I have been married for 26 years. My husband is dyslexic. But, no, he doesn’t think we’ve been married for 62 years. However, I’ve lost count of the number of times he has said he wished people understood dyslexia better.
“I wish people understood that dyslexia…”
“I wish people would realize that dyslexia…”
Recently he was frustrated because someone was talking about their “disability” which was similar. He told them that he does not have a disability. Rather, he has been given a challenge by God that requires creative problem-solving.
So here are seven things that dyslexics (like my husband) would like you to know.
We are not stupid
People with dyslexia are not stupid. It’s true that most of them would struggle with a traditional IQ test. However, that has more to do with the way we have structured the IQ test and little to do with what is being measured. Traditional intelligence tests are timed and rely heavily on one’s ability to read well and read quickly. People with dyslexia struggle to read quickly and timed tests lower their score. But tests that are orally given without time limits will offer better results for the person with dyslexia.
We are not lazy
For a long time, educators accused persons with dyslexia of “not trying hard enough”. If they studied long enough, then they would not have as much difficulty in their classes. Students were either labeled as lazy or troublemakers. Those students who had positive personalities were often passed on to the next grade (like my husband) even though they were still struggling to read and write. It’s only been in the last decade or so that educators have discovered creative teaching strategies to help their students.
It’s not about reversing letters
Dyslexia is a brain problem. The neuropathways misinterpret what the eyes are seeing. Recent research suggests that those with dyslexia see letters and objects more three-dimensionally than the rest of us. For whatever reason, the neuropathways see one-dimensional letters as three-dimensional objects. My husband struggled to read and write. But he rocked at geometry. Triangles, rectangles, and octagons all look the same no matter which way you turn them.
It also isn’t limited to writing. My husband trains and teaches martial arts. I can’t tell you how often he turns right when he should turn left when he’s practicing forms (patterns).
They are wicked problem solvers
In a world dominated by reading and writing, people with dyslexia have to find creative solutions to everyday life. Speech to text and autocorrect have been a form of freedom for my husband. He has been able to run a small business more proficiently because of these tools. People with dyslexia have been able to make progress in their careers because of computers and tablets. The only “A” my husband ever had in school was in computer class (not including woodshop and auto shop). A company has recently developed a new typeface and font that is dyslexic-friendly. You can check it out here.
He has also solicited me as his problem-solving partner. He knows he cannot trust his eyes, so I often proof-read for him. And he will call me to get the correct pronunciation of a new client’s name before he calls them. I wish people without dyslexia were as diligent on people’s names.
They are usually creative, hands-on people
Since people with dyslexia see things three-dimensionally, they are typically creative people. My husband can take something apart and put it back together again even though he has never built it before. At our house, we say to give it to Rob if it’s broken because he can fix anything. I think I have only seen him use directions twice in my life. He intuitively looks at something and knows how it should be assembled. Likewise, he responds well to any learning techniques that are kinetic in nature.
Early detection is key
Unfortunately, early detection is key. There are 37 common traits for people with dyslexia. Often, these traits are lumped in with other diagnoses and it delays a proper diagnosis. There are tools and resources available so that students can flourish. However, students need parents that will be pro-active. My husband was not diagnosed until he was in high school. By then, he was far behind the rest of his peers. He would encourage parents to get their children tested.
We will always have to problem solve. We will never be “cured”.
Until medical science advances enough to heal these type of brain disabilities, people with dyslexia will always have to utilize coping strategies. It doesn’t simply go away. You don’t “grow out of it”. And fatigue, stress, and health can increase the effects of daily tasks. People with dyslexia will always be finding strategies to apply to their daily life. So please be patient.
I can tell you from experience that there will always be good days and bad days. Sometimes my husband can laugh at himself. Other times he is embarrassed. One time he spent an hour creating signage. When it was done, I realized every single “N” was backward and upside down. He looked at it for 5 minutes and still couldn’t see what I was talking about. Then other days, he repairs something that everyone said was unfixable and he struts around for an hour.
After 26 years of marriage, we have found our rhythm. I get to be his proof-reader and he is my Mr. Fix-It. It works. And people with dyslexia need to know they can make it work, too.