with with Dyslexia Information for Adults with Dyslexia Living with Dyslexia Information for Adults with Dyslexia Dyslexia Association of Ireland

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  • Living with DyslexiaInformation for Adults with Dyslexia

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    Dyslexia Association of IrelandSuffolk Chambers1 Suffolk Street, Dublin 2Tel. 01 6790276Website: www.dyslexia.ie

    Discovering that I am dyslexic ... set

    me on a road to new and unimagined


    Anne HughesMary BallRosie BissettWyn McCormack

    Living with DyslexiaInformation for Adults with Dyslexia

    ISBN 0-9532427-4-9D A I. . .


    EXIA A


    Everyone Learns Differen


  • Living with DyslexiaInformation for Adults with Dyslexia

    Discovering that I am dyslexic ... set

    me on a road to new and unimagined


    Anne HughesMary BallRosie BissettWyn McCormack

  • Copyright Dyslexia Association of Ireland, 2009.

    ISBN 0-9532427-4-9ISBN 978-0-9532427-4-0

    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced ortransmitted in any form or by any means without the permission of thepublishers. Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure theaccuracy of the information provided, no liability whatsoever will beaccepted by the authors or publishers for any error in or omissionfrom this book.

    Written by Anne Hughes, with contributions from Mary Ball, Rosie Bissettand Wyn McCormack.

    The Dyslexia Association of Ireland acknowledges with gratitude,funding from the Department of Community, Rural and GaeltachtAffairs which has made the production of this booklet possible.

    Published by Tower Press and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland.Printed by Wood PrintCraft.

    D A I. . .



    Everyone Learns Different


  • ContentsIntroduction 7

    Breaking Free from the Lie by Don Mullan 11

    Chapter 1: What is Dyslexia? 17

    Chapter 2: Dyslexia/Specific Learning Disability. 27

    Chapter 3: Psycho-educational Assessment. 35

    Chapter 4: Taking Action. 43

    Chapter 5: Understanding Dyslexia. 53

    Chapter 6: Dyslexia in the Workplace, includingself-help strategies. 61

    Chapter 7: Dyslexia the Human Factor. 83

    Chapter 8: How Employers can Help. 93

    Chapter 9: Computers and Assistive Technology 105

    Appendix A: The Dyslexia Association of Ireland. 119

    Appendix B: References and Resources. 121


  • 4

  • AcknowledgementsThe authors would like to thank all those adults withdyslexia who, over the years, have asked the questionsthat this booklet seeks to answer. We hope that it willprovide enough information to get adults with dyslexiastarted on the quest for further knowledge about thecondition which can make life challenging for them.

    We particularly want to thank those brave adults who,having experienced unemployment, have returned tostudy at the Career Paths for Dyslexia training course.They were most helpful at the planning stages of thisbooklet. Their comments, suggestions and insight wereinvaluable. The quotations from material which theycontributed, as well as those from Derry Ann and Sam,demonstrate more clearly than any words of ours justhow dyslexia affects the person. We thank them all fortheir generosity.

    Special thanks to Emma Matthews, Mary Wafaie,Sheila Kavanagh, Margaret Doyle, Antoinette OReillyand Cridwynn Rawlings, who have worked for manyyears on the Career Paths course. They shared theirexperience, expertise and first-hand knowledge ofovercoming dyslexia in adulthood.


  • Many thanks also to Don Mullan, a good friend of theDyslexia Association, for having the courage to speakout so honestly about his own dyslexia, and allowing usto reproduce his story here.

    Finally, a debt of thanks is due to all those who haveworked with the Dyslexia Association in a professionalor voluntary capacity over the years. Their efforts haveled to a wider awareness of dyslexia. We hope thisbooklet will contribute to an even greaterunderstanding of how dyslexia affects adults and thetremendous potential that exists to turn a differenceinto an advantage.


  • IntroductionThis booklet is intended to give relevant information toadults who know that they have dyslexia, to those whothink that they might have, and for those who havenever even considered the possibility.

    It is also intended for employers, managers and humanresource personnel. The experience of the DyslexiaAssociation of Ireland over the years has proved thatthe need for such information exists.Despite increased awareness, generated throughmedia coverage, seminars and word of mouth,dyslexia, particularly as it affects adults, is still nottaken seriously enough in this country.There are thousands of Irish adults with dyslexia, manyof whom are unaware that there is a recognisedexplanation for their continuing difficulty with literacy.There are people who have struggled for years withinformation processing difficulties which have seriouslyhindered them at school and at work. There areemployers, supervisors and managers who may neverhave considered that dyslexia impacts on theirworkforce. If they think of dyslexia at all, they probablyconsider it a difficulty of childhood, or of those whonever completed school.


  • Dyslexia is a complex condition, but its main effect is tomake learning to read, write and spell difficult. Notimpossible, just difficult. It is not caused by lack ofintelligence, lack of effort or any physical or emotionalproblem. It is an inherited condition and so may bepassed on to children or grandchildren. It is morecommon than is generally realised, affecting 6% to 8%of the population.

    There are various theories about what causes dyslexia,but all experts agree that it arises from differences inthe brain which affect how the brain processesinformation. It must be stressed that dyslexia is adifference, not a disease or a defect. Yet it is a veryimportant difference, because it has implications formany aspects of the dyslexic persons life. In the pastwhen literacy was neither vital to daily life nor veryvalued, having dyslexia was not a drawback.In the future, it may well be that developments ininformation technology will make literacy, as we knowit, irrelevant. Then, the person with dyslexia will not beat a disadvantage at all. Possibly, with good creative,visual and problem solving skills, they will have adistinct advantage. However, in todays society, peoplewith dyslexia are in an unenviable position. Not only iswork, travel and leisure dominated by the written word,but skill in planning, organisation and timemanagement are more important than ever before.Completing tasks to a time schedule, absorbing newinformation quickly and working under pressure arerequirements of every workplace. None of these comeeasily to the person with dyslexia.


  • An area which is easily overlooked is the effect whichdyslexia can have on social and family life. Years ofbattling with a world which demands that they engageevery day with the very things they find most difficultcan cause anger and frustration in adults with dyslexia.This can sometimes make them uncomfortable peopleto live or work with and can have implications forpersonal and family relationships.

    The number of people involved; those with dyslexia,their families, friends and work colleagues, makes itimperative that a greater understanding is developed ofhow dyslexia affects adults, of the challenges they faceand of the many ways in which these can be overcomeand turned into solid achievement.

    The first two chapters of this book provide a basicintroduction to dyslexia and other specific learningdifficulties. Chapter 3 provides information on how toobtain an assessment so that an accurate diagnosis ofthe condition can be made. Chapter 4 lists someoptions for moving forward, while Chapter 5 gives moredetailed information on dyslexia. Chapters 6 and 7 dealwith how dyslexia affects adults socially, while studyingand in the workplace and suggests some strategies forcoping with it. Chapter 8 offers information foremployers. Finally, Chapter 9 provides information onresources and technology. Information on the DyslexiaAssociation is contained in Appendix A, and referencesand resources are listed in Appendix B.

    But first a story. Read the very personal account ofhow dyslexia affected one mans life.


  • 10

  • Breaking Free From theLie by Don Mullan.From the first day I went to school I was in trouble withreading.

    The year was 1961. It was a year that saw Sovietcosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, become the first man inspace and the year when newly elected John F.Kennedy promised the American people that theywould win the race to the moon. It was also the start ofthe decade when scientists and educators began torealise that specific learning disabilities, such asreading complications caused by dyslexia, werentnecessarily linked to a childs IQ.

    Unfortunately, for my generation, it would take a coupleof decades more before their discoveries andinnovative recommendations began to filter into theeducation system.

    I do not hold any bitterness towards my primary orsecondary school teachers. They were as ignorant astheir pupils about dyslexia and its manifestations. Withlittle awareness teachers engaged in a very flawedassessment process which assumed that readingability was a barometer for measuring a childsintelligence. It was the beginning of a self-fulfillingprophecy that left an indelible mark of self-doubt onpupils who, like me, are dyslexic and which hauntslegions of my generation to this day.


  • I went to primary school in Derry. It was essentially afilter school, preparing pupils for a horrendous finalexamination called the Eleven-Plus. Those who passedwere give