Dyslexia & Books

The wise amongst you may notice that this isn’t a book review. Instead, this is the information that I wish I had when I was finally diagnosed with Dyslexia and Scotopic Sensitivity at the age of 22.
It’s the information I wish I had when I gave up on reading and was told to ‘stop being lazy’ by teachers like a Spotify track stuck on repeat.
It’s the information I want others with these conditions or the parents/friends/relatives to be armed with.
You don’t have to give up on books just because your brain is wired a little differently.

Let’s start with a little context.

As a kid, I was obsessed with books. I had a little library in my room, every single Roald Dahl book going (The Witches is the best – don’t fight me on this), a library card which was well and truly used and abused and I attempted to make blanket forts in my bottom bunk bed so my parents couldn’t see the light from my torch whilst I read well past my bed time.

This nice existence lasted until I was around 11 or 12. Things started getting tricky – I couldn’t concentrate, I started to see patterns between words and sentences and the niggling headaches made their unwanted appearances. The words, uh, started moving around the page.

It only got worse as I got older and whilst my grades slipped, I earned the lazy label. Various parent/teacher evenings claimed I wasn’t trying or that I was a lost cause and I definitely shouldn’t try to go for that Communications degree I’d set my heart on. This was a school that only cared if you were getting advanced highers and abandoned those who struggled. If you notice kids in that same situation, talk to them. I guarantee they feel isolated.

I gave up on reading.

In my last year of my second college course, they handed out a questionnaire that lead to my diagnosis and a weight was lifted off my shoulders. 10 years of thinking I was an idiot. It’s quite something.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words

https://dyslexiaida.org/

Irlen Syndrome (also referred to at times as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress) is a perceptual processing disorder. It is not an optical problem. It is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. This problem tends to run in families and is not currently identified by other standardized educational or medical tests. 

https://irlen.com/what-is-irlen-syndrome/

In other words, my eyes were sensitive to light (which included black words on white paper) and my brain struggled to soak up words. It’s a book lover’s nightmare.

Love books again

You don’t need to ditch them – you just need to adapt. Most of the solutions are cheap, some are a little more expensive but worth it in the long run.

Get a Kindle

Or any other book reading device but Kindles are what saved my ass. They don’t have the glare of reading from a white page and you can tweak settings to suit your reading needs. This is thing lives in my backpack and comes everywhere with me. It’s well loved and/or battered.
This is the main thing that gave me back my books.

Opendyslexic.org

You might have noticed that the text on my Kindle doesn’t look like any of the other pre-set fonts. Let me introduce you to Open Dyslexic – a typeface which has been created purely to help people read. It might look janky, it might look bottom heavy and you might think it looks childish, but give it a shot. You might just be surprised as how much it helps.

This typeface also works across numerous other things so go ham with it.

Screen covers for your monitors

Every time someone sits at my desk, I automatically apologise for having dark screens meaning they need to sit incredible close to me to actually see what I’m doing.
I’m not trying to hide what I’m doing. I’m not trying to be awkward by requesting privacy screens. Pinky promise. These things dull the intense whiteness of a lot of sites that don’t offer a dark mode *shakes fist at Internet*.
Technically I’m supposed to have coloured screen covers but that causes chaos if you’re trying to edit photos so I opt for this.
Instead… ????

Coloured lenses

These aren’t some weird fashion statement. These things might look a little odd, but if you don’t want to give up physical books, then these might be a good alternative.

When I was diagnosed, I was told that mint green would be best for both overlays and glasses. They then proceeded to tell me that the ‘proper’ test cost hundreds of pounds and this broke-ass student snort laughed in the poor lady’s face. I managed to get a cheap pair of Gunners which absolutely don’t fit my face, but work until I haul my ass to the opticians.

Audio Books

Listening to audio books doesn’t make you any less of a reader. There are elitist pricks out there that will look down on you unless you read hard-back first editions in a wing-back chair next to a log fire, but seriously, fuck those people. I’d mentioned I’d read a book on a Kindle and actually watched their face contort into pure disgust. You do what’s best for you.

Let’s get this straight – audio books are amazing. Not only have they given people with sight issues an option to get books back into their lives, but it gives book people a the opportunity to take books with you whatever you’re doing.

Walking to work and don’t want to walk into the entire population of whatever town you live in? Pop on an audio book.
Driving to work? For the love of God, do not try to read and get an audio book on instead.
Struggle with reading in the traditional forms but miss it so much it hurts? Get audio books into your earholes.

If none of these other suggestions works for you (and some won’t!), then I couldn’t recommend jumping on the audiobook train harder. There are a few options out there, but I use Audible.

Set yourself realistic reading goals

It took me a very long time to realise there were ways around this and I finally started reading again in November 2018. It might not seem like much, but I completed my reading challenge on Goodreads of 10 books in the space of 2 months when I’d planned for it to take all year ????