Should You Discuss Your Dyslexia Or Keep It Private?

When should you tell people about your dyslexia? And when is it better to keep it private? As a self-help leader and an activist in the field, it was necessary for me to talk about it publicly, but many people are successful in their fields who keep their dyslexia a secret. What should you do? Here are three times you should discuss your dyslexia—and three times you should keep it private.

Three Times to Discuss Your Dyslexia
  1. You need an accommodation. If you require extended time for a test or some other accommodation, you need to go to your professor and disclose. Legally, professors and bosses are only required to accommodate you, if you tell them you have dyslexia and document it.
  2. You need help from others that's hard for them to give, so they want to know the reason. You might need someone to proofread your work, to remind you of the time you need to get together, or to put up with a specific way you need to organize your space.
  3. It is part of your identity or you don't feel comfortable with keeping it a secret. An organization of students with disabilities might not include you if you don't disclose your dyslexia. In a class on oppression, you might want to describe your experiences. And you might be tired of hiding it!
Three Times to Keep Your Dyslexia Private
  1. After failing a class, missing a goal, or being asked to leave a job. You don’t want to seem to be using your dyslexia as an excuse. Don't claim that you failed a class or lost a job because of your dyslexia. It's probably one of many reasons. The time to talk about your dyslexia is when an accommodation can bring you to success.
  2. When you are upset about your dyslexia and its impact on your life. When you bring up your dyslexia with a new group of people, do it thoughtfully. Plan what to say, and anticipate their reactions.
  3. When you are ashamed of your dyslexia. Wait until you can discuss your dyslexia with calmness and pride. You do not “admit” you have dyslexia. The word "admit" usually refers to crimes or something that is shameful and secret. You tell people your have dyslexia as a part of your personality that makes you the person you are. Be positive and proud as you discuss your dyslexia.
How to Discuss Your Dyslexia

There are some tips in my article Dyslexia, Point of Pride or Flaw to Hide an article which has more material on this issue. I will close with a story that illustrates masterful disclosure.

At a meeting I attended recently, a committee member was correcting the small errors of our Chairperson. He said, "I really appreciate these corrections. I have dyslexia and make lots of small errors. But rest assured Peggy will fix all of this after the meeting."

Our chairperson stopped someone from embarrassing him with his errors and explained his accommodation. He took responsibility for his difficulty and brought it up in a matter-of-fact way.

It was a great example of his leadership skills.

Dale S. Brown is a self-help leader in the field of learning disabilities and a former policy consultant on disability.