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Dyslexia Does Not Impair Intelligence! What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a term we often hear. It is bounded around like a ping pong ball, but is often misunderstood and shrouded with speculation within contemporary culture. Within this entry, I hope to uncover and resolve these misconceptions and provide a short yet comprehensive overview of the world of dyslexia.

A neurodiversity, or natural human variation, dyslexia is a diagnosable learning difficulty. Emphasised by the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) it is a life-long disability that affects around ten percent of the British population; equally spread amongst males and females. It is a hidden and ‘internal disability’ that is not always obvious on the outside. Dyslexia most notably affects language and literacy skills. However, it is absolutely vital to note that no two dyslexics are same. Every person’s dyslexia varies, with some traits being evident in some and not others, and is unique to them as a human being.

An extensive but not complete list of difficulties a dyslexic can face include:

· Difficulty with spelling

· Difficulty in matching spoken words to written words (phonological awareness)

· Reading difficulties

· Difficulties with decoding and breaking down words

· Poor working memory

· Poor auditory memory

· Difficulties with structuring writing, including grammar and punctuation

· Writing letters or numbers the wrong way round

· Difficulty with organisation

· Visual stress (words moving, jumbling or blurring)

· Subsequent stress and anxiety

In contrast to popular opinion, dyslexia is not solely based on poor spelling and an inability to read. As stated above, generalising a dyslexic is not an option. In order to understand a person we must look at them holistically and appreciate that all dyslexics have differing strengths and weaknesses like any other person. Using myself as an exemplar I have poor memory, spelling and grammar but my general writing ability and vocabulary is good. Contrastingly, other dyslexics may present with a differing ‘cognitive profile’ and struggle with other elements of language.

Comorbidity is also crucial to mention when discussing dyslexia. Dyslexia is linked to many other learning difficulties and neurodiversities, including dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Some of the difficulties and cognitive traits/characteristics within these overlap and complement.

The links amongst neurodiversities

However all these differing neurodiversities have varying diagnostic criteria which are meticulously measured and assessed. Subsequently, all neurodiversities are individually diagnosed and cannot be substituted for one another. In this way, individuals can be formally diagnosed with more than one of the above conditions separately.

Dyslexia does not impair intelligence!

This is a statement I repeatedly tell myself. Being dyslexic does not make you stupid, thick or an idiot! It simply means that a person needs information to be explained or presented differently. For example, for me having instructions and information written down is preferable to being presented with mass amounts of spoken information. Too much auditory information is overwhelming for me. I forget what I’ve been told or complete things in the wrong order, which as you can imagine, is immensely frustrating. It may take time for a dyslexic person to find out how they learn best, as different learning styles/techniques suit some people and not others. ‘Trial and error’ learning is a term that comes mind. Different techniques can be tried and explored, including visual (using videos, pictures and diagrams), auditory (discussing and listening to information) and kinaesthic/tactile which involves using physical activity to learn (such as role-play, puzzles and walking/pacing when recalling information). Using a combination of these and developing a multisensory learning approach can be extremely beneficial to a dyslexic.

Overall I hope this entry has helped in uncovering the mystery of dyslexia and reduced any misconceptions and misunderstandings. For me, understanding what dyslexia is, and how it effects people, is the first step in helping and supporting your friends, family and other loved ones (or myself even yourself!) who are or may be a fellow dyslexic. A key element to remember is that dyslexia is a reasonably common learning difficulty, meaning that sufferers should not feel alone or isolated, and it does not affect a person’s intellectual ability.


Useful links:

British Dyslexia Association (BDA)

Operation Diversity

This online community is aimed at empowering those with any type of neurodiversity, learning difficulty or disability. It is available via Facebook where individuals can discuss, comment and provide suggestions to help others in any shape or form. I would highly recommend it! The link to this page can also been found by clicking the blue button the on bottom right hand side of the Home page.

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