Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Dear Young Dyslexic,

I have often been asked how open people should be about their dyslexia. Should they tell their teacher, employer, or future college that they have dyslexia?

Sometimes the answer is easy. You should tell your teacher or your spouse. They probably figured out anyway. More often, it is a difficult decision. Even though it is against the law, some colleges and some employers may discriminate against you if they know you’re dyslexic.

In these difficult decisions, I lean towards being open. However, you need to know that you’re taking a risk. Is there a real evidence to suggest you might be discriminated against or is this just your fear?

If there is evidence that the organization or individual would discriminate against you, what does this say about them? I always figure, this is not a place I want to end up. There probably is going to be little room for my unique way of perceiving and functioning in the world.

If you do decide to talk about your dyslexia, let me make the following suggestions:

  • Take the initiative early in your relationship. Don’t wait until you’re failing. It makes you look like you’re trying to manipulate the system.
  • If you are extremely anxious about telling the person (most of us are), start by talking about how this is hard for you to bring it up.
  • Bring the documentation of your disability with you in case they ask. You may not need it, but it’s good to be prepared.
  • Don’t use your dyslexia as an excuse! In other words, do not blame your dyslexia if you have not tried or have forgotten an assignment. Do not use it as a way of getting out of doing something you could or should do.
  • State clearly what you will need to be successful. Having a list of the accommodations that you need, can be very helpful.

It is scary. I’m old enough to have been stranded on some mountains and had a couple root canals. They seem like picnics in comparison to telling an employer I’m dyslexic. The good news is that it gets easier each time you do it.

Be well and make a bit of noise,

Dr. Michael Ryan

Dr. Michael Ryan