The stigma of dyslexia is such that people are shocked when you reveal that you are in fact dyslexic because you aren’t ‘low performing’. Why is that? This is purely due to the perception that dyslexics are not smart, that they aren’t clever, that they are on the verge of illiteracy and probably will not amount to much.
Is any of that true? No. Most definitely not. Dyslexia is a spectrum first and foremost as people suffer from dyslexia differently and symptoms vary by age and by person. It’s a spectrum a bit like autism is a spectrum. There are so many ways for dyslexia to manifest: it might be difficulty with maths, difficulty writing, difficulty comprehending, not being able to tell your left from your right, not being able to recognise numbers or letters quickly, trouble saying words that are spelt differently from how their pronounced or many more manifestations. It might be some of these, it might be one of these or it might be all of these.
However, the majority of dyslexics are at least average or above average in intelligence. IQ isn’t linked to reading. Dyslexics are neuroatypical but they are the opposite of dumb. They are gifted. Being dyslexic means they are special in the best way. All dyslexics have common skills that most average people don’t have; the trade off comes at a lower price, a price many dyslexics if not exposed to stigma, are not invalidated, suppressed or destroyed by family and the education system would be willing to pay.
My story is that of a kid who did well in everything. When it came to exams or anything written, I would answer something else entirely. However, growing up with a mother who is dyslexic she taught me how she learnt in a way to circumvent the process. In year 6, I was the only girl who had to take handwriting lessons. Over and over I got told how unreadable, sloppy and different my handwriting was, and how I could be getting full marks if I actually wrote what I knew. I was still getting the highest grades in my year group. However, my teachers were not able to recognise my problems for what they were.
Then, I went to secondary and I had the same problems. I was bright but it did not show in my writing. Stress and pressure negatively affected my ability in exams as well. It wasn’t until I had a breakdown after my English mocks that I forced my teachers to get me tested. I already suspected; my mum already suspected. So, there I was wailing my eyes out in year 11 in the welfare office. When I was confirmed to be severely dyslexic, no one was more shocked than the welfare officer who conducted and organised the test. Her exact words were ‘If I guessed that anyone was dyslexic the last person I would guess is you’. It was exactly that perception that was the reason why nobody had realised I was dyslexic.
Over and over again, people would throw accusing looks at me. They thought I wanted to be dyslexic for the extra time because they were unable to bridge the gap that clever people can be dyslexic too. My obvious dyslexia was overshadowed by the perception of my intelligence. It was damning and it was hard psychologically. My friends, my teachers and my family, besides my mother, just didn’t understand. I felt like the dumbest person on earth and that negatively affected my GCSEs, although I still did really good but not as good as I knew I could have done.
Many dyslexics who aren’t suppressed go on to be great intellectuals especially in engineering – a field highly suited to the natural abilities that people with dyslexia have. However, dyslexics also make great writers, philosophers, physicians and attorneys.
To this day, I barely tell anyone. My friends found out when I was missing from exams, or because I had to go to the office. People were always asking me, Are you sure you’re dyslexic? How? Dyslexics have to go through so much psychologically, especially those who don’t get the advantages.
Dyslexics have the capacity to utilise the primary abilities and many dyslexics who aren’t suppressed go on to be great intellectuals especially in engineering – a field highly suited to the natural abilities that people with dyslexia have. However, dyslexics also make great writers, philosophers, physicians and attorneys.
Sometimes the perception that you can’t do good because you’re dyslexic is what drags you down. But really being dyslexic means, you have the ability to do better and be better. The education system was made for the ordinary it doesn’t take into account the extraordinary and it isn’t suited for that. If dyslexics were taught in pictures, if they were encouraged to use their problem solving and if teachers were better trained to recognise dyslexics, then they would do so much better.
On a final note, please stop calling dyslexic people who have a lower than average intelligence, stupid. IQ and dyslexia are not synonymous and not every lower than average intelligence person has dyslexia. It also doesn’t help lower than average intelligence dyslexics who have an even harder time catching up.