Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that causes problems with writing, reading and spelling. Dyslexia is very common, and it might be diagnosed when a person if very young, or it might take longer.
Although it can be very frustrating, it is possible to manage dyslexia, and there are supports available whether you're in school, college, or work.
Signs and symptoms of dyslexia
Problems people with dyslexia may experience include:
- Getting letters mixed up
- Getting left and right mixed up
- Mixing up the sounds of words and numbers
- Mixing up words and letters that sound alike, e.g. cat/act
- Difficulty copying notes from a whiteboard or screen
- Difficulty remembering words
- Difficulty with writing
- Difficulty with spelling
- Difficulty with numbers
- Difficulty with memorising things
- Reading very slowly
- Mispronouncing or misusing words
- Problems with recalling certain words
- Finding it hard to scan documents or skim-read
Having dyslexia doesn't mean you are less intelligent than other people. People with dyslexia tend to very creative and good at ‘thinking outside the box’.
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
Dyslexia is usually diagnosed in children at a young age when they begin to show some of the early signs. However, there is no age limit for being assessed for dyslexia, and many adults often go for assessment. In order to diagnose dyslexia, the person needs to take an assessment involving exercises to test reading and writing skills, along with other key areas to determine where they are having difficulty. To learn more about assessments, contact the Dyslexia Association of Ireland.
How to manage dyslexia
Dyslexia is manageable when you use certain techniques:
Reading with a ruler
Many people find the use of reading rulers makes reading much easier. This is because most books are in black and white, and the contrast between the background and the print can cause the letters and words to move and jump off the page. Coloured reading rulers decrease this contrast factor and make reading easier.
Exploring different ways of learning
People with dyslexia may find it easier to learn through different mediums than the standard methods such as books and lecture notes. Audio materials or pictures may be easier to work with. If you are at college, you may be able to tape your lectures.
A mind map is a diagram used to represent ideas and concepts in a visual way. Many students find mind maps to be powerful tools in learning, but those with dyslexia especially so. This is because mind maps are focused on images and not words.
There are always new technologies being created that can make life with dyslexia easier. Things like spell-check can be really helpful when writing, and other features like text-to-speak will allow you to listen to the computer of phone reading what's on the screen out loud. It's also possible to use speach-to-text functions that will allow you to speak into your phone or laptop instead of having to type.
If dyslexia is affecting your school, college, or work life, there are supports available to you.
School or college
If you're finding things difficult in school, talk to a teacher in the school and ask about support. You can also ask your parents to speak to your school, and find out about getting support from a Special Education Teacher.
If you are doing your Junior or Leaving Certiicate, you can apply for extra support during these exams. This can include extra time to complete your exam, someone to read out the questions aloud to you, someone to write out your answers for you, and other support. The support you receive will depend on your individual needs. Talk to your school about this service.
If you are in college, you can contact the Disability Support Officer to find out about the supports available. This could include assistive technology and other advice for finding things easier in college. You can also ask about extra support for exams. Learn more about supports for dyslexia in college here.
If you feel you need support for getting into a college course, you can apply for the DARE scheme, which allows students with disabilities or learning difficulties to access college on a reduced-points bases. Learn more about DARE here.
If reading and writing are a big part of your work, try to make use of technologies there to assist you. Use spellcheck when writing, and try using text-to-speak by wearing headphones so that you can hear what's being read to you in privacy. Try to give yourself plenty of time for and writing assignments, and write important things down if you have a tendency to forget.
You might also find it helpful to keep on top of your tasks by creating to-do lists and using a diary or calendar to stay on top of things. You can find more tips for dealing with dyslexia in wotk here.
Dyslexia is protected under the Disabilities Act so employers are obligated to help people with dyslexia to manage in the workplace. If you need support, talk to your manager.
For more advice on managing dyslexia, visit the Dyslexia Association of Ireland website.