Normalizing Dyslexia: October is Dyslexia Awareness Month
The month of October marks Dyslexia Awareness Month which has the goal of raising awareness for dyslexia and normalizing it within society. Normalizing dyslexia is essential because over 3 million cases per year are reported in the United States alone. More specifically, roughly 1 in 5 people suffer from dyslexia. This means that it is highly likely that you know someone affected by this medical condition. It is important to recognize that some of our peers might also be struggling from dyslexia which is especially prevalent at the college level.
College tends to be a faster paced and more demanding environment compared to high school. This means more reading and writing has to be completed in shorter amounts of time and exams have strict time limits. Furthermore, it tends to be harder to receive accommodations at the university level since most students are no longer under an Individual Education Program (IEP). This results in college students needing to have strong self-advocacy skills and the ability to develop strong relations with the Office for Students with Disabilities. This, on top of all the stresses of entering freshmen year, can be a lot for students to digest. It is important that we support our fellow peers who struggle with this learning impairment to help ease their transition into college as best we can. We can do this by offering our peers help and connecting them to the right resources to get further support. At Marquette these resources include the Office of Students with Disabilities, the writing center, the tutoring center, and professors/Marquette staff.
Some important facts to acknowledge about dyslexia to further our understanding of our peers is that it does not affect their intelligence level or motor functions; it solely affects the path of learning that their brain takes. It is common for dyslexia to be referred to as the brain being wired differently than a brain without dyslexia. While this is a very simple definition, the idea of it is accurate. A person with dyslexia utilizes the right side of their brain to process language whereas a person without dyslexia uses 3 parts of the left side of their brain. Because of this someone struggling with dyslexia can have trouble forming and/or pronouncing words, spelling, reading, comprehending while reading, and writing. While struggling in these areas does not affect their ability to form ideas it can affect their ability to communicate them or process new ideas/concepts. This ultimately means that those affected by dyslexia are not any less capable than anyone else, but rather just need to approach learning in a different way to allow for maximum understanding.
Some helpful tips for students entering college with dyslexia is to master self-advocacy and know which accommodations and strategies are best to achieve success. Some helpful strategies include preferential seating, time extensions, and test modifications. Other strategies that could help aid in learning is previewing material before class, highlighting main ideas, taking advantage of office hours, and utilizing the writing lab for editing and revising assignments.
While we want to normalize dyslexia, it can still be hard for those who struggle to admit they need help. However, advocating for yourself is extremely important because you need to be able to communicate to professors and other university staff members what you need from them. It is especially important for college students because you are responsible for disclosing the information necessary to get accommodations. It is essential to continuously advocate for yourself to ensure you do not lose accommodations and are always on the same page as your professors and the university with what you need. It may be helpful to write a brief script that outlines what you need to cover when talking to professors. It is important to remember that unlike high school, college is an investment of both time and financial resources, so asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a necessity.
As peers we can aid our friends who struggle with dyslexia by normalizing it. We can do this by not denying the situation or avoiding it but rather bringing our two different learning paths together. This can be done by offering to edit a peer’s essay or creating study groups. Since someone with dyslexia takes a different path of learning to understand a concept, they might be able to explain ideas to you in a new way that allows you to further understand the material. By learning from each other and creating an accepting, judgement free atmosphere for students with dyslexia to exist, we help in creating a more comfortable and positive campus for all.
For further information and resources click the links below:
“11 Facts about Dyslexia.” DoSomething.org, https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-dyslexia.
“Online Resources & Support for College Students with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, or Dyscalculia.” EduMed, 21 July 2020, https://www.edumed.org/resources/college-students-with-dyslexia/.dy