What is it like Living with Dyslexia?
I have been asked this question fairly recently and to be perfectly honest I found it really difficult to answer. This is because dyslexia is so much more complex and multidimensional than many may think at first glance. Its impacts and symptomology vary from day-to-day and affect all dyslexics differently. In this way, all dyslexics will present with a differing ‘dyslexic profile’ and possess varying strengths and weaknesses. Vitally, dyslexia is not solely based on stereotypical assumptions of not being able to read, write or spell. Its effects spread and stretch towards many other cognitive capabilities and traits including: working memory, auditory processing, organisation and awareness of time, recognition/decoding of words or letters, visual stress and can extenuate associated frustration and anxiety.
Over the festive period I thought and pondered over this question for several days. Whilst trying to ignore all the Christmas chocolate, cakes and biscuits calling to me I asked myself honestly “what is it like to live and have dyslexia”? Eventually I settled upon the answer; it really varies and depends the sort of day I’m having and/or the task I’m presented with. Since dyslexia is a complex neurodiversity my answer very much mirrored this.
As stressed and emphasised in a previous blog post, the impacts and effects of dyslexia are varied, changeable and differ for each dyslexic individual. Some dyslexics are superb writers, creators and thinkers, but may struggle with spelling, memory and word recognition. Others however, may present with a totally different combination of traits. In addition to this, dyslexic identifiers and symptomologies can vary even within the same person. For example, dyslexic traits and characteristics can be amplified when a dyslexic individual is tried/fatigued, stressed or anxious, unwell or when presented with a task or situation they find especially challenging (Discussing The Dyslexic Brain, 2020 ‘The Dyslexic Variation’).
Returning to my answer on the proposed above question, my dyslexic traits too vary from each day to the next. Due to this variation on some days my dyslexic characteristics are diluted and barely noticeable. In vast contrast, on other days or occasions these can be challenging and difficult to manage. On one end of the spectrum I can have fairly unspectacular, yet smooth running days where my dyslexia is not particularly noticeable, eye catching or apparent. On such good days when I’m not faced with overwhelming tasks, can settle into my day and are in a good frame of mind I can merely get on and focus with my daily chores, tasks and hobbies. Although the dyslexia still exists and remains for life innately within the brain and cognitive functioning, during these moments I almost forget that I am dyslexic.
Conversely all dyslexics, and individuals for that matter regardless of whether they are neurodivergent or not, have bad days. For me personally I have days when certain dyslexic traits and characteristics can be hard to manage and accept. Subsequently, these occasions can lead to higher levels of frustration and lower patience and tolerance levels with myself. As an exemplar, I can have times when I really struggle to focus, process and decode any sort of written text. The words and sentences are red; but no meaning is derived. One of the negative impacts of dyslexia I find most difficult to manage and endure revolves around the emotional side of dyslexia. These somewhat overlooked ‘secondary symptoms of dyslexia’ are primarily focused on the psychological impacts of dyslexia. This can very much include: anxiety around making errors or mistakes, fear and embarrassment from misreading or misinterpreting text or instructions, a reluctance to try new tasks and even presenting with a more withdrawn and introverted nature. Although these psychological impacts are not omnipresent and evident at all times, when at their worst they can sadly be quite emotionally debilitating.
Lastly, contributing to the complexity of living with dyslexia, because dyslexia is a lifelong neurodiversity it can become a ‘normal’ part of one’s life. In this way, an individual can become so used to their ‘dyslexic quirks’, tailored coping strategies, strength and weaknesses, unique learning styles (Discussing The Dyslexic Brain, 2020 ‘Dyslexic Quirks’) and the way their brain processes information that their dyslexia becomes accepted, commonplace and ordinary. As such, being dyslexic becomes part of our identities and who we are as people. Reflecting on my own thoughts on this matter, when dyslexia is ‘normalised’, accepted and understood it becomes far easier to manage and comprehend at grassroots level. Moreover, being able to meet and socialise with other dyslexics, both in person and via online forums, further normalises and recognises the existence of dyslexia. Knowing that there are many, many others out there who too are also dyslexic, or have an interest in supporting neurodivergents, is extremely reassuring and helps expand society’s knowledge and understanding of dyslexia. Even if fellow dyslexics possess differing dyslexic traits and identifiers, this will still be an individual other dyslexics can relate to, emphasise/sympathise with, learn more about dyslexia from and potentially help them feel like less of an outsider.
Living with dyslexia can be a varied experience. It is absolutely vital to note and emphasise that all dyslexics would give a different answer to the proposed question, as all dyslexics are unique, present with differing dyslexia traits and process/experience life differently. Some dyslexics may give more positive answers, whereas other less so. Thinking back over my own experiences as a dyslexic, living with dyslexia varies from one day to the next and its impacts can be highly situation dependent. On occasions these dyslexic’s traits are hardly visible, yet on other days they can be extenuated and highly stress inducing. Crucially though, despite these troubles, tribulations and triumphs, dyslexia has become a major and perfectly normal part of my daily existence.
For further information and guidance on the variations both amongst and within dyslexics please browse the post below ‘The Dyslexic Variation’ (April 2020):
To learn more about dyslexic quirks and idiosyncrasies checkout the blog below ‘Dyslexic Quirks’ (December 2020):