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Dyslexia awareness week

What do actors Jennifer Aniston and Tom Cruise, musician Noel Gallagher, entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Steve Jobs, and artistic geniuses Leonardo Da Vinci and Pablo Picasso all have in common?

As well as being both talented and immensely successful in their own right, they are all affected by Dyslexia, a condition that affects around one in ten people in the UK.  The British Dyslexia Association defines it as ‘a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling,’ but its affects can also be unique to each individual, and it has been known to cause difficulties such as disorganisation and  a failure to memorise things like phone numbers or multiplications.

Dyslexia is not so much a condition as a simple example of how people are good at some things and less good at others, and it is one neurological difference which, affecting ten percent of the population, is not uncommon. It is the most common hidden disability there is, and Jennifer Aniston, who was in her twenties before she was discovered to have the condition, has previously described the revelation as life changing. “I thought I wasn’t smart. I just couldn’t retain anything,” she said. “Now I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood traums, tragedies, dramas were explained.”

Often known as Reading Disorder, like any disorder Dyslexia has most grounds for unsettling those affected when they’re young, particularly if they’re not discovered to have Dyslexia. The symptoms are such that it might be easy for teachers to think a student is behind because they’re not concentrating, or not working hard enough. But like a P.E. teacher shouting run faster, when in reality the student doesn’t know how to run properly, Dyslexia has nothing to do with work ethic or even intelligence. Dyslexic’s have trouble reading, and when it comes to writing they might see the red ink of a teachers correction pen more than other students, but beyond these spelling mistakes their work will be no less worthy. Fortunately, in modern education Dyslexia can be diagnosed early, and when it is it can be accommodated and even turned to an advantage.

This week is Dyslexia awareness week, and a major theme of it has been that Dyslexia, once recognised and acknowledged, can stop being a disadvantage. There are several advantages to Dyslexia which have been linked to creativity and problem solving. While most people view and absorb information in a linear fashion, Dyslexics don’t; instead they take information almost all at once, which can make it difficult to learn certain things, but also means they look at it from different angles. Ironically much of the modern day idea of thinking outside the box and alternate thinking is inadvertently encouraging people to think like a dyslexic, for whom thinking in a linear pattern, or ‘inside of a box’, isn’t the norm.

However, as well as thinking in different ways, people with dyslexia will also often need assistance with certain tasks. People with Dyslexia rely more on the right side of the brain, which is charged with creativity and intuition, than their left, which focuses on more practical things such as language and math. As such, help can be offered to suit their way of doing things. One recent development was the publication of a ‘Dyslexic Readers’ edition of the latest offering from the world of Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This version of the book features specialist fonts, typesetting, paper and layout and is officially endorsed by the British Dyslexia Association and J.K. Rowling.

In terms of further and higher education, there are often several additional study aids available to those with dyslexia, to ensure that as they progress with their education, dyslexia is allowed to become more and more a positive difference than a negative hindrance. To find out more about assistance with Dyslexia and other forms of learning support, visit the South West College website.

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