As someone who has worked as a Special Education Advocate, it's pretty clear that more and more kids are showing signs of dyslexia in the classrooms. What was rare years ago, is now considered a common learning disability. Rather routine. We don't know if the reasons for this are environmental, genetic, or simply that we have better ways of diagnosing, all we know is
that these kids need to be taught differently in order for them to learn.
Dyslexia is a Greek word that simply means difficulty with language. Symptoms vary. Those who have the condition might see words backwards (probably the most dramatic and confusing symptom) or they might not be able to decode
(break down a word) or encode (essentially spell a word). Some kids have only one or two symptoms, others have a combination. The one thing they all have in common, however, is that Dsylexics have a tough time reading and that means that it requires a little more invention and creativity when trying to get a learning message across.
Soon, many of these kids are going to start aging out of our school systems and that means we are going to have to make accommodations for them with our marketing techniques. Oh sure, we can ignore this group but by doing that we risk losing an increasingly larger and larger piece of the audience pie.
For the most part Dyslexics rely on visual and auditory learning. These are the kids who if you explain something, then demonstrate how to do it - will then and only then be able to perform the task. They need to be shown how to do something, the reasons for action must be clearly demonstrated. They are not the kids who can follow a complicated user manual, leave that to the Blue Ray player people (formerly known as the VCR player people). Complication in words will only lead to frustration resulting, of course, in part of your audience walking away from your message.
What this means in terms of our marketing future is that we are going to have to rely even more on succinct writing, graphics and visuals to get our point across. By now your web writing should be less in quantity (people just don't have the time to read a huge amount of text, dyslexic or not) but in the near future, that text will need to be chopped to the bone. In and out, just the facts 'mam. You'll need to get attention with an absolute minimum of words.
Text will become more conceptual. Just thoughts. Examples.
Like it or not, the language you use will need to become more casual, yup, like you're talking to a buddy who is standing right in front of you. It will need to be friendly - your best friend takes you by the shoulder. This doesn't mean that you have to dumb down your language or your content, it simply means that you are going to have to change your approach.
Graphics and visuals are going to become vital. Just look at what's happening in the book industry – books (books!) now have trailers - mini-movie previews designed to get some one interested enough in the action, characters, and plot so that they might pick up and buy the book.
Video games are the national sport of Dyslexics, fast moving, a story line in pictures with immediate rewards. A child who can't stand to spend 15 minutes behind a book can often (to the dismay of their parents) spend hours in front of a video console. Wham, Zing, Blast – mission accomplished. In and out.
Not everyone is dsylexic and has trouble with language, there will always be those who feel more comfortable fully immersed in text, but I believe that the dyslexic students currently moving up through our school systems are going to make us think a bit more about how we can make our messages more desirable to those for whom plain old words will just not cut it.
About the Author:
A features writer, interviewer, and columnist, Wendy Thomas has been published in national magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs.
Her current project is to blog about life living with 6 kids and a flock of chickens.
Photo credit: Josh Kopel