Word for Wednesday: Dyslexia

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As many of you are already aware, this week is the British Dyslexia Association’s annual Dyslexia Awareness Week (14th-20th October).

This week is about raising awareness of dyslexia as a very real and complex disability and something that can potentially affect much more than a person’s ability to read and write.

The British Dyslexia Association highlights that dyslexics can also face problems with organization, memorization and mathematics but also reminds us of the strengths that dyslexia can bring.

One of these positive traits, common among dyslexics I’ve met is creativity and imagination – a quick browse of the #DyslexiaAwarenessWeek hashtags on Twitter this week seems to shows I’m not alone in this.

Let us not forget that some of the greatest minds in history have been dyslexics (Da Vinci?) and are true examples of the gift of dyslexia.

Sadly, the very meaning of this compound word pertains only to the negative! The prefix ‘dys’ is Greek for ‘bad or difficult’ and the suffix ‘-lexia’ from ‘lexis’ meaning ‘word’.

Dyslexia Awareness is about bringing the whole perspective, both positive and negative, of this misunderstood disability to light. In a sense, the aim is to establish a more fair and sensitive set connotations for the word ‘dyslexia’.

My younger sister was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and I remember her telling me how ‘the letters would jump around on the page’. Struggling with reading and writing certainly had an affect on her confidence to learn and even, horribly, her desire to pick up a book.

However, I’m certain that her mind was forced to work in different ways because of it. Maybe I’m wrong but I can’t help but think that without that early deficit in reading and writing she wouldn’t have amassed the thoroughly creative edge that is now so inherent in her thinking.

Sadly, one of the main problems that Dyslexia Awareness faces is the widespread association of dyslexia with unintelligence and the feelings of unintelligence those with dyslexia often face. This link is not only saddening but is fundamentally flawed; many dyslexics are strikingly articulate in speech and written word.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of ‘The Great Gatsby’ - one of the finest, most virtuosic examples of literature in the English language - struggled with dyslexia.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Those of you with dyslexia, do you find your creativity has benefitted? Can you see dyslexia in a positive light?

Hugh MacDermott

16 Oct 2013
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