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Dyslexia diagnosis bombshell

(Please note this article has been written by someone who has dyslexia, and has not been proof read for authenticity.)

A diagnosis of Dyslexia in adulthood can be both devastating and euphoric. ‘The diagnosis bombshell’ can make you feel a range of emotions from; relief, sadness, anger, unfairness, hopelessness, denial, followed by a period of grieving; loss of lost years and opportunities. Finally your past difficulties suddenly make sense and you have a label for your struggles. How does that label feel? What is Dyslexia anyway?

The breadth and depth of ‘traits’ of dyslexia are largely misunderstood and under represented. It does not mean that you cannot read or write, but whatever your reading (dis)ability, these may not be your only symptoms. Someone’s dyslexia is as unique as their finger print.

It is the consistency, regularity, and frequency with which someone experiences the traits of dyslexia, that determines their diagnosis when assessed, along with the typical academic traits of difficulties in processing reading, spelling, writing, maths etc.

If you have been diagnosed as an adult you may be no stranger to feeling shame, humiliation and embarrassment, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence. You may have felt fear and avoidance. And you are very likely to have believed, or still believe, that you are ‘stupid’, lazy, or ‘thick’, and perceived yourself to be less intelligent than others. You are not, and I will explain why in this article…

Here comes the science bit…

Dyslexia results from differences in the structure and function of the brain, to those without dyslexia. The dyslexic brain experiences problems translating information/language, (via reading or listening) into thought.

The cerebral cortex of the brain is divided into four different lobes and each is responsible for processing different types of sensory information. There are two distinct features of the brains of people with dyslexia. Firstly they contain malfunctions in the cortex, and secondly they show less cerebral asymmetry (the use of the left and right side of the brain) than ‘non dyslexic’ brains.

People with dyslexia process information, data, language etc, from the right side of their brains, whereas usually the left side of the brain performs this function. The usual function of right side of the brain is to process emotions, creativity, intuition etc. It is quite common for people with dyslexia to struggle with knowing their left from their right, so below is an illustration of this concept.

People with dyslexia can often understand concepts more easily in pictures. When translating information, hearing or reading a word, the dyslexic brain needs to give it the associated picture to understand. This can appear to others as the person being slower than average at these tasks, whereas in fact…

‘an average person processes 150 images per second. A dyslexic brain can process between 1,500 – 4,000 images per second in a 3 dimensional way.’ (Dyslexia Awareness website), which is pretty incredible.

We may have all experienced being able to ‘see’ something (in our minds eye) e.g. an apple – but in the moment we cannot ‘find’ the correct word. People with dyslexia might experience this more frequently.

Cognitively people with dyslexia may have weakness in short-term memory, working memory, and particularly with storing and retrieving verbal information; you can be quick to grasp ideas, but quick to forget them because of an in-ability to retain the information in long-term memory. For example spelling can be inconsistent; you might be able to spell/read a particular word on one day, and not the next, or even the next hour. Typical struggles are word retrieval, misuse of words, difficulty in proof reading, and particular difficulty with smaller words; it, is, on, at, the, their/there etc – because they don’t have a associated picture.

Common dyslexic experience

Everyones experience will obviously be different but common experiences can include in conversation, or when reading, the process of translating words (written or verbal) into pictures, then reversing that process for the response you want to give (in conversation) can take more time. This ‘processing’ is mostly unconscious. Processing sensory information (light, sound, etc) can also be a challenge and can become overwhelming also interfeing in trying to process other things such as conversation or reading. You can also be prone to being very distracted. A diagnosis of dyslexia can also come with a mixture of other 'neuro-diverse' conditions such as dyscalculia, dyspraxia, etc.

A result of dyslexia may include difficulty in keeping up in conversations, or current topics of conversation, which can feel very isolating and lonely. This can lead to social isolation as some may give up, or prefer 1:1 friendships rather than groups of friends.

What now?

First you need to accept your disability, and yes if you have been diagnosed as dyslexic, you have a disability. This means you have some protection and support under the Disability Discrimination Act.

Acceptance can lead to understanding. Developing a sense of your difference, and learning your unique positive attributes as a result of your dyslexia, can give you a more balanced view of your self.

Once you understand yourself it is then a personal decision when and if to tell people you are dyslexic. This can depend on the circumstances, and needs to be considered carefully, as at the outset of this article, the traits of dyslexia are commonly unknown and misunderstood.

How can counselling help?

All counselling can help you realise your full potential. The positive traits of dyslexia can include; creativity, problem solving, big picture thinking, empathetic, hard working, conscientious, resilient, to name but a few.

In dyslexia focused counselling I can help you work through the above ‘what now,’ questions you may have, and together we can help you work towards understanding your specific dyslexia, and overall self; understanding that you are more than your diagnosis.

Useful resources

British Dyslexia Association

The Dyslexia Association

The Gift of Dyslexia Ronald D Davis

Dyslexia and Mental Health Neil Alexander-Passe

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