Dyslexia Awareness is more than just a week in October

Dyslexia Awareness Week was held at the start of October but as anyone with dyslexia knows, it’s about much more than one week a year!

My name is Lydia and I was diagnosed with dyslexia and irlens syndrome at University. I also have a diagnosis of hypermobility which can lead to pain and fatigue. As well as experiencing depression and anxiety.

My late diagnosis of dyslexia was in part due to schools at the time I was growing up in the 90’s not being fully equipped to recognise the signs of dyslexia. Things have changed now, but people are still falling through the cracks.

My diagnosis is wholly down to the lovely Mary, the dyslexia tutor at York St John University, who I had a very brief chat with at their freshers fair, and in that short conversation she recognised that I may have dyslexia. I then went through the process of seeing an educational psychologist who confirmed this, and then put in place additional support that I needed to be able to get the best out of my learning experience there. Up until this diagnosis I believed what my teachers at school had told me – that I was slow and stupid. This really isn’t the case for me – and it certainly isn’t the case for anyone else who has dyslexia!

What dyslexia means for me

For me, dyslexia isn’t just about not being able to spell. For me, it is verbal processing issues – someone can say something to me and it might take a few seconds longer than someone without dyslexia to process what they have said. I also need to fully form a sentence before being able to speak it, so my verbal responses are sometimes delayed.

It also means that I have short term working memory issues, and struggle to retain information. Imagine being told at school to write something down that is dictated to you, when you have memory and processing issues.

It also means that I struggle with time management. I often struggle to imagine time, and how long it takes to do things, meaning that I am often working close to the deadline.

All of this means that I need some reasonable adjustments.

In this last year we have all spent a lot of time online. This has brought challenges as well as things to be happy about!

The good about online working

I rejoice in zoom meetings where the host invites feedback in chat as well as verbally. Because of my verbal processing issues, by the time that I have heard what has been said and constructed a response in my head, it is often too late to contribute verbally because the conversation has already moved on. If the comments/chat are monitored well these can be read in real time and included in the conversation.

Zoom has a new feature that means all licenced accounts can now have auto captions – these don’t always get it right, but if I have lapsed concentration it means I can look back at the conversation to see what has been discussed.

The bad, and how to make it better

I have watched SO many youtube clips where there is music playing when someone is speaking. This is very distracting and means that I can’t always hear or focus on what the person is being said. This also brings problems for many other people for a variety of reasons.

I struggle to read text from images – please make sure that if you have text in images that it is repeated in the body of the text that goes with it, or that you use alt text.

If you are providing handouts, it’s a good idea to ask people what font or paper colour they would prefer – I can’t really read comic sans, and times new roman is difficult too. Make sure you are using fonts that are accessible. There is a specific font designed to help people with dyslexia called Open-Dyslexic which is free to use.

Long zoom meetings without breaks are an issue both in terms of concentration levels and pain and fatigue. Please ensure that you have a break, even if it’s a 30 second wiggle or dance party! Again, this can help many people.

If you are organising an event with powerpoint slides, please do think about providing these for people in advance and definetely make them available afterwards for everyone. Let participants know they will be available before, or if that’s absolutely not an option, make everyone aware at the start they will be available. This means people aren’t worrying about having missed something, or trying to write notes.

And most of all, please be patient with me. Please do ask me if you’re not clear on my needs, please don’t assume that dyslexia is all about words – its so much more than that.

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