Q.  What is dyslexia?

A.   The formal answer is that dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty.  The word is derived from the Greek word “dys” which means poor or bad and “lexis” which means words.

Dyslexia is thought to affect about 10% of the population, although the effects can vary enormously from one person to another. We usually associate it with ineffective reading and / or writing, although dyslexic people often also describe problems with short term memory and difficulty with planning and organisation.

It’s hard to find a reliable definition of dyslexia because it covers such a wide spectrum.  Some dyslexic people appear to read very effectively, but may need to read the same piece of text several times over before the meaning becomes clear.

One fairly common observation is where the written work submitted by a dyslexic person never seems to reflect their actual intelligence. For example, a student in class may take an active part in discussions and show enthusiasm and flair for the subject, yet their essays can look simplistic and half-hearted.  This is sometimes because they get bogged down with spelling difficulties and adopt a policy of avoiding problematic words, instead opting for simpler alternatives.

Dyslexic people are often good at working around their problems, finding all sorts of often ingenious ways to cope with their difficulties.  I have borrowed some of these for our Tips and FAQs section.

In the past, many dyslexic people have felt excluded from information technology because of the requirement to read from computer screens and write using a keyboard.  Ironically, it is information technology that that now holds the key to solving a large percentage of practical issues.  Since you can now talk to your computer, and it can talk to you, it’s possible to overcome many of the barriers that once stopped you from accessing email, word processing, the Internet and other applications.



 Q.  How can I speed up writing tasks?

A.  To make good use of your verbal skills, you should seriously think about using Dragon voice recognition – click here for more information.

Another approach is to use Microsoft Word auto text.  This is just a way to produce complicated words and phrases by using your own shortcut letters.

Example.  A social worker who frequently has to write “Children Act 1989”

To make this quick and easy in future, follow these steps:

  • Highlight the phrase – Children Act 1989
  • Press Alt + F3 on your keyboard

Auto text dialogue example
Auto text dialogue example

  • Depending on which version of Microsoft Word you are using, you will get a dialogue box a bit like one of these
  • Now enter a simple shortcut for the phrase, e.g. in this case CA
  • To save your shortcut, click OK
  • Now, when you need to use the shortcut, type the letters, in this case CA and press F3.  Job done!

You can create as many of these shortcuts as you need.  They could be for individual difficult words like “mesothelioma”, phrases like “Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974” or even entire paragraphs.

It’s a good idea to write down your shortcuts so you won’t forget them.

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