It’s that time of the year when we celebrate and appreciate individuals with dyslexia, our neurodiverse companions, who make this world a better place. October 3rd – October 9th is Dyslexia Awareness Week in 2022.
Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty interpreting letters, words, and symbols, thereby hampering reading ability. It is interesting to note that even though dyslexics face challenges in reading, they cannot be considered as people with low intelligence. In fact, we have several examples, like Albert Einstein, George Washington, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, and many prominent entrepreneurs, who are dyslexic but have made their mark despite their reading challenges.
In past years, Dyslexia Awareness Week talked about early identification, raising awareness, and adjustments to help our dyslexic friends. This year, the theme revolves around “Breaking Through Barriers,” giving individuals with dyslexia an opportunity to share their stories about how they overcome barriers by fighting challenges due to dyslexia and continue to succeed in life.
A brief history of dyslexia
In 1878, a German neurologist named Adolph Kussmaul noticed many patients consulting him had a tough time reading words and often used them in the wrong order. This developed his interest in people with reading difficulties, and hence, coined the term “Word Blindness” to describe it.
Moving forward to 1887, Rudolf Berlin, a German ophthalmologist, gave another name to the word blindness and called it “Dyslexia,” meaning “difficulty with words” in Greek.
For several years, it was believed that this learning disorder was a result of visual processing deficiencies. But in 1925, Dr. Samuel T. Orton proposed that reading difficulties were due to the dominance of one part of the brain.
Later, in 1939, R. Heinz Werner and Dr. Alfred Struss published papers on their findings about kids with learning difficulties. This is the time when studies pertaining to dyslexia began gaining prominence.
By the mid-twentieth century, many researchers started conducting psychological and educational research to study dyslexia and other learning difficulties. This refined our understanding of these difficulties allowing us to discover ways to help people with these challenges.
How can parents identify dyslexia to support early intervention?
Early intervention is vital to support a child with dyslexia. Timely identification and intervention reduce the chances of falling behind other students in class, keeping their self-esteem intact and causing fewer emotional struggles.
Therefore, it is imperative that parents identify signs as early as possible to facilitate early screening and modified instructions to support them at home and school environment.
Here are a few signs that parents must look out for in their young children –
- Difficulty following simple directions
- Unable to recognize letters or simple words
- Under-developed fine motor skills like writing or tying shoe laces
- Reversing phonemes and syllables
- Difficulties in pronunciation and rhyming words.
- Short attention span
- Hyperactive or fidgety
- Avoids group participation
- Anxiety, frustration, and confusion
Besides the above signs, it is also essential to note if there is a history of reading and writing difficulties in the family. As dyslexia tends to run in families, parents must be on the lookout for these signs to provide the necessary support without delay.
How can we create an inclusive world to support dyslexics?
As the world is realizing the power of diversity, it is time we don’t leave anyone behind and move forward together. Inclusion is the best way to support people with dyslexia as it will give them a chance to showcase their abilities in school and at work.
Concentrating on strengths and not weaknesses will boost confidence and motivate them to open up to the world and perform without hesitation. Here are a few ways how schools and organizations can create a dyslexia-friendly environment –
1. Accommodations in classrooms
- Offer visual representation whenever possible.
- Give one-step instructions for easy understanding.
- Provide audiobooks along with printed material to assist in understanding challenging words.
- Allow speech-to-text software to help them draft their answers.
- Voice recording lets students record lessons conducted in class to refer to later.
- Let students use a spell checker for online assignments to rectify simple spelling mistakes.
- Propose using a quiet corner of the classroom when classroom noise distracts concentration.
2. Accommodations at the workplace
- Allow employees who need accommodations clearly communicate the tasks they are comfortable with and allow extended deadlines for complicated tasks.
- Provide software like text-to-speech and speech-to-text as they are great resources for dyslexic employees.
- Use simple fonts like Calibri and Verdana for reports and presentations for easy readability.
- Use visuals to explain reports in presentations so they can be easily understood.
- Be a supportive team that is open to help whenever needed.
- Give ample time to adults with dyslexia to go through reports rather than discuss them on the spot at meetings.
- Share audio and video content when possible and highlight important texts in emails, and use cream and pastel color papers to print written material.
Let’s come together to raise dyslexia awareness
It is so important that people leave behind their inhibitions and work together to create an inclusive world. This will only be possible by discussing things openly that will ultimately eliminate the hesitations people carry about a particular difficulty.
So, let’s do our part and raise awareness about dyslexia. It will empower our dyslexic peers to open up about their challenges. It will help others learn about these difficulties and do their bit to acknowledge and support people with dyslexia when needed.
Here is what you can do to raise dyslexia awareness –
- Awareness begins with you! So, educate yourself about dyslexia.
- Don’t hesitate to say the word ‘Dyslexia’. Saying it out loud is essential to spread awareness.
- Help bust myths about dyslexia.
- Use social media to spread the word about this learning difficulty.
- Get in touch with local schools and distribute pamphlets about dyslexia to parents and teachers.
- Donate books on dyslexia to your local library and schools.
- If you are a dyslexic, share your story in class or in the office. Let everybody know dyslexia is just a difficulty, and you have many other strengths that define your worth.
Reading difficulties like dyslexia do not worsen with age. You either have it, or you don’t. The severity, however, varies from one person to the other. Lack of knowledge often leads people to believe that a person with dyslexia is simply lazy and not interested in learning. But this is far from the truth.
Therefore, raising awareness about dyslexia is necessary so people understand the condition better and be supportive of those who deal with it every single day. Increased awareness will ensure early diagnosis and intervention, thereby giving these individuals an opportunity to stay on par with their grade level and prepare themselves for a bright and successful future.