. I went through my GCSEs without any of this extra help that I was entitled to, I will never know how well I could have done with this extra guidance but I was relieved because now I knew I could do my A Levels with a lot less stress.

Personally I haven’t had a particularly bad experience when it comes to dyslexia, but I know there are plenty of others out there that do. My mum for example, or even Steven Spielberg, who wasn’t diagnosed as dyslexic until the age of 60. He was teased at school and passed off by teachers as simply ‘lazy’.

So what is it? According to Google it can be defined as follows: ‘a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.’

Nowadays, it would be nice to assume we live in a world where people can be accepting. Despite the amount of research that has been done and the awareness that has now been raised there are still people out there struggling with bullying or low expectations from teachers due to having diagnosed or undiagnosed dyslexia. There are plenty of misconceptions out there on the condition.

Dyslexia is rare or non-existent

This is not the case. Dyslexia isn’t just an excuse for people to have extra time in exams. It does exist – in fact there’s been over 30 years worth of research which has gone into learning about the disability. About 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, making it a very common learning disability. It is estimated that roughly 40 million American adults are dyslexic yet only two million of them are aware of it.

People with dyslexia are stupid

The issue was and still can be that people who hear someone is dyslexic naturally assume they’re a bit stupid. This really isn’t the case. The idea stemmed incorrectly from an older generation that didn’t understand the learning disability and its effects on children and adults at the time.

My mum fell victim to this as she took her GCSEs, she was made to think she was unintelligent and was forced to leave the school. Yet I and so many others with dyslexia were able to get into their first choice of university, I also enjoy reading and writing even if it may take me longer than the average person.

What is very saddening is that the term ‘dyslexic’ still does have a lot of negative connotations, despite the opinion being completely outdated, there are still schools with teachers that can assume you aren’t as capable as the other students. A teacher or a school still labelling a child as lazy through a lack of understanding is not OK.

When you tell a child they will not achieve high grades they won’t try to, it becomes sort of a self fulfilling prophecy where they are dumbed down by others to the point where they believe it themselves, they put themselves down so much they will internalise these thoughts which will inevitably become part of their self-concept.

People with dyslexia always struggle with spelling

People can have many different forms of dyslexia, mine stemmed from an encoding/decoding problem whereas a lot of people do and can struggle with spelling. When further tests were done so I could apply for my DSA (Disabled Students Allowance) it was found that although for my age my reading ability was in the lowest one per cent of the country, my vocabulary was in the highest per cent. This and the fact I never had any problems with spelling shows that spelling sometimes doesn’t have a part to play. It was also the main reason I wasn’t tested for dyslexia sooner. Dyslexia can show itself in many different ways.

If you think you could have dyslexia, it is worth seeking advice as soon as you can. There is an overwhelming amount of support your university can offer you, for example I’m now able to have access to software that will read my writing out to me and also write it down when I am unable to do so myself. Crucially, you’re not alone, and you’re not stupid – so you shouldn’t be embarrassed.