Living with a dyslexic partner
There is a common misconception that dyslexia only affects the ability to read and write. In reality, dyslexia can affect memory, organisation, time-keeping, concentration, multi-tasking and communication. All impact on everyday life.
If you're in a relationship with someone whose brain works differently to yours it can be confusing and frustrating. Especially if you have the responsibility of running a household and family together.
There are some strategies that may help:
You partner may find it difficult to remember appointments or meetings, or to judge how long a particular task will take (some dyslexic individuals do use effective strategies and are highly organised).
- Set mobile phone reminders for important dates or appointments, or use a calendar in a prominent place
- Ask the doctor, dentist or hospital to send mobile phone text reminders for appointments
- If you find their untidiness overwhelming. They can help by agreeing to put their stuff behind closed doors (e.g. in cupboards/drawers) in such a way that they can still 'lay hands' on it, but you can't see it
Dyslexic people have to work harder than others, and often work extra hours, to overcome daily challenges. When they are tired their dyslexic 'symptoms' can be more pronounced as they don't have the energy to employ their usual coping strategies.
- Be aware that your partner's dyslexic 'symptoms' may be more obvious when they are tired, and try to be patient
Reading and/or writing
Your partner may rely on you to proofread things they have written, or avoid writing as much as possible. Tasks that involve reading or writing can also be tricky such as: making a shopping list, taking a telephone message or buying all the items on a shopping list.
These difficulties often mean that the non-dyslexic partner takes on more of the household and school administrative duties.
Some dyslexic people experience a visual stress effect when reading, especially if there is glare from black print and a bright white background. This can make the words unclear, distorted or appear to move and can be very tiring.
- Change the background colour of the screen, use a dyslexia-friendly font, or a larger print
- Try printing the page rather than reading directly from a screen
- Work to your strengths, so if the non-dyslexic partner is taking on more of the 'administrative duties' make sure that other tasks are shared
Many people with dyslexia have struggled with other people's misconceptions at some point. They might be apprehensive about revealing that they are dyslexic and if they haven't been well-supported during education or in the workplace, they may have been left feeling 'stupid' or embarrassed by their dyslexia.
- Reassure your partner and remind them of all their strengths. Make the effort to see things through your partner's eyes rather than expecting them to conform to your way of thinking
Too much information, such as a list of instructions or directions, will be hard for the dyslexic brain to process and remember.
- Ask one question at a time, or break information like directions down into smaller chunks (e.g. 1 or 2 at a time). You could also try drawing a map, or writing a numbered list to help your partner remember information
Poor short-term memory and concentration can mean that your partner is easily distracted. They may spend time every morning looking for their misplaced keys or phone, which can make it difficult to leave the house on time. Dyslexic people who find reading text really difficult won’t be able to rely on prompts and reminders such as calendars and 'to do' lists, but for other dyslexic individuals these may be effective strategies.
- Some dyslexic people set their watches fast to give them a better chance of being on time, and put reminders on their phone or computer. If you have to be somewhere together at a certain time, then factor in this difficulty and allow extra time.
Sense of direction
Dyslexic people can struggle with direction: they may often get lost or feel nervous about going to unfamiliar places. They may also find 'left' or 'right' instructions difficult to follow, or give.
- Technology is a great support for a poor sense of direction. Many phones have a free map app, or try using a SatNav
- If giving verbal instructions don't use 'left' or 'right' instructions, try verbal hints such as 'follow the yellow car', or indicate with your hand which way to turn
A set routine can be a good coping strategy. However, a reliance on routine can mean that it's difficult to adapt when that routine is interrupted.
- Be aware that a change of routine may have a knock-on effect to the rest of the day, and plan ahead. For example, you can set reminders on your phone for times and places of appointments, and what you need to take with you
Your partner may be reserved because they are worried about saying the wrong thing in a social situation, or be very extrovert and put their foot in it. If social situations require reading (like a menu) or writing, some dyslexic individuals may find this awkward and may not always want to say why.
- If possible, try to be open about being dyslexic. There is greater awareness these days and most people have an idea of what dyslexia is, even if only a narrow understanding. If not, then it may be a good topic of conversation
Your partner may find it really hard to process different stimuli at the same time so, for example, having a conversation with the TV on may make it difficult for your partner to really focus on what is being said.
- If you want your partner to focus on something, try to remove any distractions such as a radio or television. Choose a time when your partner isn't absorbed in another task, like cooking or working on the computer
Some dyslexic people find that their mind races, and they struggle to find the right words to express themselves or to verbally keep up with the speed of their thoughts. Conversely, they often know the answer but need time to retrieve it from their memory.
- A pause during conversations doesn’t necessarily mean your partner isn't listening (although they may not be!). They may just need more time to process what has been said and to think about what they want to say. Be prepared to give your partner 'thinking time'
Dyslexia can affect short term memory, so your partner may forget a conversation, a task they have promised to do, or important dates. They may also struggle to remember the names of people they have met or how to get to places they have visited before.
- Try verbal reminders, calendars, a whiteboard that you can write a 'to do' list or 'don’t forget' list on each day. Encourage your partner to get into the habit of using the calendars and reminders on their phone or computer
Good days and bad days
You may find that some days your partner's dyslexic difficulties will be more pronounced than others.
- If you are aware that this can happen, and it's out of your partner's control then this understanding can make it less frustrating. Encourage your partner to let you know if they are having a 'bad' day
Remember - one way of thinking isn't better than another. A dyslexic mindset can bring a completely different understanding to a problem or situation, so it's really important to respect each other's views and ways of working.