By Beth Piper, High-School Student
If you truly think about it, how much do you read in a day?
I’ll tell you, you more or less read twelve hours a day. You read every time you’re on Facebook or WeChat, you read when you want to know what’s in your toothpaste/hair product, you’re reading right now. You read road signs, when you look at a menu and most of all when you are at work/school. These days, much of our communication is through sending written messages. However, a small collection of people struggle daily to understand what any of it says.
Imagine that your friend asks you to proofread something and you can see the letters and words but you have no idea what it says. It’s like looking at a menu and having it resemble more of a word search then a list of food. Everything is a constant struggle for people with dyslexia, like me, and what is worse is that for the first part of our lives we get shot down with phrases like “stop being lazy” or “you’re stupid” and we believe them because we seem to be the only ones in the class that are getting it wrong most of the time.
The hardest question I get asked is “what is it like being a dyslexic?” It’s a bit like asking a “normal” person what’s it like being able to read normally. We don’t know because we have never been anything else. Over time we improve, but our brains still do not use the same parts as non-dyslexic brains.
I found out when I was nine, which is actually pretty early. However, before I found out, people would just say I’m lazy or stupid. I remember the first thing I did when I found out, I ran to my older sister’s locker, gave her the biggest hug and excitedly told her “I’m not stupid!”
Those three words changed my life. People still made fun of me sometimes but the difference was that I didn’t care anymore because I knew the truth and was learning to deal with it in ways that were right for me. I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m surrounded by people who understand and try to help. Also, because of the way my brain works, I excel in classes like math and sciences. That does not mean that I still don’t have to work twice as hard; for example biology homework for the average child in my class takes two hours, mine can take up to five.
I think one of the main things about dyslexia that people without dyslexia fail to understand is that we don’t feel different. The most common suggestion they make is that dyslexic people need a lot of one on one time, which means taking kids out of their class and separating them from other kids. Though a certain amount of specialized support is helpful, mostly we really just need small things.
Here are some examples of ways to help kids with dyslexia without pulling them out of class or school:
- White, shiny paper is really hard to read from, and it’s worse for the environment than other kinds of paper. The most common color that helps children with dyslexia to read is yellow, so why not print on color? It’s also nicer for everyone.
- Putting texts on a laptop program that can read the text out-loud (very common in many computers), and giving students headphone means that children with dyslexia won’t need to be taken away from their class to have it read to them.
- A lot of the time teachers talk about things we should know just after they have asked us to take notes from the board. Every kid with dyslexia I know says that it’s hard to listen and write. So teachers, let kids take their time, or copy the notes afterwards so they can focus on listening and absorbing what is being said.
- There’s a font called OpenDyslexic. OpenDyslexic is thin at the top and fat at the bottom. It helps kids know exactly where on the paper they are as they read, which is helpful as kids with dyslexia often skip lines or read the same line twice.
- Toe by Toe, a multi-sensory reading program, changed my life. It allowed me to be able to go out with my friends, stay in my classes and try to get on sports teams. All I needed to do was spend 30 minutes a day working on the book instead of spending all my time trying to do things to overcome dyslexia. My reading improved by 20% and recently I took a test to see how much I have improved and, with a bit more effort, I will soon actually be average.
We all have different issues to deal with. Dyslexia doesn’t have to be a huge deal: every person needs to go through a learning experience that suits them and their strengths and weaknesses, so that they can be the best they can be.