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What is Dyslexia?

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There is no one accepted definition of dyslexia.  There is agreement, however, that dyslexia affects the development of reading, spelling and other language related skills. It is characterized by difficulties with working memory, processing speed and phonological awareness. In addition to weaknesses in literacy skills, people with dyslexia may have problems with mathematics, concentration, time management and personal organization, and sequencing.   Sometimes people find it difficult to pronounce words or they may frequently have that experience of words being on the 'tip of the tongue'. The British Dyslexia Association's definition of dyslexia can be found here.

Some adults with dyslexia manage to sufficiently overcome literacy difficulties and it is true that many people with dyslexia are extremely successful.  They often, however, describe having to put more effort into completing  tasks than their colleagues at work, and they may find that they mis-read words, confuse dates and times, suddenly go blank when trying to spell a word which they spelt correctly half an hour ago etc. 

Finding out that you are dyslexic is a very positive step.  It helps you to understand why you have struggled in certain areas and may well explain low self-esteem.  It also helps you to plan a successful way forward. 

See a letter to a schoolteacher from adults with dyslexia .

Sally & Student

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Letter to a Teacher

This letter was put together by a group of my adult students to highlight their experiences while at school.

Dear Sir/Miss

I just want to ask if you’ve heard of dyslexia. I guess you must have as at least two children in every class you teach will probably be dyslexic. Do you know who they are? I just wonder because I suffered from it – and you never noticed.

I’m still dyslexic, and always will be, but at least I don’t have to suffer any longer the humiliation you caused me.
You humiliated me every time you singled me out for the rest of the class to laugh at. You humiliated me every time you made me do something you knew I couldn’t. What you initiated, the rest of the class continued in the playground.

Why didn’t you notice that I could answer all the questions but couldn’t write it down? Did you wonder about this – and what did you try to do about it?

Sometimes you could see that I was working hard, even called me a conscientious student, but then you would say that I was careless.

I know it must be difficult when you have lots of children in the class – but don’t you think you should have tried harder like you told me to so many times?

When I was a child I had faith in what you told me. I really believed that you must be right when you told me that I must be thick. Every time you said this it was like a drop of poison, slowly accumulating and killing my self-esteem.

Now I’m an adult I’m slowly realizing that you were wrong and I’m rebuilding my belief in myself. This is a long and difficult process. I’ve had to be prepared to look hard at what I believe and how I act. I hope that you will be willing to do the same.

Respectfully yours,

An enlightened dyslexic ex-pupil.