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What You Thought You Knew: Understanding Dyslexia From the Outside

06/30/2015 02:18 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2016

"It is more common than you can imagine. You are not alone. And while you will have this the rest of your life, you can dart between the raindrops to get where you want to go and it will not hold you back."

- Steven Spielberg, Award-winning director

A lot of people have heard about dyslexia or they know someone who has it but they really don't understand what it is like to be someone who actually has the disability. While it can be difficult torelate, there are ways to better comprehend what dyslexia is. So let's debunk some of those dyslexia myths and perhaps learn a new appreciation for those who are dyslexic.

It means you can't read if you have Dyslexia, right?

Actually, there are different components of reading affected by Dyslexia. Some people struggle with individual words while others find reading comprehension on the whole difficult. When I say "car", most people can picture a car. Same goes for "bird", "book", etc. However, when I say "the," what do you picture? How about "and?" Those are much more difficult. Someone with Dyslexia thinks in a visual way. When there is no visual capacity for a word like "the" or "and", dyslexic individuals get lost in the reading.

There are advantages to dyslexia, too. Many dyslexic individuals have great ideas, work well on teams, and discover creative solutions to problems. Dyslexic people can often see and understand what is going on in ways that other people find difficult. This unique perspective allows dyslexic people to bring new points of view to the table in collaborative environments.

Dyslexia only affects reading books?

"The core problem deficit of Dyslexia is thought to be phonemic awareness," says Sandra K. Loo, PhD, child clinical psychologist and Kids in the House expert. "So understanding the correspondence of letters with their sounds." Other processes involved in reading can also be affected by Dyslexia such as working memory, linguistic retrieval, and general language abilities.

Does Dyslexia affect levels of attention?

Dyslexia does not directly affect attention span, however; individuals who have Dyslexia can have other learning disabilities about 20% of the time such as ADD, ADHD, anxiety or depression, which typically affect attention levels. Dyslexic individuals just need to find work environments that work for them and they can thrive among their peers.

You know you have Dyslexia if you don't read at the same level as your peers?

Dyslexia can be difficult to evaluate; not only that, it can also be expensive. However, if you have doubts about your reading proficiency and you feel like words or numbers appear out of order for you, seeing a doctor is a wise investment. If you're a parent concerned about your child, you can start with an online assessment (there are tests out there). Ultimately, the only way to know for sure is to see a professional and find ways to cope with the challenges.

If someone has Dyslexia, they have to go to a special school?

That's not necessarily the case. If you have Dyslexia, there are certain accommodations that both private and public schools allow for Dyslexic individuals in order to make sure there is equal access to opportunities. Professional assessment from a clinical psychologist can help you acquire documents that grant these accommodations.

And remember, Dyslexia isn't necessarily holding anyone back from meeting his or her potential.

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Dyslexia is incurable, right?

Dyslexia affects different reading processes. Once it is determined which of these processes is affected, there are ways to strengthen those weaker areas. For example, if an individual's working memory is affected, it can be strengthened through various methods such as the Cogmed Working Memory Training Program.

There are also many productive dyslexic individuals who function at higher capacities than those without the disability. For example, Jennifer Anniston,actress, Muhammad Ali, World Heavyweight Championship Boxer, and Leana Greene, entrepreneur.

So the next time you talk to someone with Dyslexia, know that they might be dealing with their disability but the struggle can still come through in trying situations. Be understanding and don't make assumptions about how they are doing! Just ask. Many even consider dyslexia a gift!

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Graphics courtesy of noticeability.org