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These Are the Do's and Don'ts of Interacting With People With Dyslexia

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Hi there, my name is Rebecca, and I suffer (although I find my condition to be a blessing) from a learning disability or syndrome called dyslexia.


The dictionary defines my syndrome as a developmental reading and spelling disorder that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize, transmit and process certain symbols, whether these symbols are letters or numbers. What this means for me is that as a 20-year-old I have the reading age of a 12-year-old and that when I write letters, although I mean to write or type a “d” I may end up writing a “b” or a “p” or a “q” or even a “g.” This can happen with many letters and even some numbers. It also means that I hear word sounds (mainly vowel sounds) totally different than normal people do, so you may write “business” but I will write “buissnes.”

On the face of it you may think that this does not sound that bad, but the syndrome is so much more that. My thinking pattern is totally different to other people’s. Also I have to deal with some other issues because of my syndrome that are not related to learning — like a paralyzing fear of the unknown. This fear means that I will stress about anything new in my life, whether that is learning something new, doing something new or being somewhere new.

“Stupid” or “dumb” were the words most often used to describe me. Kids can be very cruel and although I always knew I wasn’t (thanks to my great family) I often felt both these things. It was my mother who first saw that I was different; she could see that I was learning things in a different way to my siblings and in first grade, my mother had me tested by an educational psychologist despite the fact that my teacher told her that she was just a neurotic mother and I was merely a slow child.

Up until grade nine or ten, school was probably one of the worst things in my life. In my experience, the educational system in South Africa just doesn’t cater to children who need to learn differently. The most irritating thing about school was that I knew I was intelligent, and even though I understood concepts, I just couldn’t put them down on paper in a coherent way no matter the subject. But thanks to some dedicated teachers and the most amazing mother (who even homeschooled me for two years to help me deal with my disability), I made it through and found a place to stand tall in grade 10.

I came to see that my disability took nothing away from my intelligence; it only added a unique perspective to the world. I realized that if I didn’t accept myself, others wouldn’t. Although I have come to understand and even love my disability, I am not over it, and even though I have improved I will never be rid of this syndrome. Each day is a challenge, but I will continue to accept the challenge and strive to learn from it and use my experience to help others like me.

So if you what to help me or others like me, you may want to remember these things.

Please don’t:

  • Think or talk to me like I am someone of a lower intelligence level; I actually have a quite a high IQ. I just have trouble putting it down on paper or reading it out to you.
  • Try and fix me or come up with solutions to my problems. I know you may just want to be helpful, but unless I ask for your help or see you as one of my support system, I may see your attempt to help as offensive.
  • Call me out in public (whether in person or on a social media) about my spelling or reading abilities. Although I have lived all my life dealing with people embarrassing me, it’s still a lame thing to do.
  • Tell me you know how I feel and that when you were younger you had a little bit of dyslexia. Because you didn’t; dyslexia is not something you have and then get over — it is a life-long struggle.

Please do:

  • Lend me your help if I ask for it.
  • Ask me as many questions about my syndrome as you wish.
  • If you think your child may have a learning disability get them tested and then get them the help they need.

This blog originally appeared on Irresistibly Fish

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Originally published: October 30, 2014
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