October is not only the month we’ve all been waiting because fall has arrived but also because it’s Dyslexia Awareness Month.
I was diagnosed only three years ago. While reading my story I hope it helps you understand what dyslexia is and how it affects us.
As I was sitting in my eighth grade English class copying down a writing prompt from the board, I realized I really botched a word while just copying it. I spelled mysterious as s-y-m-t… and showed it to my parents. We thought it was kind of weird but went on with our lives. A few days later my mom remembered that the “special-ed tester” had mentioned something about my disfluency in reading and writing in first grade. However, that administrator was fired during the year, and my teacher passed away in the middle of the school year and it was never mentioned again.
Over the summer of 2015, I spent two days, three hours each, in testing. The testing consisted of spelling nonwords, spelling actual words, writing, memory testing, memory color testing, etc. Results confirmed that I was a (“classic”) dyslexic with the fluency of a 3rd grader and comprehension of a college student. My family and I were shocked mostly because of my age, as I was 14 at the time and going into my freshman year of high school (which is kind of a late age to be diagnosed). As my results came in, I thought back to a time when I was ten and my teacher asked me, “can you even read?” after mistaking the phrase “on the hot seat” as “on the hot sweat.” Ok, who even asks that?
I had been at the same school for 10 years at that point. Between my time in kindergarten and ninth grade, I had taken many fluency tests administered by my teachers. None of them reported anything off about my literacy ability. I am typically a nervous and quiet student so most disfluency was thought to be a result of these qualities. I was one that slipped through the cracks.
Dyslexia being something that should have been caught long before it was, makes me extremely angry when a teacher does not provide the extra help. It is frustrating when my school talks of the special attention students get so heavily, or when a sudden schedule conflict arises that interrupts my tutoring. I spent my freshman year seeking aid from a teacher who constantly stood me up even when we had set times planned to meet. I once asked a different teacher for help learning an overwhelming amount of content and the response was, “Sorry, I already know everything so I don’t know how to teach you.”
Ummm, thank you?! The word teach is literally in your job title as a teacher.
When school started back up in August, I was put into the Learning Center. Learning Center, or LC, is a period where students with learning differences must go as, essentially, a study hall. In the Learning Center, students are given extra time on tests and additional personal aid. Our academic teachers are informed that we are in the Learning Center.
In order to notify our teachers that we are in the Learning Center, we have them sign a sheet that states we are allowed additional time and a quiet testing area, etc. We select what we need and the Learning Center provides. Unfortunately, there is nowhere on the sheet that states whether we have dyslexia, ADHD, ADD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or a combination of these struggles. And teachers don’t ask. They should.
It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year that we learned that dyslexics need accommodations and remediation. Accommodation is when the school provides additional time and assistance. Remediation is typically educational therapy/dyslexia tutoring (isn’t it crazy that there is therapy that specializes in grief or children but for dyslexia?!) that I started summer of 2017 where I learn how to “decode” words by using etymology. Students need 90 minutes a day, five days week for three years. Since I didn’t start remediation until the summer going in to my junior year, I will not be fully remediated entering college.
About 70 percent of all incarcerated high school dropouts are unidentified dyslexics. Doesn’t that speak such big words? Also, the amount of shame a dyslexic feels is the same amount of shame that a person who participated in incest feels. Dyslexia is just as unique as our fingerprints, everybody’s dyslexia is different!! Some undiagnosed (or late diagnosed) develop a coping mechanism, which tend to be internally but sometimes are externally too, to get through while others don’t.
Personally, I do not experience my letters flipping like M’s to W’s. Sometimes letters move as “mysterious” is written above, but for the most part, sections of words move. If I were to read or write, “The dog walks on the concrete” I might see concrete as concert, consist, or even create (both words have c-r and t-e). Or I just leave out letters completely. While reading, sentences are either skipped or blended together and while writing sometimes ideas flow together and it just makes no sense. However, I do have a family member who is dyslexic and their letters do flip. Dyslexia is hereditary and one in five people are dyslexic!
As a dyslexic student, I face a lot of cognitive fatigue (plus a health issue that also adds to that fatigue) so I’ve looked into a lot resources to help me overcome the heavy reading load. Learning Ally was a big help to me last year and I watched a lot of YouTube to help myself better understand concepts.
The hardest part for me is that dyslexia doesn’t just sit with me in english, but also science, history, (especially) foreign languages, and at home. Even though we have spell check on phones, they cannot detect if what we are saying makes any sense so often times I need someone to read my social media captions before posting them.
If dyslexics want to pursue something literary, they absolutely can — it does not have to be an oxymoron — I am an Editor-in-Chief for our school newspaper.