HOW TECHNOLOGY HELPED ME CHEAT DYSLEXIA: Innovations in brain research and AI-fueled assistive technologies could level the playing field for those with language-based learning disabilities, by Lisa Wood Shapiroby
I really enjoyed reading this story, which not only covers helpful technologies but provides excellent first-hand knowledge about dyslexia. Enjoy and return here to comment if you are so inclined. I would love to talk more! Following are a few quotes to whet your appetite!
I'm going to tell you a secret. It's something almost no one in my professional life knows. I'm dyslexic. Given that knowledge, my chosen career—writer—might seem odd.
...But I’ve never thought of myself as having a disability. Instead, I see it as a glitch, and one I've gotten good at masking. I've been able to hide my dyslexia for decades simply because I live in an age of technological wonders.
...These "cheats" are ingrained in my writing process; I hardly notice doing them anymore. But something happened a few months ago to break me out of my familiar routines. I began writing with the help of an AI-powered browser plug-in so adept at correcting my linguistic missteps, it ended up sending me on a quest to discover what life might be like in a technologically enabled post-dyslexic world.
...Maybe it wasn't the technology that made me feel safe to come out, but rather the fact the benefits of neurodiversity have become more broadly recognized.
Leecy, thank you for sharing this article. I really enjoyed reading the author's perspective on her dyslexia, and the impact of new technology on how she thinks about her writing. A couple of quotes stood out to me.
...I’ve never thought of myself as having a disability. Instead, I see it as a glitch, and one I've gotten good at masking. I've been able to hide my dyslexia for decades simply because I live in an age of technological wonders. These "cheats" are ingrained in my writing process; I hardly notice doing them anymore.
I noticed her word choice here, referring to her dyslexia as a 'glitch', not a disability, and her use of the term 'cheats' to describe how she accommodates for the processing differences she experiences as a dyslexic. She goes on to talk more about her primary education, saying, My dyslexia was discovered in grade school, where I had the benefit and luck of attending a well-funded institution equipped to respond to my obvious signs of trouble. By the end of second grade, I was enrolled in an intensive summer school program for dyslexics.
In working with K-12 and adult learners with dyslexia, the biggest difference I've noticed between those who see it as a 'glitch' and develop 'cheats' to compensate, and those who feel defeated by dyslexia, can be traced back to their earliest school experiences. I'd wager that the majority of learners with dyslexia in adult education programs weren't as lucky as the author was to 'attend a well-funded institution equipped to respond to [my] obvious signs of trouble'. I think this fundamental disparity has a way of wiring how learners perceive of themselves, and their somewhat privileged glitches, or more pronounced disabilities.
The author's revelation about her writing, in the age of AI technology, only seems possible because of her mindset about her dyslexia. I'm skeptical whether an adult learner whose mindset about their dyslexia is markedly different, would feel the same if given the same access to this new technology. This raises the question for me, how can adult educators help learners develop the mindset of dyslexia as a set of glitches that can be re-booted, and not a fixed mindset disability? Without this underlying cognitive re-boot, I don't have much faith in technology to level the playing field for learners who come from less privileged mindsets.
Disabilities and Equitable Outcomes Moderator
Mike, thanks for your very thoughtful comments on this article and on learners who are affected by dyslexia. You are right that the author received ready assistance with an early diagnosis, something that many/most do not receive. In fact, many kids with LD, including dyslexia, are placed in Special Ed Classrooms when they could function perfectly if they got help recognizing their condition and if teachers were trained to overcome what they call "disabilities." I much prefer my term, "specifically abled" to the negative term, "learning disabled."
You asked, "...how can adult educators help learners develop the mindset of dyslexia as a set of glitches that can be re-booted, and not a fixed mindset disability?" I hope we get lots of responses here.
In my view, education provides the best tool for both teachers and students. Adult educators, in my experience, are sorely under-trained on how to help the many LD learners who enter our programs.
Also in my experience, if an adult learner has a history of being labeled as an "underachiever," that's a flag. If he lacks a few basic social skills and has difficulty organizing both his thoughts and his things, that's another flag. In a very short time observing a student, teachers can screen students who might face very specific ways to learn things and start teaching them in their way, not asking them to adjust, which they cannot do. However, they can help them "cheat" the "glitch" and function perfectly well!
Although we NEVER diagnose or even mention the term "learning disability" when describing an medically undiagnosed student, there is great benefit, in my view, in discussing how people learn and how some people cannot not learn in certain ways due to their neurological make up. I think that LD should be discussed as a writing prompt or reading activity in every program. Leecy