Last week I reviewed a documentary on dyslexia called The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, and a reader commented that the documentary would not be available overseas for a while. So I thought I’d share some of my notes. I warn you, I’m not a great note-taker, so I had to compile these from my memory and some words I jotted down. However, I did have another person who saw the film review my notes as well, so I think they should be fairly accurate.
Anyway, these facts from the documentary are not secrets. Most of them are pretty well-known. What had the biggest impact on me was the people who were interviewed—children and adults with dyslexia, parents of children with dyslexia, educators who go out of their way to help students deal with dyslexia. To see the emotional impact this condition has on everyone involved is astounding and inspiring and I can’t really convey it in a few short words, but in the meantime, I can share a few facts.
- 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, and yet it is the most misunderstood learning difference.
- Dyslexia accounts for 80-90% of learning disabilities.
- 10 million American students have dyslexia today.
- FMRI scans (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or an MRI that measures blood flow in the brain of a person who is engaged in some kind of specific mental activity, such as reading) show that the left rear part of the brain is the automatic area for reading. People with dyslexia tend to show reduced activity in this part of the brain, and for them, reading becomes manual rather than automatic.
- This part of the brain is also involved in recognizing and processing the disparate sounds that make up words. That explains why reading is so difficult for a dyslexic person, but it also can affect their perception of the different sounds of spoken words. Misspeaking is also common among dyslexics.
Some Good Things About Dyslexia
- Dyslexia is not just a list of weaknesses, it also produces valuable strengths.
- A learning disability does not equate to a thinking disability.
- Dyslexia actually forces you to have to think and figure things out for yourself more, because learning is so hard. But that’s a strength, because the world needs thinkers more than it needs learners.
- Dyslexics can be very imaginative people who think outside the box.
Will it Go Away?
- No. For a dyslexic person, reading never becomes automatic: each word needs to be sounded out phonetically for life.
- The slow reading and poor spelling never go away, but patience and perseverance will pay off. Making the extra effort will become part of a dyslexic person’s lifestyle and in time, things will get easier as a dyslexic person gets more and more used to dealing with his or her specific difficulties.
School and Dyslexia
- A dyslexic person will never read quickly. No matter how brilliant a student may be, reading with dyslexia will always be laborious and it might take a dyslexic student more than double the time other students take to read the same thing. Dyslexia robs a person of time. Without accommodation in a learning setting (like extra time to take exams), there can be tremendous strain to keep up, and often the capacity is not there.
- Remember that testing just proves how fast one can read and how much one has memorized. Life requires understanding, not just memorization.
- Each student has to crack the code of their own learning style.
- Care about the effort more than just the grade.
Common Misunderstandings About Dyslexia
- One particularly damaging misunderstanding of the condition is the belief that students who suffer with dyslexia possess diminished academic potential. This is not true.
- Many people think that because dyslexic students require adaptations and adjusted expectations related to reading speed, spelling accuracy and their mode of written expression (laptop vs. handwriting) that they will not succeed as well as their non-dyslexic peers. This is also not true. Many dyslexics have become heart surgeons, neurosurgeons, lawyers, writers, CEOs, etc.
- Dyslexia is a mechanical disability, not a thinking disability. Teachers need to communicate this, parents need to understand this, and—most of all—dyslexic students need to know this.
For a thorough discussion of the social and emotional support children with dyslexia require, read my award-winning book, Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know, available in softcover, hardcover, eBook, and audio.
Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators. Visit my Don M. Winn Amazon author page for more information.