Dyslexia: Before and After

It’s nothing short of arresting to consider the fact that even though dyslexia was identified about 150 years ago, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding and outright prejudice about it, even among some highly trained educators. Indeed, countless dyslexia sufferers are discriminated against and repeatedly told that they’re not trying hard enough or that they’re unmotivated or that they just need medication. When a child with dyslexia tries to learn in an environment that doesn’t recognize and accommodate learning challenges, a little piece of that child’s psyche dies every day he or she goes without help and without understanding.

My wife and I recently heard about an exhibit at the Science Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that was all about dyslexia. This exhibit was created by the father of a dyslexic girl as a gift of love and understanding to her and to any who wished to share the experience. To say that it is powerful is to damn with faint praise. While the installation only runs through August 4, 2019, we made a quick trip to see it the week before it ended. We’re so grateful we made the trip!

In addition to brief, pithy statements explaining what dyslexia is and is not, the installation portrayed several young students with dyslexia who shared their before and after stories and pictures. Every single one of the before pictures displayed the hunched, powerless body language and haunted facial expressions of children who felt like they were stupid, worthless, alone, and hopeless. Some of them had even been told by people they respected that they were stupid. In addition, the exhibit allowed viewers to stand before the pictures of the children and hear the children’s stories in their own words. The children shared complex feelings of hopelessness and fear before being diagnosed, and then revealed how everything about their lives changed once they received diagnoses, accommodation, and support. The transformations were remarkable, inspiring, and sobering all at once. The once-haunted faces of these children were now shining with joy, accomplishment, and self-worth. Seeing these kids before their diagnoses and after was an incredibly touching experience.

The other half of the exhibit presented famous dyslexics that have had a hand in helping change the world, including Tesla, Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers, Edison, Erin Brockovich, and many others. The point is that the world would be a much poorer place without the incredible vision, imagination, and outside-the-box thinking of these dyslexics. It makes me wonder what kinds of gifts and talents are going untapped every day as hundreds of thousands of dyslexic children fall through the cracks in the educational system and don’t get the support and accommodation they so desperately need.

One of the things that resonated with me specifically was the story of Agatha Christie. How many millions of folks have loved and been entertained by her amazing stories? Yet her dyslexia and dysgraphia were so bad that she had to dictate her stories to her secretary or else they would have gone untold. As a dyslexic writer myself, I’d be in the same boat without the advent of technology and a crackerjack support team. It’s only with that help that I get to tell my stories. Here’s the thing—we all have stories to tell, a calling, a passion to follow that can impact others in a positive way. It’s time that dyslexia stopped being a barrier to that process. We have the technology, the teaching methods, and the testing and accommodation that can help, but far too few dyslexic children have access to these supports.

To help change that situation, in October 2019, look for the release of the book every parent should have: Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know.

Cover of the book Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Don M. Winn showing a silhouetted stick figure family surrounded by puzzle pieces.

About the book:

Using current, cutting edge research, this user-friendly guide for parents and educators will help you prepare your child to be a reader from infancy. These tools and techniques are proven to help all children, not just those with dyslexia.

You will learn what dyslexia is and isn’t, the symptoms that warrant diagnosis by a professional, what to expect during the testing process, how to build a strong preliteracy foundation in your child from birth, the necessity of focusing on social and emotional learning, how to work with the school to create an optimal learning environment, how to foster patience and tenacity in your child, how to offer your child a safe, encouraging space in which to cope with the emotional and educational challenges of dyslexia, and most importantly, how to help your child reach their full potential and thrive!

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 new CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators.