Dyslexia, What Does It Mean?
I have great news to share with you about bright children (and adults) who struggle with reading and spelling. In a moment, when I share a specific word with you, you might think that this doesn’t apply to you and you may be tempted to stop reading. I challenge you to read on. You may be surprised by what you learn, and chances are high (1 in 5) that you, your child, or someone you know is dealing with this soon-to-be revealed word and I have some exciting news to share with you about it.
HINTS about the word:
- It is not rare. In fact, it affects about 5 kids per classroom to some degree.
- It happens to intelligent people. I have a student who scored “superior” on IQ tests but couldn’t read or spell very well.
- It comes with some pretty cool skills.
- It occurs in people all over the world in people of all ages.
The Word is Dyslexia
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is not new, but for a long time, scientists and educators had to make guesses about it. Since the use of fMRIs (brain-activity movies!), it is no longer a mystery and it no longer has to be a big shameful secret. I will share what dyslexia is, what it looks like, and how it can be helped.
DYS = “difficulty with” LEXIA = “language” – spelling, reading, writing, speech
Dyslexia is a genetic brain difference that causes difficulty with language despite intelligence, motivation, and education.
Good News: You’re Not Alone
People with dyslexia are in good company! Steve Jobs, Agatha Christie, and Walt Disney all had dyslexia and many famous actors, sports figures, and successful business leaders have dyslexia.
Good News: Dyslexia Brings Many Strengths
People with dyslexia typically have great imagination skills, and tend to be creative, “out-of-the-box” thinkers. You will also find that many people with dyslexia are very kind, intuitive, and sensitive to the needs of others. Most also have at least one area that is a HUGE strength such as mechanical skill, art, sports, public speaking, music, building, logic, inventing, comprehension of stories read TO them, acting/performing, and problem-solving.
Once I was aware that dyslexia often came with gifts, I started wondering if certain people had dyslexia, based ONLY on their strengths. Without knowing anything about their reading and spelling skills, I correctly guessed that James Dyson (think creative inventions such as a fan without a blade, new types of hand dryers, and very awesome vacuums) and Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) both had dyslexia.
Good News: We Can Start Early
We do not have to wait until students fail in order to give them the teaching they need.
Signs of dyslexia can be seen even before reading and spelling begin. Here are some things to look for in a young child: chronic ear infections, delayed speech, trouble memorizing (phone number, address, letters of the alphabet), difficulty learning to tie shoes, trouble pronouncing words correctly, a hard time with rhyming, and late to pick a dominant hand.
Good News: It’s Never Too Late
It’s never too late to retrain the brain to make reading and spelling easier. Although it is wonderful when we can catch dyslexia early, I know of successful students ranging in age from 6 to 56.
Even though the science world is exploding with information about dyslexia and how to help it, most schools are lagging behind in this knowledge and putting it to use, so many children are not getting the type of instruction that they need.
Good News: Help Is Within Reach
There are many private individuals and schools dedicated to teaching reading and spelling in the way people with dyslexia need. The key question to ask a school or tutor: “Is the approach that you are using based on the work of Orton-Gillingham and are you trained in it?”
Orton-Gillingham (sometimes referred to as O-G) just means the multi-sensory, explicit, and systematic teaching approach designed by Dr. Samuel Orton (physician) and Anna Gillingham (teacher). O-G has been found to be very successful in teaching reading and spelling, especially to those with dyslexia.
More Good News: Dyslexics Have Many Strengths
Remember the strengths that were mentioned at the beginning of this article? Colleges used to think that people with dyslexia were not “college material”. Now, many colleges are starting to realize that people with dyslexia actually make some of their best students and are trying to think of ways to attract students with dyslexia.