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Dyslexia & Instructions

Understanding why instructions are hard and how to manage them

“Open your book, turn to page 127, then do the odd-numbered math problems and turn them in by 10 am on 12/1/22.” Following instructions in school was the worst. Just because you’re not in school anymore does not mean that instruction following has gotten any easier. This week we want to point out why instructions are frustrating, times you have to follow instructions, tips to manage, and a slight perspective shift!

Why Instructions Are Hard:

Following instructions is rough for people with dyslexia because it requires your working memory to keep up with a long list of things. Our working memory is a little shorter, and struggles to hold on to small details. Think about it like trying to hold sand in your hand.

Examples of instructions adults have to follow:

  • To-Do list from your boss

  • Instructions in yoga or exercise classes

  • Recipes

  • Putting furniture together

  • Filling out forms

  • Helping kids with homework

  • Driving directions

How to make instructions easier to follow:

  • Ask people to give verbal instructions slower

  • User a highlighter to mark off what written instructions you have done (great for cooking)

  • Write down verbal instructions as they are said

  • Repeat verbal instructions to confirm you didn’t miss anything

  • Ask for a “second set of eyes” to ensure you understand what complicated forms are asking

  • Get to do list’s sent via email (great for work)

  • Read through an instruction manual before you start working on putting things together

  • Create/Ask for visual aids (put an R and an L in your car windshield so you can quickly know right from left)

Shifting your Perspective:

  • You are not bad at following instructions! You need them given in the written form.

  • Radically accept that you will need instructions given in a way that works for YOU (nothing is wrong with creating your own system)!

  • Be patient with yourself! You are not dumb, just dyslexic.

  • Getting the instructions might be a struggle, but you rock at executing on them!

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