You may not know that I am an author with Dyslexia. What is Dyslexia? It is a visual disability where the brain interprets images as the mirror-image of itself. In classrooms and general medical offices this term is also often mistakenly used to refer to all visual processing disorders, which is to say issues where the eyes see things clearly but the brain jumbles them up in all kinds of ways. Other visual processing disorders besides specifically Dyslexia can include images rotating, flipping around, skipping over things like entire lines of text, scrambling letters or numbers, double vision, and more. Needless to say, it can be very difficult to enjoy reading and writing when those darn words won’t stay still on the page and choose to zoom all around instead, and it can be embarrassing to be a teenager and still write your letters and numbers backwards.
Have no fear though. Not only is treatment available at any age from specialized Optometrists for all of these visual processing disorders to train your brain to stop scrambling information and drastically reduce how difficult these conditions can make classwork and learning, it’s also possible to make some tweaks to your approach to learning to make it all a little easier.
Point at the Line
- It can help to point at the line you are reading so your eyes are less likely to wander across the page.
- Younger students even point at each individual word, but that is not as subtle a thing to do and can make you look like you are having trouble following what you are reading which can be embarrassing in Middle and High school.
Use the Context
- Use what you know about what you’re reading to help you figure it out. If you can’t decide if a word is “magic” or “moose”, knowing that you are reading a fantasy book about Romania can help you decide the right word is “magic”.
Use Previous Sentences to Figure out the Current Sentence
- If the last sentence was about a guy drowning, he’s probably still underwater.
Guess Ahead in Reading
- Use what you know about what you’ve recently read to guess at what will likely happen in future sentences, that will let your brain know what to expect so it is more likely to cooperate and translate what you’re reading into the correct ideas
Ask Your Teacher to Say The Homework Out Loud
- If your teacher only provides written homework instructions or a written rubric, ask for either an audio file of the same information on your online classroom
- OR for your teacher to say it out loud when assigning the work instead of just writing it on the board
- OR to be extra safe and make sure you can’t forget the assignment ask to record the teacher saying it during class so you can have both methods.
Get Audiobooks for Class Work
Dictate Writing Assignments
- Use either the free dictation software in a smart phone or computer OR buy a dictation software like Dragon to complete essays and other written assignments.
Allow Extra Time to Finish Work
- Homework took me twice as long as other students. You may find you have a similar problem. Plan your schedule to leave more time to do work than you or your teacher think is needed
Find Your Worth-It
- Many Dyslexics find that despite their disability, they can become more proficient than the average person at just one type of visual processing: either reading/writing, or math, or reading music, or memorizing lines for acting, reading a foreign language…
- This process is usually longer than peers take to become comfortable at the task. For myself I was in the “stupid group” for reading in school all the way until Third Grade when after years of plowing through the work and struggling to learn I became the best reader in the entire school. Becoming skilled and even better than average at a task involving visual processing is difficult if you have that disability, but if it is some one thing you really love and want to conquer it might be worth the pain and feeling stupid to eventually make it.
Remember the Benefits of Dyslexia
- Dyslexia has been shown to be connected to better problem solving skills and increased creativity.
- Dyslexia supports greater critical thinking skills
- Before getting visual therapy to reduce the severity of my visual processing disorders including Dyslexia, I never read the same book twice because even with all the context clues I used for reading, a word here or there being interpreted incorrectly led to very different stories each time! It was magical because I was never bored even reading my same favorite books over and over again!
What is your favorite hack to be successful in school and work with a learning disability?