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How to Support Loved Ones With Dyslexia: Tips from a Dyslexic

Dyslexia. 

It is a language-based learning disability that causes individuals to struggle with reading. It can also cause difficulties in other skills like spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.  

This eight-letter word holds a lot of meaning, especially to me.

My Dyslexia Journey

Growing up, I hated reading. Whether it was for homework or just casual, I always put up a fight. There was something that made it so difficult to comprehend. It wasn’t until third grade that I got clarity on why. My teachers told my parents they believed I had dyslexia. In the coming weeks, I took a test, and sure enough, it was true. 

I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and inattentive ADD. 

As an 8-year-old, it seemed my world turned upside down. I didn’t like that I learned differently than everyone else. I didn’t like that I needed to get extra help outside of school. But, most importantly, I didn’t like that I was less “intelligent” than everyone else. 

While that last statement is false, it took me a long time to believe I was smart or capable of being smart.

After my diagnosis, I began to work with an academic language therapist that helped me “relearn” how to read, write and spell with dyslexia. I met with her twice a week for two years.  I’m privileged in the way that my signs were caught early, and I was able to meet a language therapist. Not all dyslexics are this lucky.

Once I finished my classes with my language therapist, my parents and I could tell a significant difference in my reading and writing abilities. I felt more confident in my intelligence but still didn’t feel as smart as my peers. It wasn’t until later in life that I fully accepted having dyslexia.

For instance, if you told me in middle school that I would write an article about having dyslexia, I wouldn’t believe it. 

I hid my learning disability from those around me for years because I hadn’t accepted it myself. Now, I am in a healthy place where I can share my experience and bring awareness about this learning disability that has significantly impacted my life. This wouldn’t be possible without having supportive family members, teachers, and friends.

Ways to Support Loved Ones with Dyslexia

Since being diagnosed 11 years ago, I have seen the different ways people approach those with dyslexia. Some are positive; others are negative. Regardless, this list offers ways to support your loved ones with dyslexia and help them feel more confident in who they are. 

(Disclaimer: These recommendations will not fit each individual who has dyslexia. Each person experiences this learning disability differently. I created this list from personal experience and collaboration with my dyslexic friends.) 

Be patient. 

Dyslexic minds work and process things differently. They might not understand it the first time or even the fourth time. But, the second you give up on them, they can quickly lose confidence in themselves. 

Be patient and know that their pace of understanding may vary by topic.

Always ask if they need help rather than assuming.

Just because someone has a learning disability does not mean they are helpless. 

When you ask first, you show them you trust in their ability to find the answer. You are also showing them you are available to help them if they get stuck. 

If asked how to spell a word, be kind and spell it slowly.

It is already challenging to ask for help. So when someone laughs or looks confused as to why you need help spelling a simple word, it hurts.

Also, spell the word slowly, so the person has time to write it down. Our minds don’t process things as quickly.

Ask if you can help them create a schedulE.

It can be hard to remain on task, especially when the material is difficult to understand. However, writing a to-do list or creating a weekly calendar is an easy way to get organized. 

Having a clear mind allows you to focus more on the task at hand.

Offer to help them find audiobooks for assigned readings.

Audiobooks speed up reading assignments and make the material more digestible. It also makes it easier to recognize difficult words and pronounce them correctly when you follow along with a book.

Stop using phrases that encourage negative stereotypes about people with dyslexia.

When you make a spelling or reading mistake, stop saying, “Oh, guess I’m dyslexic, haha.” 

Everyone makes mistakes in writing and spelling, but when you have dyslexia, it’s because your mind works differently and not because it’s a simple mistake. Dyslexia isn’t an excuse, and when you use it as one, you perpetuate the stereotype that people with dyslexia are dumb since they make common mistakes.  

Don’t compare them to other dyslexics.

Whether it’s a famous actress or a dyslexic student in their class, please don’t compare them with one another. Each person with dyslexia is unique and deserves to be respected.

There is a good chance your loved one compares themselves with their peers. So when you compare them to one another, it is just another reminder of how they don’t measure up in the world’s eyes.

Remind them they are as intelligent as everyone else!

Dyslexia has nothing to do with lack of intelligence, even though I thought it did.

According to The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, “Dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader.”

Regardless, knowing you have this learning disability for the rest of your life can be difficult. So, be a strong support system for your loved one.

It’s important to normalize dyslexia since there is nothing wrong with having it. Dyslexia is very common, and it affects 20% of the population and represents 80-90% of those with learning disabilities (The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity).

It is up to each one of us to support people with dyslexia in whatever way we can.

Yes, there will be mess-ups along the way; however, educating yourself on how to help them is a great first step!

Monica Nieto is a Strategic Communications major with a Spanish and Sociology minor at Texas Christian University. She is an enneagram 4, Hufflepuff, and ENFP who loves to spend quality time with her family and friends. Some of her passions include her faith, all things Disney, and trying out new coffee shops!
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