Often dyslexics are not ‘diagnosed’ until they are teenagers or even adults, having worked hard and pushed through obstacles and barriers, often devising their own strategies and ingenious ways of navigating around the more challenging aspects of school, study and work, intuitively using their different learning style and and way of thinking.
In other words, they have achieved because of their dyslexia, not in spite of it, developing a tenacity and resilience along the way. For a variety of reasons adults and/or teens may go unidentified…It is often another area where they stumble, or something doesn’t seem quite right; frustrations may build when there is a change in the workplace or role; or when they are starting a new area of study and needing to adopt a whole new vocabulary, such as medical or scientific terminology. A higher level of a high school subject; or the stress of examinations and/or emphasis on performance.
Then, this previously successful and capable compensating dyslexic suddenly hits the wall. Those old solutions that had worked so well for so long, don’t seem to work anymore. They lose their tolerance for confusion and the subsequent disorientation dominates. Often, this leads to the search for answers and subsequent assessment.
Such formal assessment of dyslexia has only become readily available in recent years – in fact most of what we know about dyslexia has been learnt in the last 20 years – so there are many adults who were misunderstood at school. They were labelled – or self labelled – as “dumb” “stupid”, “lazy”, or “a troublemaker”, and frequently given little or insufficient support.
I have taught adults who were unemployed because of their low literacy levels; one of these men, now in his mid 50s, was sent into the playground to help the school gardener when he couldn’t do the work the other children in his class was doing.
This may seem cruel and uncaring to us today. But when he was at school, chances are his teachers did not have any understanding of dyslexia. They did the best they could with what they knew and the limited resources at their disposal.
That young lad who spent many of his early school years outdoors working with plants and soil, went on to become a highly proficient farm worker and mechanic. He couldn’t tell or estimate the passage of time, but instead devised a sundial, by putting a stick in the sand. That way he knew by the position of the stick’s shadow when it was time to do various jobs, or go home. I explained to him that this was really a very clever invention. There were many other adaptions, strategies and solutions he had intuitively devised, so he could operate in a world that thought differently.
On the following page you’ll find a list of some of the possible characteristics of a teen or adult dyslexic. You may notice that these are not restricted to reading, writing, spelling or maths. Dyslexia impacts upon many areas of a person’s life. This can be true at all ages, but tends to be more obvious later in life.
Adult dyslexics usually exhibit about 10 or more of the characteristics in the list, although they can change from one day to the next or in different settings.