The Struggle Is Real
If your child has been identified as having a learning disability (LD), or he or she has not been able to read like his or her peers, be comforted by knowing that you have a lot of company. The International Dyslexia Association has determined that, “…perhaps as many as 15–20% of the population as a whole—have some of the symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words.” (https://dyslexiaida.org/dyslexia-basics/)
These people often have difficulty with rhyming, learning nursery rhymes (that their peers learn with no effort), or learning and remembering the alphabet or names of the letters in the alphabet. Additionally this group may have trouble recognizing the letters in their own names, and they often read the “pictures” more than they read the “words” in a story. The list of poor reading skills is lengthy for these students. Their struggle becomes very real….not only academically, but also socially as they feel more and more behind, dumb, insecure, and embarrassed about the things that they can’t do and don’t know, that everyone else finds easy to do and easy to know.
What is dyslexia? How do we become dyslexic? Is it curable? Is it treatable? Do people with dyslexia have low intelligence? There are so many questions swirling around regarding this topic; so much so, that even beginning to explore the answers can be quite daunting. Let’s hit a few basics and then, rather than recreating something that has been done well already, I will refer you to some excellent resources.
Basic Answers: Dyslexia is not a disease. It is a neurological condition caused by the brain being wired differently. Dyslexia is often genetic; in other words, you probably have family members who struggle (sometimes silently) with the same things you struggle with. There is no cure or treatment to make dyslexia go away; however, with a good support system, encouragement and appropriate teaching models, people with dyslexia learn a variety of compensatory skills and tricks to be successful. Studies with brain imaging reflect that the brain changes when people receive intervention (Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D., 2003, pages 82-86.); therefore, intervention can be part of the “treatment” plan to overcome dyslexia.
Teaching Differently is Key: It is vitally important to understand that people with dyslexia learn differently as a result of their brains being wired differently. Low intelligence is not characteristic of this population. As a matter of fact, people with dyslexia are often extremely intelligent and extraordinarily gifted (see The Good News about Dyslexia on this website). Some specialists refer to people with dyslexia as being right-brain learners rather than left brain learners. If mainstream classrooms teach mostly to left-brain learners, it is no wonder that those who learn and think differently (as right-brain dominant people do) struggle or fail at school. Given the right environment and opportunity to think and learn, the person with dyslexia will flourish and make large contributions to society.
Here are some websites and other resources available to teachers, parents, and caregivers to help them sort through just what kind of news it is when someone is diagnosed with dyslexia.
Moats, L. C. & Dakin, K. E. (2008). Basic facts about dyslexia and other reading problems. Baltimore: The International Dyslexia Association.
Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York: Knopf.
The Good News
Dyslexia is present in people of all backgrounds and intelligence. It often runs in families and those with dyslexia are usually very bright, excelling in the sciences, math, finances, architecture, business, music, sports, sales, design, and drama, to list only a few. Gradually, our society, schools and universities are recognizing and embracing the need to teach differently when teaching those who learn differently. They do not want to miss out on what these individuals (with exceptional brains and 3D thinking) have to offer society. Have you considered our world without the following contributors? Here is a small sample of famous people with dyslexia:
- Hans Christian Andersen
- Agatha Christie
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
- John Grisham
- John Irving
- Thomas Thoreau
- Mark Twain
- Jules Verne
- Mohammad Ali — boxer
- Bob Anderson —coach of Olympic wrestling team
- Tim Tebow
- Magic Johnson
- Carl Lewis
- Barbara Corcoran — business
- Dwight D. Eisenhower — 34th president of the United States and World War II general
- Andrew Jackson — 7th president of the United States
- John F. Kennedy — 35th president of the United States
- General George Patton
- Nelson Rockefeller — vice president of the United States for President Gerald Ford
- Franklin Roosevelt — 32nd president of the United States
- Woodrow Wilson — 28th president of the United States
- Alexander Graham Bell — inventor of the telephone
- Dr. Harvey Cushing — father of modern brain surgery
- Thomas Edison
- Albert Einstein
- Dr. Fred Epstein — brain surgeon
- Benjamin Franklin
- Louis Pasteur
- The Wright Brothers
- Tim Conway, comedian
- Charles Schwab
- Leonardo Da Vinci
- Abraham Lincoln
- Benjamin Franklin
- George Washington
- Walt Disney
- Robin Williams
- Sylvester Stallone
- Charles Schulz
- Vincent Van Gogh