How to know if you have dyslexia and use this superpower to be the next Richard Branson

how to know if you have dyslexia
Source: AFP

Ever wondered how to know if you have dyslexia?

Before you do an internet deep dive that leaves you with more questions than answers, here’s a handy book you should pick up.

Nancy Lelewer recently released the second edition of her book “Something’s Not Right: One family’s struggle with learning disabilities.”

This autobiography details the author’s journey with dyslexia and how she eventually taught herself to read.

For over 50 years, Lelewer has been involved in learning disabilities, early childhood development and hearing loss.

In 2004, she received the Alice H. Garside Award from the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (MABIDA) for her outstanding contribution to the field of learning disabilities.

“I decided to do a Second Edition as much has happened since 1994 with Dr. Sally Shaywitz and her Longitudinal Studies and her functional MRI studies,” she says.

Lelewer updated the Resource Section of her book as well with the necessary information. So, if you are questioning how to know if you have dyslexia, this would be the perfect purchase.

“I added some follow up on my children and their children (my grandchildren) as some have dyslexia, and some have learning disabilities,” she says.

“ADD and ADHD were in the first edition.  I discovered my son was on the upper end of the upper end of the autism spectrum, so I decided to include this in the book.”

How to know if you have dyslexia

Here are some of the signs how to know if you have dyslexia at different stages of life, according to the Mayo Clinic:

Before school:

  • Late talking
  • Learning new words slowly
  • Problems forming words correctly, such as reversing sounds in words or confusing words that sound alike
  • Problems remembering or naming letters, numbers and colours
  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games

At school:

  • Reading well below the expected level for age
  • Problems processing and understanding what is heard
  • Difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions
  • Problems remembering the sequence of things
  • Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words
  • Inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
  • Difficulty spelling
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading

As a teen or adult:

  • Difficulty reading, including reading aloud
  • Slow and labour-intensive reading and writing
  • Problems spelling
  • Avoiding activities that involve reading
  • Mispronouncing names or words, or problems retrieving words
  • Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
  • Difficulty summarising a story
  • Trouble learning a foreign language
  • Difficulty doing math word problems

Being more accepting of people with learning disabilities is important. In fact, it is the differences that we all have that make us special.

“Dyslexics often see the world differently,” says Lelewer. “This is why Dr. Norman Geschwind said we need those differences, and this is why dyslexics did not wash out of the system.”

Dr. Geschwind was a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, where he researched aphasia and epilepsy, as well as dyslexia and the neuroanatomy of cerebral lateral asymmetries.

“Dyslexics are able to do things that people who are not dyslexic can’t do. Part of their brain is different and therefore sees the world from a different perspective,” he said.

Lelewer emphasises that acceptance is the way forward. People with dyslexia or other learning disabilities should be encouraged to find what they are best at.

“People still believe that if you are dyslexia or have a learning disability you are “retarded” or just not smart,” she says. “This is simply not true.”

The author adds that many believe Albert Einstein was dyslexic. He is not the only famous person with a learning disability.

how to know if you have dyslexia

Whoopi Goldberg has always been an advocate for dyslexia awareness. Source: AFP

Do you know famous dyslexic celebrities?

There are many famous dyslexic celebrities who prove that learning difficulties won’t hold you back from your dreams.

Tom Cruise, one of Hollywood’s most iconic actors, has openly discussed his experience with dyslexia.

Despite facing challenges in reading, Cruise has become a global superstar known for his roles in blockbuster films like “Top Gun” and the “Mission: Impossible” series.

Actress and television host Whoopi Goldberg is another shining example of triumph over dyslexia.

She is one of the only 10 people to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award, and is the first woman to be honoured with the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Throughout her career, Goldberg has been an advocate for dyslexia awareness, sharing her personal struggles and emphasising the importance of recognising and supporting individuals with learning disabilities.

Entrepreneur and business magnate Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, is also dyslexic.

Despite facing academic challenges during his school years, he built a vast business empire and become a billionaire.

His story showcases the resilience and creativity individuals with dyslexia can bring to various fields.

Other famous dyslexic celebrities include:

  • Orlando Bloom
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Jennifer Aniston
  • Tom Holland
  • Steve McQueen
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Keira Knightley
how to know if you have dyslexia

Tom Cruise is one of many famous dyslexic celebrities. Source: AFP

How to know if you have dyslexia: Key words to note

Some learning disabilities are more well-known than others.

Whether you’re asking how to know if you have dyslexia or looking to support those around you with these challenges, we should have a basic understanding.

For instance, do you know the difference between having a learning disability and being neurodiverse?

Here are a few definitions to help you get started:

  • Learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, and or direct attention.
  • Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
  • Dyscalculia – a term that may be used for learning disabilities which affect mathematics.
  • Dysgraphia – a term that may be used for learning disabilities which affect written expression (including spelling).
  • Dyspraxia – a term that may be used for learning disabilities which affect gross or fine motor skills.
  • ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder) is a neurological disorder characterised by a pattern of behaviour present in multiple settings (e.g., school and home), which can result in performance issues in social, educational, or work settings.
  • Assistive technology is any technology that helps a student with or without a disability to increase or maintain his/her level of functioning. These often include laptops with specialised programs, like speech-to-text, text-to-speech, graphic organisers and word prediction software.

There are plenty more terms, but this gives you a good start.

In fact, this is just the start towards creating a more inclusive environment for those who have learning difficulties.

There are many big and small ways to make a difference.

Best font for dyslexia

Something as small as choosing the right font can significantly impact readability for individuals with dyslexia.

This can be practised in daily correspondence and even more formal meetings and presentations. It is a small change that can make your space more inclusive.

So what is the best font for dyslexia?

Fonts that are sans-serif and have distinct letter shapes are generally recommended. Examples include Arial and Comic Sans.

Some less common options that also work are Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Trebuchet, Calibri, Open Sans.

There are also fonts that are specially made for people with dyslexia.

Dyslexie is one such font which features unique letter designs to reduce confusion between similar characters.

OpenDyslexic is an open-source font crafted with weighted bottoms to prevent letter swapping and improve letter recognition.

One of the reasons these fonts work better is that there is sufficient space between the letters, so adjusting font size and spacing is crucial.

Larger font sizes and increased line spacing can enhance readability and reduce visual stress.

Optimal contrast between text and background is another way to make words more legible for people with dyslexia.

Choose high-contrast colour combinations, such as black text on a white background, to improve visibility and reduce eye strain.

Every day, there are new improvements on fonts to support people with this learning disability.

Norwegian graphic designer and illustrator Daniel Brokstad, for instance, has created a new typeface to “strike a balance between dyslexia legibility and designer usability”.

Named Inconstant Regular, this font just might be the best font for dyslexia.

He created this as part of  Innocean Berlin and Dyslexia Scotland’s “There’s Nothing Comic About Dyslexia” campaign.