Austin City Hall was full of smiling, tearful mothers and energetic kids Thursday afternoon while Mayor Steve Adler announced October as Dyslexia Awareness Month.
“This is personal,” Adler said. “Our (second) daughter is dyslexic and incredibly successful.”
Heather Hardeman, co-founder of the Dyslexia Parent Network, said the event at City Hall was meant to generate a better understanding among the public and its educators with regards to dyslexia and the common misconceptions that come with it. Hardeman said one misconception is that dyslexia affects IQ.
“One of the things that is tied to the definition of dyslexia is that IQ is independent of the reading ability,” Hardeman said. “That’s one of the things that’s a red flag. If you have a kid that you know is really bright and has a large vocabulary, why can’t they read?”
Some people go much of their lives not knowing they are dyslexic. Hannah Myers, a human development and family sciences junior, said spreading awareness can help.
“I know people who went through their college years not realizing that they had it and they struggled that whole time,” Myers said. “It wasn’t until they were an adult that they were like ‘Oh wow, I could’ve been treating this.’”
Life can be difficult for children with dyslexia, especially when they don’t know they are dyslexic. Myers, who is dyslexic, said her elementary teachers were unaware of her disability and often criticized her for being slow. Dedicating a month to dyslexia could really help elementary students, Myers said.
“Especially in elementary as a kid … I was getting a lot of comments about how slow I was going and about how I needed to keep up and it was a lot of pressure on me,” Myers said. “It really made school hard up until middle school.”
Though some dyslexics may be slow readers, they tend to have creative minds, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity website.
“We like to say that they have superpowers, and it’s actually true,” said Stephen Straus, a volunteer board member for Impact Dyslexia, one of the organizations that came to the event. “People as impactful in human history as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Einstein, Disney, Ford and Jobs all were dyslexics. Modern successful dyslexics credit their dyslexia for their success.”