October is World Dyslexia Awareness Month
Did you know October is international dyslexia awareness month? Dyslexia is a common occurrence but, shockingly, it is all-too-frequently undiagnosed. Many children still don’t get an accurate diagnosis until late in their education, and some reach adulthood without it.
Awareness about dyslexia is vital if we are to encourage, support, and advocate for people with dyslexia in schools and workplaces. Awareness and education are essential to dispel the many harmful myths and misconceptions surrounding dyslexia.
Join us in marking dyslexia awareness month 2023 by discovering the truth about dyslexia, why dyslexia awareness is so important, and how you can help spread the word and support dyslexic people. The theme of this year is Uniquiely You.
What is dyslexia?
Some 15-20% of the US, says the Dyslexia Center of Utah, have a language-based learning disability, and 70-80% of adults and children displaying poor reading skills are likely to be dyslexic.
Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities but there are still misconceptions about dyslexia. These misunderstandings can have serious consequences for children and adults.
The International Dyslexia Association gives this definition of dyslexia:
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” (“Definition of Dyslexia – International Dyslexia Association”)
In short, dyslexia is neurological and caused by differences in the brain’s wiring. Therefore, there is no dyslexia “cure” and someone with dyslexia will have it for life. It is not a marker of intelligence – or lack thereof. It is not an automatic barrier to success.
A cluster of symptoms
Dyslexia is not actually one thing but can be better understood as a cluster of different symptoms. These include reading difficulties as well as problems with writing, pronunciation, and language comprehension. Dyslexia, particularly undiagnosed, may also affect self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth, as well as cause a great deal of stress.
People with dyslexia must discover coping strategies to navigate learning and life.
Dyslexia is one type of learning disability. There are others, including dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and attention deficit disorder.
- Dyscalculia: This is a challenge understanding numbers. It can result in struggles with maths and difficulty understanding calculations.
- Dysgraphia: Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing and fine motor skills.
- Attention Deficit Disorder: ADD or ADHD is a condition affecting a range of areas including attention, concentration, difficulty focusing, and executive function problems.
Someone with dyslexia may also have another of these conditions.
Is dyslexia inherited?
Dyslexia is often found in families but it is not overwhelmingly clear how, or if, it is a genetic condition. A dyslexic parent may or may not have a dyslexic child. Someone else in the family, not a parent, may “pass on” the genetic condition.
Early-stage hearing problems may also be a factor in dyslexia. A lack of clear hearing may affect the brain’s development when decoding sounds, which results in life-long difficulties. It is not due to intelligence or lack of desire to learn.
So far, researchers are working on finding more precise answers.
Why do we need dyslexia awareness month?
Discovering dyslexia as a diagnosis can be an unnecessarily long and complicated journey.
Without adequate awareness of dyslexia and its challenges, parents and children can struggle to receive the support they need. Too many kids with reading problems are labelled as lazy, lacking in intelligence, or too distracted – instead of receiving the correct diagnosis that explains these challenges. These children become alienated from the education system and fail to reach their potential.
Awareness gives adults and children the power to understand how their neurology affects their learning and development, and how to get appropriate help without stigma. There are tools available that can completely change the outcomes for students’ academic success.
Teachers understand how to embrace “untypical” classroom methods that suit dyslexic children. Reading techniques based on understanding language structure – such as phonics – help kids make better progress. Research demonstrates that early pinpointing of dyslexia is a significant predictor of academic success.
Put simply, a greater awareness of dyslexia helps break down the barriers that people with dyslexia face. Dyslexia is not visible and it is not always accepted by society. Dyslexic people can feel unsupported and stigmatised. Lack of awareness can also affect the individual’s family, creating unnecessary strain.
Dyslexia awareness around the world
The International Dyslexia Association has chosen October as Dyslexia Awareness Month. The IDA works with partners around the world to help individuals with “dyslexia and other related reading differences so that they may have richer, more robust lives and access to the tools and resources they need.”
The British Dyslexia Association marks Dyslexia Awareness Week at the beginning of October each year. Canada is focusing on its “Mark it Read” campaign for dyslexia awareness, where every year across the country, buildings are lit up in red, and people in schools and workplaces wear red to celebrate and highlight those with dyslexia and the challenges they continue to face.
What you can do to spread dyslexia awareness in your community
Advocacy is crucial so that no one with dyslexia fails to receive the accommodations and interventions needed for a full life. These interventions are usually required by law and are also backed up by research. Yet the public, and decision makers, too often fail to acknowledge the importance of dyslexia awareness.
Raising awareness helps encourage earlier diagnosis and assessment. It means kids with dyslexia don’t go a lifetime believing they are stupid or lazy.
What can you do to help?
Start by educating yourself about dyslexia – what it is, and what it isn’t. You can then help dispel the myths surrounding the disability.
Talk about dyslexia openly and use the word dyslexia – being vague, or dumping dyslexia with other unspecific learning disabilities, does not help people get the support they need. If you are a parent, talk with your child about their dyslexia diagnosis and how it is affecting them. If you are a teacher, support your students with dyslexia and allow assistive technologies and tools in the classroom.
Share your story
If you are dyslexic, share your story. Consider taking your difficulties and successes and showing others how you can succeed.
Anyone – dyslexic or otherwise – can share information and advocacy for dyslexia through social media and in person at community venues, school board meetings, and in local groups. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has useful information regarding the discussions you can have about dyslexia, things you can talk about, and how to get rid of the misconceptions.
Understand the diverse tools available to help improve your quality of life if you have dyslexia or care for someone with dyslexia. This includes innovative technology like the ReaderPen from C-Pen, a reading pen that supplies word definitions from monolingual dictionaries, and reads text out loud. The highlighter function provides a multi-sensory learning experience and the pen helps aid language retention. Tools for dyslexic people help support independent learning and fill in the gaps that classroom teaching may leave.
The most important thing is to speak up and speak out if there is an issue with misrepresentation. Dyslexia is not a disease and it is not just a label. It is a useful description that helps tailor learning to the unique needs of individuals with dyslexia. We need to raise awareness to help everyone benefit from the support they need to thrive.