For those of us who haven’t experienced it, Dyslexia can be tricky to understand. The stigma surrounding it can be unkind and largely misinformed. Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence. Some of the most famous and influential individuals of our time have proudly owned their journeys as dyslexics in the name of raising awareness. The likes of Professor Elizabeth Blackburn (Nobel Prize in Physiology/ Medicine 2009), Sir Richard Branson (Founder, Virgin Enterprises), Steve Jobs (Co-founder, Apple), John Lennon (Musician, The Beatles), Pablo Picasso (Artist), Keira Knightley (Award Winning Actress), Will Smith (Award Winning Actor), Agatha Christie (Author) and Albert Einstein (Theoretical Physicist) stand as proof that brilliance, talent and dyslexia can co-exist in an individual.
It is estimated that 10% of the Australian population is affected by dyslexia, with Aussie favourites Dick Smith (Businessman and Australian of the Year 1986), Jessica Watson (Solo Sailor), Alex Edmonson (Track Cyclist, Commonwealth Gold Medallist) and Jackie French (Author and Australian of the Year 2016) amongst the ranks.
Dyslexia is simply a persistent difficulty with reading, writing and spelling that asserts itself in many different combinations of symptoms at different levels of severity. It is a highly hereditary condition that affects the way the brain processes what it sees. Some people experience an ‘optical illusion’ where letters based on similar shapes (for example, a,e,o,s or m,n,h,u) are swapped, rotated and mirrored by the brain. Others may find that sentences ‘move’ in waves as their eyes sweep along the lines, or that letters seem to run into each other to create an indecipherable muddle. When letters cannot be told apart, they become extremely difficult to learn and recognise as individual characters with individual sounds. Throw in the fact that the English language sound-letter correspondence is more than 1:1 (take k, c, qu for example), and some of us will find reading, writing and spelling seems like an impossible puzzle. With the building blocks of language a cryptic mess, it suddenly becomes easy to see how such processing anarchy could result in primary dyslexic symptoms like lack of fluency in reading and writing, poor spelling, extremely slow reading with many mistakes, or difficulty in recognising single words on flash cards or lists.
Researchers worldwide are sifting through data in search of ways to ease the confusion for dyslexics, and now a wide range of information and compensation tools are available for all types of dyslexia. With recording devices, audio books, varied fonts, podcasts, apps and computer programs readily available, not to mention the Health Professionals and Teachers equipped with customisable programs and techniques to share, the support is out there. Each of the professionals here at Pathways to Expression tackles a different aspect of dyslexia. Some who struggle with visual dyslexia find that even the simplest changes to the text and its background colour can abate the effects of dyslexia instantly.
Graphic Designer, Christian Boer, has developed a type font especially for visual dyslexics called Dyslexie. A dyslexic himself, Boer sought to slightly alter the appearance of individual letters to give them even more distinct features for the brain to take hold of, minimising the rotating, swapping and mirroring illusion. Letters are bottom heavy, some of the rounder characters are slanted slightly in the same direction, and capital letters and punctuation are bold and larger than the rest of the text. Letter and word spacing are also emphasised. Check out the sample below.
What you think about the Dyslexie font? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Stay tuned for more on Dyslexia, diagnosis and news on other compensation tools and techniques!