People living with dyslexia are often told they don’t ‘look’ sick or in pain, and they certainly don’t look like they have a difficulty.
Generally, seeing a person in a wheelchair, with a hearing aid or with a walking stick tells us they may be disabled. So does seeing a person with distorted facial appearances as in Down’s syndrome, or with obvious social communication challenges as in autism spectrum disorder.
Because others cannot see the learning challenges, fatigue and cognitive difficulties of dyslexia and how it affects all aspects of life, they often do not believe the signs shown by individuals with dyslexia like mixing up words that sound alike, difficulty with reading, comprehension, writing, spelling.
In schools, individuals with dyslexia are often labelled as lazy or unmotivated, performing significantly below their potential despite normal to high intelligence. In the workplace, they are often penalised for the difficulties they face with basic tasks like correctly copying text and numbers, meeting deadlines or
remembering a sequence of instructions.
Dyslexia is also invisible in those with other developmental challenges, because people assume those challenges are wholly responsible for all their learning difficulties. However, this is not so and developmental difficulties have been proven to co-occur. For example, up to 60% – 80% of children with autism have Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADHD); up to 15% of children with autism have dyslexia, and children with Down’s syndrome have been shown to have difficulty with phonological awareness, a core part of learning to read and a critical aspect of dyslexia. Consequently, children with autism or Down’s syndrome may struggle with reading not purely because of these disorders, but because their disorders co-occur with dyslexia.
Making dyslexia visible is therefore important to improve the life chances of millions of people, including those with and without other developmental disorders, and it promises a high impact return.