Written by: Narley Karikari
I didn’t know I had dyslexia until my 4th grade teacher gently pointed it out to me one day. He called me to his desk after class and showed me my creative essay I submitted the week before. It was almost completely covered with red pen marks. He told me that my essay was very creative but my words were “interestingly arranged”. He told me he also had Dyslexia and reckoned we had something in common. It took me a minute to understand that he was telling me I had a learning disability, then another minute to grasp what word he just said. I knew I had issues with telling the time & spelling but I figured every kid did. At that age, I didn’t know how to react – I knew I wasn’t stupid, but I suddenly felt misunderstood and slightly victimized by this word that I couldn’t even spell.
Ultimately, I kept my learning disability to myself – never admitting to my family or seeking help for it. I just wanted to fit in.
Dyslexia & I would go on to have an interesting relationship. It would often catch me off guard and embarrass me in public. I would flip my B’s & D’s, Q’s & G’s, and if it was 2:45pm, I would say it was 2:54pm confidently then apologize and correct myself. Having Dyslexia can be really confusing; you second guess yourself a lot and it makes you feel as though you’re slower than you actually are.
My teacher gave me some sound advice on Dyslexia as the semester went on. He told me to not blame myself, to slow down when reading, be patient and to know that my brain was wired differently but not incorrectly.
With time, I trained my brain to slow down, pause and double check everything I saw or wrote. I eventually learned to befriend Dyslexia and make light of it. “Dyslexics Untie!” is my favorite one-liner (Untie should really be Unite). As I grew up, my Dyslexia became less aggressive, still embarrassing but not so noticeable. Friends have pointed it out even in my 20’s, which is always uncomfortable but I’ve grown to feel that my Dyslexia just adds to my quirks!
I realized there must be others with more severe cases so I started to do some research on my learning disability to better understand it and accept it.
This is what I learned:
Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin and is a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain's processing of graphic symbols. It is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes written material and is typically characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling, and decoding.
The International Dyslexia Foundation states that between 15% and 20% of the North American population have a language-based learning disability, Dyslexia being the most common of these. That means 1 in every 5 people are dyslexic!
There has been over 30 years of documented, scientific evidence and research proving the existence of Dyslexia. It is one of the most common learning disabilities to affect children, most cases start as early as 5 years old.
Severity varies, but the condition often becomes apparent when someone starts learning to read. Dyslexia is also regarded as hereditary.
Dyslexia is not a visual problem.- Dyslexia has nothing to do with your eye sight like many believe This was proven inaccurate by a study by Professor Vellutino from the University at Albany. He asked dyslexic and non-dyslexic students to reproduce a series of Hebrew letters that none of them had ever seen before. The dyslexic students were able to perform the task just as accurately as the non-dyslexic students, showing that their dyslexia did not affect their eye sight.
Contrary to popular belief, the core problem in dyslexia is not reversing letters (although it can be an big indicator which it was for me). Rather, the difficulty lies in interpreting the sounds in words (the phonological sound component of language) and then matching those individual sounds to the letters and combinations of letters in order to read and spell.
It’s a lifelong disability but you can find help. - Left untreated, dyslexia may lead to low self-esteem, behavior problems, anxiety, aggression, and withdrawal from friends, parents and teachers.
While dyslexia is a lifelong learning disability, early and effective intervention can help an individual keep-up and retain his/her grade level in school and build confidence.
Other helpful strategies for people with dyslexia are:
- extra time to practice reading
- Read aloud to build reading accuracy, speed and expression
- Connect with trained tutors
- Getting reading assignments in audio formats
- Join a support group
- seek an IEP if Dyslexic characteristics worsen (Individual Education Plan)
Dyslexia and intelligence are NOT connected. -Research has shown that people with Dyslexia are rather gifted in a more creative, abstract-thinking way. I couldn’t agree more; I’ve always been talented in the arts and as a kid I was oddly very gifted at word search puzzles, completing them in minutes.
Steve Jobs, Einstein, Leonardo Divinci & Steven Spielberg are famous dyslexic! Although we may not excel at finely detailed tasks, we are excellent at big picture thinking and tasks that require creativity and innovation.
If you know anyone with Dyslexia, do not to criticize or make fun of them. Understand that we are trying very hard to not let it show. My journey with Dyslexia has changed my view on what it means to have a learning disability. Individuals who learn, read, hear, speak, interpret differently or slower are valuable and have many other beautiful gifts seemingly because of their learning disability.
Dyslexia is a complex learning disability that affects thousands, if not millions, of young & old people but it is not to be feared or condemned.
I believe there’s a genius and a gift in every intellectual “flaw” one might have if parents, teachers & society just look at little closer, have patience, learn to adjust, and think outside of the box.
Many successful people refuse to let Dyslexia stop them from realizing their dreams, and instead turn it into their superpower!
Untie, or Unite, Dyslexia is real, it matters, and you can still thrive in life with it!