Dyslexia In The Modern Age

Being diagnosed dyslexia in the mid-90s was definitely an experience, I was diagnosed with it when I was nine years old. My parents spent a lot of time arguing with the school and even having me assessed privately. Over time I learnt to understand my dyslexia and understand how my difficulties and my strengths affected my everyday life.

I’ve always classed myself as severe dyslexic with dyspraxia and tendencies of ADHD and ASD. I’m only 33 but still have a reading age of a nine-year-old and spelling age an eight-year-old.

C-Pen Reader

C-Pen Reader

When I look back to those days when I first found out I was dyslexic, computers were just starting to be used in schools and were just beginning to be used in the home, mobile phones were large and all that you could do it on it was make calls!  If I’d been growing up as severely dyslexic now the advances in the digital age could have really helped me achieve even more than I have.

Without the use of Assistive Technology, I could not do my everyday job. Using Assistive technology to support students and adults in most settings especially in the school or work can really change people’s lives.

If we look at the development of technology over time, having laptops with a colour screen was unheard of back in the early 90s. There was a program that did speech to text but if you didn’t say the word correctly it definitely wouldn’t have worked. Now we can dictate into our phones and to our computer, we also have digital assistance telling is what is going on in the day just by asking a question.

The advances of technology have really changed people with dyslexia’s lives. This one of the main benefits of technology as it helps to creates an independent learner and allows dyslexic individuals to be on a level playing field with their own peers.

It’s all about creating an independent learner and ensuring that we can succeed in supporting every dyslexic person.

Why October Dyslexia Awareness Month is Important

Dyslexia is invisible.  We cannot see how the unique wiring impacts each individual nor can we see the brilliance that lies beneath the surface of misspelled words, word retrieval misfires, and slow reading times.

The invisibility creates a false sense of reality. On the surface, a student’s learning abilities may appear to be sufficient, when in fact the student is struggling in every class.  The student becomes increasing disengaged as they do not understand the material given to them nor can they complete their class assignments.

Being behind your peers, unable to read, write or spell, I believe is one of the most stressful feelings you can have as a student.  We receive questions and inquires on why our work is not completed.  We don't know why; therefore, we are unable to provide an answer which only creates more frustration. 

Reader Pen by C-Pen

Reader Pen by C-Pen

I remember, as if it was yesterday, being in second grade overwhelmed and frustrated.  I was two grade levels behind my peers and could barely spell the simplest of words. My handwriting was all over the page which compounded the problem.  Even to this day, I can recall the emotions I felt and how I knew at a gut level, something was wrong. 

In third grade, my teacher was a graduate student obtaining her dyslexia/reading specialist certificate.  She recommended that I be tested for dyslexia. Finally, a name was given to my frustrations.  I was relieved to know it was not my fault.

Teachers and educators can profoundly change their students’ lives in many ways.  Every time, I write and speak on the topic of dyslexia, I mention to two teachers who forever changed my life - Mrs. King and Dr. Wakefield.  They understood the importance of testing students for dyslexia. 

They Understood that Awareness is Everything for a Dyslexic Student. 

For millions of students and adults who are still undiagnosed, awareness is the difference between receiving help or not.  The difference between gaining the essential intervention that can help them achieve their full potential or a lifetime of frustration without ever knowing why.

Only when we have awareness can we solve a problem or assist a student who needs intervention and accommodations.  Without awareness and testing, students will continue to encounter learning challenges.

Dyslexia is unique in that it is invisible, brilliant, and frustrating all at the same time.  Digital tools designed for individuals with dyslexia help reduce many of the language processing frustrations we encounter every day.  I think about how much spell check has changed my life and provided an independence from constantly asking peers how to spell words. 

Today, we have handheld devices that can read to us, check the dictionary meaning and scan notes.  We have access to multiple software programs that perform a range of tasks from checking for dyslexia mistakes to audio dictation of reports, emails, and digital messages.

We must have awareness first, testing second for progress to occur.  Only then, can these amazing technologies be used to their full potential and reduce the learning challenges encountered by dyslexics.

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month in the United States. We are working to increaseawareness, ensure all students are tested, and have access to digital technology so that they can reach their full potential.