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Dyslexic Bugbears

A colloquial term and phrase for a source of dread, fear, annoyance and even irritation, ‘bugbears’ are common and widespread across society. Ranging from the noise of nails on a chalk board, cutlery scrapping on a plate, to finding holes in socks, dirtying washing strewn across a bedroom floor to discovering almost empty milk bottles in the fridge, all of us hold and possess such occurrences or events that really get on our nerves.

Recently I have been pondering and contemplating the bugbears that exist around dyslexia. After much consideration I settled upon two ways these can be applied. Firstly, are the bugbears and annoyances individuals experience due to living with dyslexia. Secondly, are the misconceptions, misunderstandings and misperceptions others can have around the true nature of dyslexia overall. It is crucial to note that all dyslexics may have differing bugbears and annoyances that surround dyslexia. This post aims to provide a snapshot into this world and help uncover and understand the bugbears dyslexics may have around their own dyslexic traits or dyslexia as a whole.

The Bugbears of Living with Dyslexia

As previously explored, the symptoms and effects of dyslexia can vary greatly from day to day (Discussing The Dyslexic Brain, 2020). On some occasions an individual’s dyslexia can be muted, easier to manage, less visible and presents as less of a barrier. Contrastingly, at other times ones dyslexic traits can be vastly amplified and viewable to an outsider. In this way, the bugbears and annoyances that can exist around dyslexia can also vary from one day to the next. Reflecting back and thinking of bad days, here I have listed some of the main bugbears of living with dyslexia that jumped to mind.

· Forgetting how to spell really random and strange words that I use very frequently; or potentially even daily. These can include: exist, enough, brain (which I nearly always confuse with the name Brian), who and how.

· Reading aloud in front of others. This can be really be quite a stress inducing task. More often than not, when reading aloud in the presence of others words are skipped over, tripped upon and misread. During these moments of pressure, of which may even be self-created by our worries of others listening in, reading accurately and fluently becomes far more challenging.

· Becoming frustrated and upset at not understanding concepts and explanations. All individuals, dyslexic or not, possess a natural aptitude for some areas of life, but yet find others much more difficult and confusing. Dyslexics may often be highly self-conscious around the subjects and topics they find really hard to understand and process; frequently leading to negative emotions and a poor view of themselves. In order to combat this, many dyslexics often need new or hard to grasp concepts explaining in different ways that match their preferred learning style(s).

· The frequently forgotten and overlooked emotional side of dyslexia. Termed the ‘secondary symptoms’ of dyslexia (Discussing The Dyslexic Brain, 2019), this covers the adverse psychological impacts dyslexia can have upon a person including: heightened levels of stress, anxiety and withdrawnness alongside reduced levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. Crucially, this presents as a bugbear, alongside the more renowned and obvious literacy and processing-based difficulties mainly associated with dyslexia, as individuals may unfairly perceive themselves a being stupid or inferior to others merely because they are dyslexic.

Bugbears around the Misconnections and Misunderstandings of Dyslexia

A few years back I recalled seeing a really awesome video on YouTube interviewing a number fellow dyslexics and exploring ‘what not to say to a dyslexic person’ (BBC Three, 2017). This is a really great watch, as it is really satisfying and reassuring to see and hear likeminded individuals freely and openly talk about their own unique experiences of living with dyslexia. Crucially, I used this video as the basis and inspiration for this section. Below, are listed some of the most notorious bugbears, annoyances and common misconceptions a dyslexic may hear on a fairly regular basis. It is vital to note that not all of these bugbears and misconceptions around dyslexia are intended as being harmful, unnecessary, sources of annoyance or potentially even be insulting. Often such comments are intended to boost individual’s self-esteem and positive views of themselves. However, unfortunately, these don’t always come across, or are interpreted, in this way.

· “You don’t look dyslexic”. After hearing this many times over the last few years I’m still not quite sure what this actually means. Should a dyslexic person look considerably different to a non-dyslexic person? Be green and sporting horns for example? In truth, dyslexics look just the same as everyone else. We simply think and process information differently and have preferring learning styles for absorbing information.

· “You just need to focus and try harder”. When considering the misunderstandings that some may possess around dyslexia this is an example that pretty much immediately pops in to my head. Despite this, as stressed previously, dyslexia is not an effort problem or based on a lack of application. Dyslexics frequently have to work harder and for longer than non-dyslexics to reach the same level of competence throughout their lives.

· Assuming that a dyslexic person cannot read, write or spell. It can be correct that some dyslexics may find these three exercises particularly challenging. Yet on the contrary, other dyslexics may really love and excel at reading and writing, even if it takes them a little longer to complete such tasks. Crucially, all dyslexics are different; expressing varying personalities, interests and talents.

· This final point is somewhat contradictory. I have had experiences of being called “dumb, a bit stupid or thick” as well as being told “you’re clever…how can you be dyslexic”? Together these two contrasting statements are rather confusing and both present as a bugbear. Vast amounts of study and research has concluded that dyslexia does not influence or impair ones intelligence. Instead, it is a neurodiversity which effects the way people learn, interpret, absorb and process information. As such, both of these above statements are misleading and far from reality.

As has been explored, a vast number of bugbears and causes of irritation can exist around dyslexia. Although they can be difficult and possibly upsetting to identify, read and hear about, being aware of them is extremely important. This is so one can challenge and combat them, whilst also using such misconceptions to spread knowledge and understanding of how dyslexia impacts dyslexics on a daily basis. What are your dyslexic bugbears? It will be great and fascinating to hear from you and uncover more about others first-hand experiences of living with dyslexia.

Useful Links

An exploration of the varying nature of dyslexia:

Discussing The Dyslexic Brain (2020)

BBC Three (2017) Things Not to Say to Someone with Dyslexia

For further detail on the secondary symptoms of dyslexia:

Discussing The Dyslexic Brain (2019) The Dyslexia-Anxiety Overlap

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