There’s a viral post making its rounds on the Internet. Now I know I don’t have to tell readers of this blog, this isn’t a perfect example for non-dyslexics to understand, but it’s easy to imagine that the potential good intentions behind the creation of this, especially if it might help a teacher or parent become more patient with a student just learning to read.

But there are also potential negative consequences to these popular over-simplifications of “What Dyslexia Looks Like” as you can tell by reading of the chain of comments below. This demo and the world’s response to it, is a reason why talking about dyslexic advantages is so important. The bias and ignorance exists.

“An0nym0usC0ward: If I’m an employer, and have to choose between two candidates for the same job, the only difference between them being that one is dyslexic, guess who I’ll choose. It’s not discrimination, it’s the simple fact that the dyslexic will work slower in situations requiring reading, which means financial loss for me.

Second, what’s a dyslexic’s ability to learn? Most learning material we come across during our life is text-based, even if a picture is worth a thousand words in some contexts. A dyslexic has to put in a lot more effort for the same learning results as a person with normal reading abilities. This doesn’t make the dyslexic stupid, but it will definitely impede on his ability of keeping up with people with normal reading abilities and similar intelligence, especially in professions that change at a fast pace or require a lot of reading, such as medicine or programming. Again, it’s not discrimination, it’s a simple, even if harsh, fact of life that a dyslexic will perform worse…

Which is why, IMO, even if people understand the difference, they react to a large extent similarly to both dyslexia and mentally challenged people. Not identical, just very similar.”

Responses included:

“Most of what you said is nonsense and pure speculation. I’m dyslexic and had no problem learning programming, or many other things that are text-based. I may not learn as effectively from reading a book as other people, but i can just incorporate other methods into that so I retain the information a lot better. Thats no different to someone else who doesn’t like learning from books.

It barely effects my reading speed anymore either. It did a lot when i was a kid, but practice and a lot of help improved my speed. I would often get higher marks in spelling tests than all the other kids too, because only the dyslexic people got taught how to spell correctly in their later school years.

I wish people would stop focussing dyslexia on spelling and reading. It affects a lot more than that.”

And: “Discounting a candidate with dyslexia for a programming position is a strange one. Many dyslexics actually excel at programming.”

We have to recognize the extent that bias, and quite frankly ignorance, exists. More than ever, it’s important that more people speak out about being dyslexic and please not have ‘advocates’ turning their frustration within the community to belittle accomplishments because of fears of losing support for children. What dyslexia looks like is as much the innovation of MIT Media Lab’s Nicholas Negroponte, Nobel Prize Winner Carol Greider, or Apple’s Jony Ive as any of the typical challenges. For most dyslexics, the reading doesn’t look like this continuing scroll of letters. By adulthood, many adult dyslexics read and read with deep comprehension.

Finally, in regard to speed. Dyslexic thinkers are not slow for all types of thinking and especially problem solving. In fact, in our clinic, we have seen dyslexic problem solvers to be very quick, and often quicker than their non-dyslexic counterparts on higher order thinking tasks. Slowness is most notable with rote repetitious tasks like copying from a blackboard or reading aloud, which is why many prefer reading silently.

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