The month of October finds us celebrating Dyslexia Awareness Month, and this one is personal for me as my oldest child is dyslexic. When they were first diagnosed about 5 years ago, it was both terrifying while also a huge relief. Terrifying because it was not something anyone in the family was familiar with as no one else had had it. What would that mean for their future? What obstacles would they now face throughout their life? But, their diagnosis was also a relief as we finally had a reason for why school had always been so difficult for them. Homework after school was a nightmare for all of us. As a librarian and a life-long bibliophile, I was so sad that my child didn’t love reading as much as I did (and by not as much, I mean not at all). That diagnosis changed everything for us. We have been very fortunate in that we live in a city that has a school dedicated to teaching those with learning differences, and they have attended that since their freshman year of high school. Now they are a senior, and they have blossomed academically. Where they once thought of themselves as bad at math, they have won awards specifically for math. They have an incredible GPA. They read for pleasure, not just for school. They have already been accepted into three colleges. As their mom, it has been amazing to watch them embrace their differences (they also have ADD), learn ways to adapt, and surmount challenges that before would have led to total emotional breakdowns.

Thank you for indulging me and allowing me to share my personal dyslexia story, but now let’s talk a little bit more broadly about it.

What exactly is dyslexia? According to the International Dyslexia Association, it is “…a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.” Here’s what dyslexia isn’t – an indication of intelligence. Dyslexics are often extremely bright, excelling in areas such as art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales, and sports. Approximately 1 in 5 people has dyslexia, so odds are you know someone who has it. Keanu Reeves has it. Tom Cruise has it. Tom Holland has it. Octavia Spencer has it. Albert Einstein had it. I mean come on, Neo, Spiderman, and Albert Einstein!

What are symptoms of dyslexia? The stereotypical symptom is that people read words backwards. This is a myth. Words can look jumbled (like above), and that is because students often have trouble remembering and recognizing what letters actually look like. Other symptoms include the following:

  • Learning to speak
  • Learning letters and their sounds
  • Organizing written and spoken language
  • Memorizing number facts
  • Reading quickly enough to comprehend
  • Persisting with and comprehending longer reading assignments
  • Spelling
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Correctly doing math operations

However, not all students who have difficulties with these skills have dyslexia. Formal testing, done by a psychologist, of reading, language, and writing skills is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of suspected dyslexia.

So, what do you do if you have dyslexia? Unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are things that can be done to help. Most people with dyslexia need help from a specially trained teacher, tutor, or therapist as well as one-on-one help so that they can learn at their own pace. Students can ask schools to implement academic accommodations and modifications that can help them succeed. For example, someone with dyslexia can request extra time to complete tasks, help with taking notes, and that work assignments be modified appropriately. Students can ask that teachers explore alternative testing methods. Rather than reading “traditional” books, students may find it easier to listen to audiobooks and to use text reading and word processing computer programs. While it is normal to focus on the academic struggles and to deal with those, students may also need help with emotional issues that may arise as they deal with their learning differences.

If you are a dyslexic student at Reynolds Community College, or if you know someone that is, please know that there are accommodations available for use. There are forms that must be filled out, records to collect, but once that is done, you will be able to use those accommodations to help you succeed. You can find more information about this here: Reynolds Office of Student Accommodations Finally, if you are dyslexic or think you might be – ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF! There is help for you out there and people who WANT to help you!

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