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Explaining Dyslexia in Adults

Did you know that dyslexia affects approximately 15% of the world’s population? This equates to about 30 million adults in the USA, 6 million in the UK, and 3 million in Canada, but it is not as well-known as conditions such as AIDS, cancer, and even ADHD. The word comes from the Greek word “dys”, which means difficult and “lexis”, which means words/language. It was originally called reading blindness.

Dyslexia can have a significant impact on an individual's day-to-day activities. In order to understand this condition and how it affects people, especially adults, you must first understand more about what it is, including causes and severity.

Defining Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a condition that affects a person’s ability to process information, typically related to a short-term deficiency in memory and visual coordination. Individuals who have dyslexia have a weak short-term memory. The auditory or visual memory may be impacted and, in some individuals, it’s both. Therefore, when someone is dyslexic, they struggle to make the connection between spoken sounds and written symbols.

Since dyslexia affects auditory and visual skills, both of which are required for learning, it is typically categorized as a learning disability.

Causes of Dyslexia

While there has been some research to uncover the primary cause of dyslexia, at this time, there has been nothing specific discovered. However, some research has found some relevant information.

In the past, cognitive research focused primarily on the possibility that dyslexia is caused by problems with phonological awareness, or the awareness of specific sounds in words. There is also some belief that these issues could be related to particular areas of the brain.

Current neurological research indicates that individuals with dyslexia have an abnormality in how their left hemisphere functions. Since the left hemisphere controls your lexical system, this is very important.

No matter what the cause, there’s no doubt that people who struggle to read do have difficulty with phonological sounds. Also, though the causes may be different from one person to another, one thing that individuals with dyslexia have in common is the frustration and depression they experience when they are dealing with the written word.

Severity

The seriousness and scale of this condition vary widely. Every case is unique, so there is no such thing as “typical” cases for dyslexia. The primary areas that individuals with dyslexia struggle with include:

  • Reading
  • Numbers
  • Spelling
  • Writing
  • Personal organization
  • Time-keeping

The degree to which an individual can be affected ranges from mild difficulty with reading and spelling to severe organizational issues to complete illiteracy.

Diagnosing Dyslexia

Many people don’t even realize that they have dyslexia and many more are only diagnosed when they reach adulthood. This is perhaps due to the fact that we don’t know a lot about it. In some cases, it is misdiagnosed as another condition that presents with similar symptoms.

In addition to the above areas, adults with dyslexia struggle to summarize a story they just heard/read. They may also struggle to understand a joke or idiom. In many cases, issues with reading are not noticeable, which is often why the condition is not diagnosed in childhood.

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Some of the other signs of dyslexia in adults include:

  • Difficulty focusing on one task
  • Getting overwhelmed when asked to fill out lengthy forms
  • Easily affected by stress
  • Avoiding meetings that relate to planning
  • Imposing strict rules on themselves
  • Overreacting to their mistakes
  • Learning better visually/hands-on
  • Low self-esteem

If you are dealing with these signs and symptoms, contact your medical provider to learn more about dyslexia and how to deal with it.

Effects in Adulthood

While dyslexia is somewhat common, it is also hard to recognize because many people who have it try to hide it. This condition can impact many areas of an individual’s life, including job performance and mental health. Simple tasks such as taking phone messages, completing timesheets, and filling out forms become complicated.

Coping with Dyslexia

Once you are diagnosed with dyslexia, it’s important to know that there are some things you can do to deal with it. Some simple strategies that can help make day-to-day tasks easier include:

  • Create a quiet, distraction-free work area
  • Break down complex tasks into easier to manage steps
  • Make lists to prioritize tasks
  • Use digital tools to keep things organized

It’s also important to understand that many times, traditional learning methods are not useful for individuals with dyslexia. In many cases, visual or hands-on experiences are more effective. Taking the time to learn what works best for you can make a difference.

Some other coping methods include:

  • Assistance from specialists: a tutor can help with reading/writing, and an occupational therapist can help with work management/task completion
  • Assistive tech: there are many computer programs and phone apps that can help, including speech recognition software, speech-to-text conversion apps, smart pens that convert handwriting to text, and mind mapping software that can help you plan tasks in a way that makes sense for you
  • Accommodations: while it can be hard to share your diagnosis, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, requires that accommodations be made for individuals with disabilities, including additional time to complete tasks

Emotional Challenges

As an adult, dyslexia doesn’t just affect learning- it impacts your entire life. After living with this condition for so long, it’s important to address the emotional impacts:

  • Learn more about dyslexia: dyslexia is believed to be caused by problems in brain processing, it does not reflect your intelligence or ability to complete tasks. Also, it tends to be genetic.
  • Get help: dyslexia can affect your emotional health and getting support from loved ones as well as professionals can help improve your confidence and deal with emotional stress.
  • Connect with others: speak with your medical provider or therapist about joining a support group for individuals with dyslexia, connecting with others who share your struggles can help you learn ways to cope- and perhaps you can share your tips with them as well.

Dyslexia Does Not Define You

Many times, individuals with dyslexia were bullied as children because they were not able to keep up with the rest of the class. This stigma often remains even after diagnosis. It is very important that you remember you are so much more than your condition. You are a smart, capable individual- you just have a little more challenge to overcome.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Krista Mounsey

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