Dyslexia: an invisible battle

Elizabeth Floyd, Staff Writer

Disability is a word that often invokes a strong response. I have become accustomed to the reactions that comes from telling people I have dyslexia. I had always suspected I was different and my condition was documented during my freshman year at FMU. It is easy to forget that people seem to automatically assume you are less intelligent as soon as they hear you say you have a learning disability. Dyslexia, however, does not have any connection or effect on a person’s level of intelligence. As a person who genuinely enjoys learning, I have encountered this hurtful stereotype long before I had the paperwork to explain my issues with reading and writing.

Growing up, other stereotyped people and I were conflicted by the feeling that we had to either fulfill the stereotype or succeed so much that our intelligence would not be in question. Sadly, due to teasing in high school, only a suspicion of my disability and no doctor’s diagnosis, I ended up succumbing to low expectations of my reading and writing capabilities.

While transitioning to FMU, I discovered the FMU Counseling and Testing Center, which helps students with learning disabilities. The increased workload and the fast pace of college learning caused me to finally act on my hunch and get formally tested for dyslexia. This pivotal moment changed my life for the better. I fought against getting tested because being told I wasn’t normal seemed like the end of the world. When I got the test results back, I felt nothing but relief knowing I wasn’t crazy for feeling like something was missing. Thanks to many FMU faculty members who encouraged me to get tested, I could finally get the tools I needed to help me succeed.

Shortly after discovering my learning disability, I said I hated the short amount of time allotted for the quiz because of my dyslexia while talking with a classmate after chemistry class. This classmate was surprised when they discovered I was an honors student with dyslexia.

This short interaction after class has stuck with me since because it was the first time I realized I had a new obstacle to overcome. I had to overcome the assumption that ignorance and dyslexia are linked. When I tell others about my disability, most people express pity, some doubt the validity of the disability and others assume I have a below average intellect. This range of assumptions stem from the misinformation about learning disabilities. Judgement plagues many people who do not fit the mold in one way or another. People with disabilities face not only the obstacles of their disability, but also the judgement from others who often do not understand the disability.

Dyslexia is just as unique and different as the person it affects, which makes it hard to recognize from person to person. In some cases, dyslexia will cause a person to have trouble writing specific letters correctly. A more extreme version affects sentence structure, reading comprehension and misspelling of familiar words such as your own name. The goal of telling someone you have a learning disability is for them to be open-minded and understanding when you do things differently to accommodate the disability.

I hope reading about my journey encourages other students to get tested for learning disabilities if it is something they’ve wondered about.