Do you remember the old Charlie Brown specials? You know the scenes when the Peanuts are in class, and their teacher is talking. We in the audience hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah,” but all the Peanuts seem to understand what their teacher is saying in spite of our inability to understand her. Being dyslexic feels just like that — everyone else in the classroom seems to understand what the teacher is saying, but for the dyslexic individual, the teacher might as well be speaking a foreign language. It can be very frustrating.
October Is Dyslexia Awareness Month.
Sadly, one in 10 people suffer from dyslexia, and dyslexia is one of the leading causes of illiteracy. Dyslexia is an inherited brain disorder that creates difficulties in reading, math, spelling, comprehension, and writing. Although much is known about dyslexia, there is no cure for it, and those who suffer from it often spend their entire life struggling from the effects of it, but it should not be so. It is a well know fact that Dyslexics often have a high IQ, therefore, with proper assistance, every Dyslexic should be able to excel.
On a personal note: I and my daughter are two of the presumed 40 million dyslexic people in the United States. As a dyslexic, I have struggled all my life with math, reading comprehension, and punctuation. Yet, when I entered college, I was able to maintain a 3.6 or higher GPA. I was able to graduate Cum Laude as a result of proper diagnosis, extended timed testing, and extremely long hours of study with a very creative approach to how I assimilated information.
When I was a child, I used to say, “When I read my eyes bounce off the page, and information doesn’t get in.” What I meant, and what a lot of dyslexics I know understand, is that the dyslexic brain doesn’t function like normal brains function. When a dyslexic tries to read, the parts of the brain that help with that function are hampered or shut down. Therefore, as a dyslexic, I had to learn how to learn with my brain. I know it sounds odd, but I had to figure out how my brain processes information, and I had to use extremely unorthodox ways to gather and retain what I was required to learn to acquire my degree.
The Secret to My Success
For me, reading a book is almost impossible. Holding it is a detraction, and it prevents me from being able to interact with the material. So, I copy the book or take it apart and put it in a ring binder. I read only one page at a time to stay on task. Also, I highlight the most important information on each page as well as marking it up with notes. Post-it notes work very well to mark pages I need to reference so I can connect information for more clarity. For example, each page would have a post-it note with a one-or-two word summary of the main topic on that page.
When studying for a test I made what I called “war boards.” My “war boards” helped me understand everything from the Vietnam War to the various art movements throughout history. It cost me a little money in poster boards and markers, but it was worth it to make the grade. Once I had done all the reading and cross referencing, I re-copied it onto the poster boards in categories that were assigned colors. Sound like a lot of work? It was. However, without doing all that work I would have flunked. Why? Because my brain, like most dyslexic brains, needs more than the average reader to comprehend the material we are required to learn.
Dyslexics often feel that all the information is important. We have a hard time filtering out what we need to study for a test. We tend to need lots of extra information to be able to understand basic concepts. I call it “untangling the information.” (Note: Einstein was dyslexic, therefore, our tendency to pick everything apart to the extreme is a sign of high intelligence, but it can get in the way.) So, it is important for those who suffer with dyslexia to be able to sort through data or information and organize it as a means of grasping the material.
Once a person with dyslexia figures out the method that helps him or her learn, he or she begins to excel because dyslexic people often have above average IQs. The important thing is that each dyslexic person be given the opportunity to find how his or her brain takes in, processes, and retains information. He or she also needs to know how his or her brain best dispenses that information as well. For some of us, extended time testing is fine. We can sit down and work through testing on paper. For others, testing needs to be done with the teacher or assistant verbally.
As a child, I could easily explain what I had learned in class, but I could not get what I knew in my mind onto paper. As you can see, I overcame that obstacle, but it took years of practice and determination. In some cases, children need to be able to test verbally. It is possible they would improve full letter grades with that simple adjustment.
Therefore, it is important to note dyslexic people are outside the box thinkers by nature. The beauty of learning differently is that we see the world through a creative lens. We have to find ways to cope and that pushes us to explore possibilities others, who learn with ease, miss. In the end, I believe dyslexia is a gift. It has taught me problem solving skills, to trust my way of doing things, to be unique, and that I am not dumb, I am not lazy, I am not less than everyone else. I’m just different.
If you have dyslexia or your child has dyslexia, I urge to find what works for you or him or her. Dyslexia may last a lifetime, but it doesn’t have to hold you or your child back. I don’t think of it as a disability, I think of it as a challenge to overcome.
The Fort Worth Moms Blog hosts 19 Neighbor Groups via Facebook, including the Moms of Special Needs Tarrant County. These groups are free to join and offer online and offline opportunities to build relationships and gain resources from other moms in the area.