Do you know what Dyslexia is?

By Uzor Chinukwue

Dyslexic_words
10 different ways dyslexics wrote the word “teapot”

WHO IS THIS ARTICLE FOR?

This article is designed to be short, allowing you to browse through quickly. However, despite its brevity, it will help you not only recognize if a loved one has dyslexia but also address common myths surrounding this learning condition. By the end of your reading you should be more knowledgeable and know where to get any extra information and/or help.

Alright so let’s start off with the obvious: what is dyslexia?

WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?

While there are various definitions of this condition from research from different countries, Dyslexia is universally recognized primarily as a learning disorder, particularly difficulty in learning to read “despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and sociocultural opportunity.” – [From the Word Federation of Neurology]

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke other manifestations include, difficulty with spelling, difficulty in processing and manipulating sounds (e.g in rhyming or separating words into different sounds), and/or rapid visual/verbal responding.

Dyslexia is now recognized as being hereditary, and there are now genes that have been discovered to be associated with the condition. However, it can also be acquired following brain damage, where a former literate person now struggles with pronunciations – this is called surface dyslexia.

MYTHS ABOUT DYSLEXIA

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

These are common myths about dyslexia.

  1. People grow out of dyslexia: This is a common misunderstanding of dyslexia by people who don’t recognise the condition for what it is. Dyslexia is a life-long condition, but it can be managed well. Scientists have also now started to identify “dyslexic genes” that can run in a family
  2. Dyslexic people are stupid: Again this is false. Some of the brightest minds of our culture are dyslexics. People in the arts like Kiera Knightley, and Whoopi Goldberg. Scientists like Albert Einstein. Inventors like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. And businessmen like Lord Alan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson. Neurodiversity as an approach to learning and disability is a concept that encourages the viewing of dyslexia, and other similar conditions, as a human variation rather than a disease. The movement was formed in the 1990s and its advocates insist that conditions like dyslexia, which are neurological in nature, need not be cured, as they grade them to be “authentic forms of human diversity, self-expression and being” […]
  3. Dyslexia only affects reading and spelling: While this is widely recognized as the primary manifestation of dyslexia (for example in a small percentage of dyslexics letters tend to swim or jump around) there are other difficulties that dyslexics have and these include: doing math in the head (though dyslexics may be good at higher maths), difficulty with the concept of time (for example not knowing how long 5 minutes actually is, misjudging how long a task actually takes, misreading analogue clocks), and difficulty in organizing (e.g with remembering correct documents or equipment; dyslexics also tend to struggle with keeping things tidy), difficulty in following directions (like struggling with differentiating left and right, or reading maps). Dyslexics may have difficulty in holding a list of instructions in memory so that the first 3 points may be remembered while other facts are thrown away. There may also be difficulty in choosing the right word from memory (for example, when trying to quickly name an object or person a dyslexic may come out with the wrong word)
  4. Dyslexia brings only difficulties and no advantages to dyslexics: This is false. The advanced problem solving in some dyslexics is increasingly being recognized in organisations like the GCHQ who say many of their top code-breakers crack computer problems because of their dyslexia. Because of the difference in how the brain is wired dyslexics may also have advantages in inventive and creative thinking. Their creativity thus helps in a wide host of areas, and we have seen examples in this article with people in the creative arts, science, and business who have dyslexia
  5. You cannot succeed with dyslexia: The number of successful dyslexics speaks for itself. With reasonable adjustments dyslexia shouldn’t be a barrier to your loved ones succeeding. Extraordinary people like Picasso, John Lennon, Whoopi Goldberg, Dustin Hoffman, Winston Churchill, Will Smith, and Jamie Oliver show that there shouldn’t be any limitations imposed on dyslexics as to what they can achieve or what they should aim for. The sky is literally the limit for your dreams.

WHAT THEY SAID

“It was with great regret that I didn’t do better at school. People just thought I was thick, it was a struggle, I never really had anyone to help that understood dyslexia and who could bring out my strengths. I think it’s really good that this charity helps kids realize that they’ve got possibilities and that they can excel in anything.” – Jamie Oliver, TV Chef

“His teachers reported that he was mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams” – Hans Albert Einstein on his father

“I was, on the whole, considerably discouraged by my school days. It was not pleasant to feel oneself so completely outclassed and left behind at the beginning of the race.” – Winston Churchill, UK Prime minister during the Second World War 

“Being dyslexic can actually help in the outside world. I see some things clearer than other people do because I have to simplify things to help me and that has helped others.” – Sir Richard Branson, businessman and founder of Virgin

“I fell in love with Drama at school, where I struggled with other lessons because of my dyslexia” – Orlando Bloom, Hollywood actor, and star in the Lord of the Rings movies

“I’m dyslexic and so are four of my children. It can be very difficult in the beginning but then you learn to cope with it. It can seem like a gift because it makes you think differently.” Jerry Hall, American model and actress

NOTES

  • This article was written primarily from notes gathered from a PowerPoint presentation sent by my boss. He is dyslexic and tweets under the handle @dyslexicpastor
  • The Wikipedia article on Dyslexia was very helpful. You can find out more about dyslexia here
  • Quotes by famous dyslexics were quoted from http://www.xtraordinarypeople.com/celebrity/
  • Contact: British Dyslexia Association, bdadyslexia.org.uk. National Dyslexia Helpline 08452519002
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