Pandemic exacerbates undiagnosed dyslexia in adults

key takeaways

  • The transition to working from home can be more difficult for adults with dyslexia.
  • Many public misconceptions about dyslexia persist, even among educators. It doesn’t look back at the letters.
  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among adults with dyslexia who were not identified and received appropriate education in childhood.
  • Workplace accommodations for adults with dyslexia may include a variety of assistive technologies.

Adults with undiagnosed dyslexia may experience a variety of difficulties with reading, writing, or spelling. While many have learned how to make amends over the years, the COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden shift to working remotely from home are finally asking for help.

“During COVID, we’re getting a lot of calls from adults who are suddenly hitting a wall,” said Marci Peterson, MD, BCET, a board-certified educational therapist and dyslexia specialist and author of the new book, Guidelines for Adults with Dyslexia, told VigorTip. “The career parameters they chose and excelled at changed from face-to-face conversations to emails. The workload became overwhelming.”

If you find yourself agreeing with the above and want some answers, keep reading. You will learn about adult dyslexia and the treatments and tools that can help you.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a common learning disability that involves problems with reading, writing or spelling. It’s also called “dyslexia” because it affects areas of the brain that are necessary for language production, pronunciation, and associating sounds with letters.

Estimates of the prevalence of dyslexia vary widely, ranging from about 5%–20%. That means there are tens of millions of people in America.

Peterson points out that the definition of dyslexia applies to any age. “It starts with difficulties with listening and correct pronunciation, and then moves on to reading words and spelling difficulties.” In adults, it’s usually written communication that is most in need of help.

public misconceptions about dyslexia

In 2017, a large US study Frontiers in Psychology The survey of laypeople and educators found that not only do many laypeople incorrectly believe that “a common sign of dyslexia is seeing letters backwards,” but more than half of educators believe it.

During the pandemic, psychologists at Northeastern University in Boston took a deeper look and found that these public misconceptions about dyslexia stem not only from “naive ignorance of the science of reading,” but also from “false assumptions about how the brain works.” “.Their research, now published in the journal PLoS Onedetailing three experiments they conducted on adults who had not taken any previous advanced course in linguistics; most also reported that they had not taken any previous advanced course in biology.

Identifying current misconceptions about dyslexia is an important part of the conversation. To ensure that today’s generation of children with dyslexia receive timely and appropriate interventions, “it is critical that the public — parents, educators and legislators — understand dyslexia and its symptoms,” the authors wrote.

what dyslexia is not

  • Look back at letters or jump on the page
  • low IQ
  • vision problems
  • Lack of motivation or desire to learn

Reading research shows that people with dyslexia can learn successfully with appropriate teaching methods.

Symptoms of Dyslexia in Adults

Difficulties with reading and spelling can be the main symptoms of dyslexia in children, but for adults who have spent years finding ways to compensate for these deficits, the situation is a little more complicated.

“As a child, I was diagnosed with ‘learning differences,’ and the diagnosis was ‘he’s slow,'” children’s book author and illustrator Trevor Romain told VigorTip. “I found that visual learning was the only way I could complete my studies, so I drew and used visuals to help me remember information.”

It wasn’t until his 20s—after seeing an ophthalmologist and a psychologist—that Roman was diagnosed with dyslexia.

“I don’t think I was very smart before that,” he said. “The diagnosis gave me something that was frustrating and gave me an idea of ​​what was really going on.”

Common signs of previously undiagnosed dyslexia in adults

  • Remember struggles with reading and spelling at school
  • Avoid reading for entertainment or reading aloud because of extreme fatigue
  • Feeling very insecure about reading to your child or helping with homework
  • Difficulty taking meeting notes and managing time
  • Speaking vocabulary is smaller than listening vocabulary
  • Difficulty remembering names, but remembering faces
  • Says, misuses, or mispronounces words without realizing it
  • May have good memories of events experienced or not remembered at all
  • Difficulty remembering verbal or multi-step instructions
  • Succeed in situations and occupations that rely on verbal communication and relationship building
  • Lack of self-confidence; may suffer from depression and anxiety

A study of adults with dyslexia Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy It was found that anger and resentment toward their childhood teachers still grabbed their attention as adults — along with memories of injustice at the hands of the education system. Much of this anger is due to their lack of diagnosis, which means they have had an undiagnosed learning disability for years.

“For the first time we’re seeing people in their 30s who are considered dyslexic at a young age, but a lot still depends on where you live in the U.S.,” Peterson said. “We know that high levels of anxiety and depression occur when someone feels very poor about themselves and their abilities. If the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia is considered a health problem in the U.S. healthcare system, then more People can get the help they need.”

Roman said it was helpful to talk about the situation with his psychotherapist wife.

“As an adult, a lot of this comes down to self-esteem,” he said. “If you think you can’t compete in a career you love, you’re actually going to be very frustrated.”

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How Is Dyslexia Diagnosed in Adults?

There is no single test that can diagnose dyslexia. A true diagnosis is only valid when performed one-on-one by a qualified and trained professional, such as a licensed psychologist or neurologist.

Dyslexia Screening Test

The Dyslexia Screening Test is a good starting point and will provide you with an estimate of your risk of developing dyslexia and/or your risk of developing dyslexia based on your family history.

For example, the Adult Reading History Questionnaire (ARHQ) is a self-report screening tool designed to measure the risk of dyslexia in adults. ARHQ asks adults about their own reading history and current reading habits to estimate their possible risk of dyslexia.

Depending on the results, screening may recommend a comprehensive in-person (or virtual) assessment by a trained professional.

Adult Dyslexia Assessment

“Assessment of adults may include tests of visual and auditory perception, discrimination, and memory,” Peterson said, adding that while intelligence testing is not required, “for intelligent adults who have difficulty reading, This could be a strong validation.”

However, finding providers with experience evaluating adults with dyslexia can be a challenge.A small study in a journal Dyslexia Shows that some psychologists have no confidence in their ability to assess adults because of “lack of experience base and training and tools for appropriate norms” – exposing the lack of international guidelines to support psychologists in identifying adults with dyslexia.

Peterson agrees that the process for adults isn’t well-defined, but recommends looking for someone with a solid understanding of dyslexia and a broad understanding of language development and other disabilities.

“The professional does not need to administer the test, but they must be qualified to interpret the test results,” she said. “When evaluating adults, I look at how they process visual and auditory information because they can usually read.”

The International Dyslexia Association and the Center for Effective Reading Instruction each offer state-based directories of professionals who provide services and treatment for people with learning differences.

Treatment of Dyslexia in Adults

There is no “cure” for dyslexia. By now, you may be wondering how to treat dyslexia in people who actually know how to read. What are the strategies for adults who have learned how to compensate?

It’s never too late to get help.According to the journal’s research, reading skills can continue to grow and develop into adolescence and adulthood Language, speech and hearing services in schools. Further research has consistently shown that students with dyslexia learn best using instructional methods specifically designed to fit their thinking and learning styles, including multi-sensory and project-based approaches.

When an adult comes to her for therapy, Peterson first asks what they want and customizes the therapy from there. “If they were in law school, I’d say, ‘Let’s get you housing.’ If they needed help with business writing, I’d say, ‘Let’s get you a writing coach who understands dyslexia.'” ”

Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is anything that can help people with disabilities solve challenges so they can learn, improve, and function better in their environment. While most people might associate it with a school setting, much of the technology out there applies to the workplace and home.

  • Audiobooks: Text-free human or computer voice narration is widely available through companies such as Audible. You can also check with your local library.
  • Electronic text and text-to-speech (TTS): These software, applications or devices allow you to see and hear digital or electronic text at the same time. Students with dyslexia are eligible for a free membership to Bookshare. You might also want to buy a flatbed scanner, like the Fujitsu SnapScan s100i, for digitizing all types of text into speech for a computer to read aloud.
  • Graphic organizers: Graphic organizers often include templates to provide structure and tips for those who don’t know what to write or how to get started. These tools can help you brainstorm and organize your thoughts visually in a web format in preparation for writing.
  • Smartpen: Smartpen combines a camera and a voice recorder so you can take notes with minimal writing—rather than focusing on listening and processing information in the moment. For example, Livescribe’s smartpen syncs notes and audio to your Evernote account, where you can replay, organize, search, and share your notes. These pens can save hours of audio and are compatible with PCs and Macs, as well as a variety of smartphones.
  • Speech-to-Text: Speech recognition tool that converts speech dictation to text, making writing easier.

“Finding the tools that work for you can play a role in managing dyslexia in adulthood,” Roman said. “My spelling was terrible, but the word processor helped me. I’ve also been fortunate to have great editors throughout my career.”

workplace accommodation

In her book, Peterson devotes an entire section to the ADA and how to talk to your employer. “This has pros and cons, but now, a lot of [employers] Really saw the value of cognitive diversity in the workplace,” she said.

Most employers (and schools) are willing to work with people requesting accommodation within reason. These may include some of the assistive technologies mentioned earlier, such as speech-to-text or text-to-speech program access.

Many, like Roman, have embraced dyslexia as part of their adult identities. It’s never too late to seek help and support.

what does this mean to you

Having an undiagnosed learning disability can mean you’ve experienced years of associated mental health consequences — some triggered by the pandemic. If you find yourself struggling with reading, writing, or spelling as an adult and want to know if you have dyslexia, answers and treatment are available. Finding the right assistive technology for you can make a big difference.

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