If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that my dyslexia means it takes me longer to accomplish what many people view as simple tasks, such as reading, comprehension, and saying someone’s name. However, over the years I have also learned how to be resilient in the face of adversity and discover and use resources to my advantage. Below you will find some resources that help me be more efficient and effective while living with dyslexia.
Text to Speech
My dyslexia, coupled with our brain’s ability to “auto-correct” typos, makes it incredibly difficult to send emails and instant messages without errors. This was challenging when I entered the corporate world, especially when I was a sales representative and was sending hundreds of emails per day. I would read them over and over hoping to catch all the typos, but there were many times I still feared someone would perceive me as lazy or uneducated if a typo fell through the cracks. I also worried that my messages were confusing or could negatively impact a sale.
Now, before sending any email or message, I highlight it and have my computer read it. This has not only been a way to catch typos, but it also ensures what I wrote is clear.
I also do this when I read articles on my computer, hearing the computer read as I look at the text is a great way to see patterns and memorize how certain words are spelled. In the same vein, when I read books, I typically get the physical book and the audiobook so I can listen and read at the same time.
My spelling is so bad that sometimes spell check does not even have a suggestion. I have learned that if I Google the word, Google will often understand what I mean, given it uses more data than spell check does. Until Microsoft figures out how to incorporate social data into their spellcheck, this is a great workaround!
I have found that if I read with a highlighter, highlighting the words as I go, it helps me immensely in processing and understanding. While this might seem small, the contrast of the color makes a big difference compared to reading a plain piece of paper or computer screen.
It is encouraging to learn that there are features that are now being built into courseware and eReaders that help support people with varying abilities like dyslexia. For example, the ability to change the color of the text and even the background can mimic the effects of highlighting. Lots of other tips on how text can best be presented for a dyslexic audience can be found in this dyslexia friendly style guide.
Digital Learning Tools
Another resource that has not only been helpful for me, but has been life changing and allowed me to obtain a master’s degree, are the digital tools now available to complement a static textbook. Back when I was getting my undergraduate degree, our school did not even have a learning management system (Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.) let alone digital books or courseware. My reading or learning done outside of class was a one-size-fits-all approach. I had a textbook that I needed to read and understand—there was nothing different for me given my dyslexia or my learning style.
Years after receiving my Bachelor’s degree, I had the honor of working on the development of technology that I found helpful in my reading and comprehension. This technology was a “questions first” approach where the student was asked questions to find out what they know and do not know. Then the student would only be served up the textbook content (and later additional resources like videos and slides instead of words) that filled in the gaps.
This technology, which is called adaptive technology, is a way to ensure I am not spending hours reading with no understanding, and am only focusing on the information I do not know. This technology can also bring in additional resources outside the textbook, like videos and interactive slides, to accommodate visual learners.
Over the years, I have gotten better at using the resources around me. Whether it is having someone I trust read over and make suggestions on my writing, or using spell check, there are people and machines around me helping me constantly. I keep an Amazon Alexa next to me while I work and write so I can quickly ask her how to spell a word or do quick math. What an amazing resource!
Speaking of using resources around you, back when there was not technology available, I used to incorporate words that were around me in the classroom into my writing. For example, in first grade I was working on a journal entry and I could not spell the word “mountains” or even the word “are”…but I did spell “Friday” and “going” correctly. This was because there was a calendar hanging in our classroom where I could copy the word “Friday”, and there were books I referenced where I was able to copy how to spell “going”. It was a big confidence boost to get at least these two words correct in my journal:
Being able to find resources and utilize them when something is difficult, coupled with the ability to be determined and put in hard work has taught me resilience. I apply this approach not only to my reading and writing, but in any area of my life where I experience challenges. I hope the resources listed are helpful to you, and remember, though some days may feel like a struggle, you can do it!
In my next post, I’ll discuss the biggest thing I have gained from living with dyslexia. Through overcoming obstacles, staying persistent in the face of adversity, and working tirelessly to achieve my goals, I developed a powerful trait: grit. What exactly is grit, you might ask? Stay tuned!