Dyslexia – Coping Mechanisms and Overcoming

Dyslexia Defined

Oxford dictionary defines dyslexia as “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.”

withdrawn student with dyslexia


There are a few things that catch my attention in this definition… the first being that it is not defined as a single disorder but rather it is defined as disorders. I take this to mean that not everyone would display the same symptoms and that it could be the result of a number of things happening.

Another part of the definition that is really attention-worthy is the “but that DO NOT affect general intelligence.”

Some of the most talented people struggle with reading! I love watching this interview with Steven Spielberg where he is asked about being diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 60. Yes… Steven Spielberg has a dyslexia diagnosis! If you have never seen Spielberg’s interview where he discusses his diagnosis, I highly recommend that you watch it!

A common myth out there has many people believing that dyslexia is defined as people reversing numbers and letters in their reading and writing. Yet, although this may be part of an individual’s dyslexia, it may not have anything to do with their actual diagnosis at all!

Coping Mechanisms for Dyslexia

Students who struggle to read will usually develop coping mechanisms in school… this could look like pretending they don’t care about the required reading and finding out what the book was about from a friend.

Some of these children will turn into the class clowns.

Others will completely withdraw and be the quietest students in a class.

Some students who struggle with reading may avoid required readings, but will pick up on the general discussions within the class and know what the reading was about from that.

Other students will appear to understand everything then, when it comes to a test in which reading is required, they suddenly do poorly even though they went through the test as thoroughly as they could.

And yet others will be first to hand in a test and announce how “easy” it was even though their scores will indicate otherwise.

Sometimes the struggles with reading will show in written work, yet other times students will be able to get their point across in their writing even though reading is a daunting task for them. This really depends on the root(s) of an individual’s struggle.

Too often, students with dyslexia are referred to as “lazy” or simply that they “are not putting in the effort they need to.” Yet, typically these individuals will be putting in far more effort to get through the reading and/or written tasks than the majority of students in their class!

Think about this… we all have to do that one task at some point in our lives that is difficult for us to get through. AND we all know of those people who seem to be able to zip through this same task that seems to take us FOREVER!!! Does this mean we are lazy or unable to achieve the task? Nope, not at all! We just had to work harder to get through it.

I remember years back sitting in a meeting with a learning specialist, discussing how we could help one of the students in the school. I will never forget when she said, “Sometimes I just want to tell kids like this to hurry up and finish school so they can be successful.” School was so hard for this kid, yet we knew he was gifted in so many areas and would be able to achieve in life! We just needed to find the best way to help him to improve his reading and get through school.

youth reading

How Can We Help Overcome Dyslexia?!?

I strongly believe we need to determine the root of the struggle with reading for each individual. Is it visual tracking? Is it Irlen? Is it dyseidetic dyslexia? Is it dysphonetic dyslexia? Is it mixed dyslexia? Is it a difficulty with processing or comprehension? Once the underlying root is determined, we can then look at the “how to help” for that particular individual. In most cases, if not all, the struggles with reading can be overcome.

Just as no two people are the same… no two people with dyslexia are the same either. There will not be a “one size fits all” approach. There will be programs that can help a lot of individuals, but none that will work for all. Human brains just aren’t all wired the same!

Reading is not a natural process. Without modeling and specific teaching, we would learn how to walk and make verbal sounds, but we wouldn’t learn how to read.

According to Tim Blanning’s The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815, the reading of words written using letters in the alphabet started in western Europe in the mid-1700’s with novels not being introduced until the late 18th century.

Since this time period, reading has become increasingly valued and necessary. It has become something that many assume people should be able to pick up on easily, yet it can be argued that the human brain was not naturally wired for reading. This doesn’t mean it can’t be learned, however. We just need to determine the best method for teaching it for each individual.

I welcome your thoughts on this post. Please comment below or send me an email at contact@sherrymlee.com. 🙂

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