By Marion May,
Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog

With October being Dyslexia Awareness Month you may be asking what you can do to be more aware about dyslexia. To start with, aware means: knowing, realizing, and conscious. So, I take it as a quest to understand how dyslexia impacts the day-to-day lives of people who have it. In a society that wrongly equates a person’s level of intelligence with their ability to read, write and spell—imagine how tough it is for a person with dyslexia to live in a world that relies heavily on text to relay information and assumes everyone can read! As a result, people with dyslexia are commonly and mistakenly written off as being unmotivated, lazy and unintelligent. Furthermore, many dyslexics remain silent about their struggles and report feeling shame and embarrassment about their lifelong language learning challenges.

We’ve all heard about many famous geniuses in history who were dyslexic: Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, JFK, Leonardo Da Vinci and you have probably heard of many present-day celebrities and business entrepreneurs who are also dyslexic. This October and onward, let’s be conscious of dyslexic people in our own lives. These are the geniuses who walk amongst us today. Reading, writing and spelling may not be their strengths but they are likely the people we know who: are quick to recognize patterns, solve puzzles, excel in math, understand complex concepts, demonstrate exceptional creative skills, “play well” with others, show remarkable musical aptitude or, have strong athletic abilities.

Not sure you know someone with dyslexia?

Chances are you do! According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), “fifteen to twenty per cent of the population has a language-based learning disability.”  Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties, and nearly equally affects males and females and people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.”

Perhaps it is the patient who has difficulty completing a medical intake form, the grade four student who is struggling to read grade-one level text, a co-worker who needs longer than others to read and respond to a written report, a child who is a reluctant reader and “hates” school, or maybe… it is yourself?  

Why people with dyslexia are silent about their struggles

People with dyslexia often feel ashamed about the level of their reading, writing and spelling skills and seeking help is not easy. Although dyslexia can appear in different forms in different people, psychologists and educators know this for sure: dyslexia affects confidence and the person’s belief in their own intelligence and ability to succeed. According to the IDA’s FAQs on dyslexia, “Dyslexia can affect a person’s self-image. Students with dyslexia often end up feeling less intelligent and less capable than they actually are.”

What does dyslexia mean?

Dyslexia is derived from a Greek word that means difficultly with words. The prefix dys means trouble or difficulty and the base word lexia means words. Scientifically, dyslexia is considered a literacy-specific problem regardless of level of IQ, social background or quality of education.

This definition is given by The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and was adopted by IDA Board of Directors in 2002.

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Can people with dyslexia learn to read?

Yes. With targeted reading programs that use structured literacy instruction techniques, children and adults with dyslexia can learn to read. Children with dyslexia should be given effective phonological awareness and phonics training as early as possible in their early learning years, i.e. kindergarten and grade one.

Reading programs such as The Barton Reading and Spelling System (based on the Orton-Gillingham approach), PASP, LiPS, and Foundations in Sounds—are all offered by The Open Door—use explicit, multisensory instruction to teach phonological awareness and phonics to dyslexic learners.  These programs teach students how to:

  • decode words by associating sounds with letters on tiles
  • break down sounds within words and,
  • learn and apply useful spelling rules.

Conclusion

For more information, I have compiled a list of YouTube videos, websites and books that have helped me immensely, as a tutor in understanding dyslexia. Of course, the best teachers of all have been my wonderful students, who never cease to amaze me with their perseverance, intelligence, humour, enthusiasm and good nature in spite of—or maybe because of—their dyslexia.

Videos on Dyslexia:

The True Gifts of a Dyslexic Mind | Dean Bragonier | TEDxMarthasVineyard

In this inspiring talk, advocate and educator Dean Bragonier offers a different take on Dyslexia.

Things Not to Say to Someone Who Has Dyslexia

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObwAzZr87jg (BBC Three Video)

Through Q&As, dyslexic adults talk about common comments and criticisms they have encountered on their learning journeys. Be prepared to laugh and cry!

See Dyslexia Differently

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11r7CFlK2sc (Video from the British Dyslexia Association). It’s a good video for the whole family to watch to explain what life is like through the eyes of a dyslexic child. It seeks to pre-empt misconceptions among young audiences by shedding light on the real challenges dyslexic children face while acknowledging their strengths and potential.

Resource websites:

British Dyslexia Association  

This is one of my favourite websites about dyslexia. It offers good information about dyslexia in people of all ages; children as well as adults. I find this is important because I have noticed adult dyslexics’ comments on websites, wanting more information about dyslexia in adults. As one person pointed out, so much information on dyslexia in children can lead to the false impression that children will grow out of their dyslexia. This area of the site https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/advice/adults discusses dyslexia in the workplace, living with a dyslexic partner, etc.

International Dyslexia Association (IDA) US-based

An excellent overall resource site about dyslexia for parents and educators; signs, symptoms and helpful resources.

Reading Rockets

This website is hosted by PBS television in the US and offers many tips on teaching children how to read and how to help struggling readers. Activities, videos, and tips are well written and very easy to follow. This area of the site discusses teaching phonemic awareness Reading Rockets – Phonemic Awareness

Dyslexia Library

A mother and daughter blogging about dyslexia in Ottawa, Canada. (A shout out to our hometown of Ottawa) This site names a few more dyslexic people you may not have known about…like the founder of IKEA!

Books on Dyslexia:

A Complete Guide for Parents and Those Who Help Them

by Gavin Reid

ISBN (Paperback) 978-0-470-97373-8 ISBN (Hardcover) 978-0-470-97374-5

Here is a  review of this book from one of my earlier posts

It is an excellent resource guide for parents of a child on a journey with dyslexia. I found the book to be very informative—especially on what to expect from a psychological assessment for dyslexia. Dr. Reid’s adult son has dyslexia and as a result, his writing tone is empathetic and supportive.

How to Reach & Teach Children and Teens with Dyslexia

By Cynthia M. Stowe, M.Ed.

ISBN: 978-0-13032018-6

This is a very helpful A-Z reference book about dyslexia and I have used it frequently for tips in tutoring my students. I would recommend it for teachers and parents alike. Being a former teacher, the author has several insights about the classroom teaching for dyslexic children.

The Dyslexia Checklist, A Practical Reference for Parents and Teachers

By Sandra F. Rief, M.A.

Judith M. Stern, M.A.

ISBN: 978-0-470-42981-5

This book offers a wide range of information about dyslexia and other language-based disabilities. The Table of Contents is very detailed, making it very easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. As one reviewer said, “A straightforward guide, indispensable as a resource compendium”. The book covers basic information about dyslexia (terms, facts, signs, and the latest research), strategies for helping a dyslexic child or teen, and numerous useful checklists for parents and teachers.

The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Dyslexia

By Abigail Marshall

ISBN 978-1-4405-6496-3

As a mother of an adult son with dyslexia, Ms. Marshall wrote the book from her experience and describes what obstacles parents may encounter and what expectations they should have about educational support.

Marion May is the Blog Curator and Content Writer for The Open Door blog as well as a reading and spelling tutor for The Open Door, tutoring children between the ages of seven and 10. Her blog content is “local, organic and specific” and is relevant for parents of children with dyslexia.

Marion formerly tutored teenaged students in a literacy remediation program at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School in Ottawa. She also worked as a paid fundraiser and grant proposal writer for The Excellence in Literacy Foundation, a national non-profit aimed at helping marginalized youth. She began her career in radio broadcasting and news writing and has worked in the area of promotional writing for several federal government departments and agencies, including the National Research Council.

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