Using Dyslexia To Your Advantage
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07/22/2014 - Self Help 

Using Dyslexia To Your Advantage

One of the things many people don't know about me, is that I have dyslexia.  As a kid growing up, I used to believe that my dyslexia was more of a punishment, then a gift.  Things would go into my head one way & come back out another.  Everything was twisted & different, no matter how much I tried to control it.  Over time I learned to minimize its effects & in many ways use it to my advantage.

Dyslexia comes in different forms & severity.  I'm not going to write about all of the different types of dyslexia.  A nice explanation of that can be found on Wikipedia.  What I am going to discuss are some of ways I have learned to use it to my advantage & things that helped me along the way.

First off, lets dispel the myth that people with dyslexia are less intelligent, then those who don't have it.  Most people with dyslexia have the same average IQ, as those which don't.  And in cases, the dyslexic person may even have a higher IQ then their peers -- but it's harder to see/quantify it, because their brains are working overtime using that extra power to keep everything in check.

Second, lets talk about me for a moment, so you get an idea where I'm coming from.  My dyslexia was diagnosed when I was in elementary school & it was on the mild side.  (I use past tense, as I really don't notice it as much any more, as it just became part of who I am.)  Dyslexia is a large part of my learning disabilities, which include reading speed & comprehension, math skills, writing, spelling, memory & doing things the right way (i.e. writing letters/numbers backwards & doing things in the wrong order).  Granted, my dyslexia appears to effect a large segment of my life, but in reality all it does is slow me down a bit.  Once managed, it really does not get in the way all that much.

Now, lets dive right into the heart of this article -- using it to your advantage.

Once you believe you or someone you love has dyslexia, it's best to be tested by professionals to determine its type & severity.

Parents should speak with their children's school staff about it, as testing & assistance is offered through the school system -- such a getting the child into resource room, extra help classes, testing modifications, etc...  The sooner you find out about this, the better.  Schools can do a lot to help children with dyslexia management & can even help guide parents on how they can better assist their child outside of school.

Next, find out your strengths & weaknesses with your dyslexia.  This will take time, but if you pay close attention, you will eventually learn what works for you & what does not.  You want to focus on those things which are weakest, so they become your strengths.

Find those things which counter your dyslexia, and then use them.  I gravitate to computers, as just about every app has multiple ways of accomplishing the same thing.  Basically this lets me focus in what I want to do, and evern if I do same thing 5 times in a row, yet each time I can follow a slightly different sequence of clicks/short-cuts/commands to get the same end result.  To me, it just works with my dyslexia.  To the world, the end result was still consistent within whatever I was trying to do.

When you run into problems due to your dyslexia, review how it effected whatever you're doing & focus on that.  That is the thing you'll want to work on the most.  But whatever it is, use fun/creative ways to work on it, so you don't even realize you're making yourself better.  (For example, with my reading issues, I watch foreign language films on Netflix with English sub-titles or even normal mainstream movies in a different language.  This forces me to read everything to understand all of the dialogue.  The more movies I watched, little by little my reading skills got stronger & I could read faster.)

If you find that things are not getting easier, look for alternatives.  Sometimes the way you are doing something just doesn't work with your dyslexia.  It's ok to admit that.  But don't give up on it.  In my opinion, the beauty of dyslexia is that it shown me everything can be done by taking a different approach to the situation.  Once you find an approach that works best for you, use that as your permanent solution. (Another example from my life is that I always seam to write certain things backwards.  I found that typing everything was much faster, easier, and worked past the issue I had trying to get what was in my head out to my pen/paper.  It did not solve the issue, and I still write things backwards on my scratch pad when I take notes at work, but overall it helps mitigate the effect drastically.)

Find things that compliment your dyslexia; use them to take advantage of unpredictable or known flawed results.  As a programmer, I can found that I can take advantage of my somewhat chaotic dyslexic thinking.  Dyslexia is my 'out of the box' thinking/approach to problems that arise in my office.

Don't be afraid to let your dyslexia make you different.  If used correctly, dyslexia can help set you apart from others in beneficial ways.  Since dyslexia causes things to be mixed up in my head, I use it to see things from a different perspective.  This allows me to approach coding problems differently.  Thus I can offer different solutions/alternatives to management on how to approach/simplify a challenging technical matter, address a support issue or implement a feature request.  Basically dyslexia made me the go-to guy for solutions to weird issues, complex problems & for when we need to find ways to use things together/differently then what they originally were intended.  In my line of work, that is an extremely useful tool & helps set me apart.

The short of this article, is to show that even if you have dyslexia, it's not really something to be looked at as a problem; but a secret weapon.  If you take advantage of it, dyslexia can profoundly influence & enhance your life.  Once you know you have it & have taken time to look at what causes it to manifest negatively in your life, it's pretty easy to find work-arounds & ways utilize it in your daily life.

* What I shared about my own life, is only a small part of the many many ways in which my dyslexia has made me the successful person that I am now.  I don't look at dyslexia as punishment, as when I was a kid.  Now that I've grown & learned to harness all of the aspects of my dyslexia; I've found I really do look upon it as a gift.

If you live with dyslexia, please share in the comments section what works for you, how you made it yours & what you would recommend to others to better themselves when working/living with dyslexia everyday.

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