What do the following people have in common? Cher, Anderson Cooper, Henry (“the Fonz”) Winkler, Whoopi Goldberg, Caitlin Jenner, Richard Branson, Keira Knightley, Albert Einstein, Robin Williams, George Washington.
I’ll tell you.
Dyslexia. Approximately one in 10 people has it.
And now we can add my 10 year-old grandson, Eli, to that list. A specialist diagnosed his dyslexia last week.
It was a relief.
After wondering and worrying for years about his lack of progress in school, after exploring and testing reasons for his difficulties, his parents finally got a sensible explanation. He has dyslexia, a reading disorder, not ADHD, not an intelligence deficiency or a damaged chromosome.
People with dyslexia find it difficult to decode letters, words, and their sounds. Words and letters on a page sometimes scrunch, wiggle, or invert. People with dyslexia can read, but it takes them longer to track a text and comprehend it. They and their instructors must learn patience.
Throughout history most people with dyslexia weren’t aware of it because it only manifests when we read, and for most of human existence, no one read. Writing and books are fairly recent developments.
Now, reading is essential. And those who can’t read, are at a great disadvantage.
But reading isn’t easy. Period.
Reading is a complex interaction between the brain and the eyes. Billions of neurons and fibers connect the two organs. It’s not surprising that some of us arrive with anomalies. In fact, far more abnormalities exist among us than we imagine. After all, the “normal” get to define “normal.” And a lot of us ain’t that.
It should be said that dyslexia manifests itself in a variety of ways and degrees of severity. Many people with dyslexia muddle through school and into adulthood before finding out what plagued them all along.
Children with dyslexia are often called dumb, stupid, and lazy. And many of them call themselves those names. Many are sucked into a vortex that spirals downward, pulled by fear, stress, anxiety, attention disruptions, illness, self-loathing, hopelessness.
But there is hope. There is hope because diagnostic tests and remedial teaching methods keep improving and because parents and schools are more and more aware of dyslexia.
There is hope because there is help.
Eli’s getting help. The way forward will be challenging, but at least his parents now have a map and a compass.
* * *
Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz and Jonathan Shaywitz (2020) is a resource for parents and practitioners in the school community to understand dyslexia from scientists’ and physicians’ perspectives.
Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever. A series of children’s books by actor Henry Winkler and writer Lin Oliver telling the story of Hank Zipzer, a child with dyslexia.
See Paula’s “Fall Will Blow Your Mind” on the home page. Posted October 9, 2022
Diagnosis is the beginning of Eli’s formal academic success story (because he has demonstrated his impressive innate intelligence over his young lifetime, I’ll warrant). There have been very successful educational interventions for decades, in fact, but quite often “regular education” teachers have not been taught to recognize the varied manifestations of dyslexia or the successful interventions. Eli’s parents can adopt these strategies at home, as well.
In my experience as a special educator, I know this to be accurate: Children with dyslexia are typically very bright and resourceful, and effective learners given competent intervention by educators. Their gifts need to be recognized, adequately nurtured and reinforced. Young Eli deserves to enjoy the self assurance, confidence, positive self-esteem, and joy of any young, successful learner! I have very high hopes for him!
With all that we’ve learned about physical variation in people, isn’t it time we quit labeling people in negative ways?
Good point, Diana. Thanks for making it. Adults and children with dyslexia have been labeled “dyslectic.” That is no longer acceptable. It is not correct and can be harmful. They are persons “with dyslexia.” Dyslexia does not define who they are!
So glad it was determined but sad to find out. My nephew was into secondary school before the parents found out. They worked with a therapist and he seems to be functioning properly in his job. God Bless. George
Long overdue for the word “normal” to be stricken from the lexicon.
There is indeed hope for Eli! I am a person with dyslexia. I had to look several time at how you spelled “dyslexia” before I could copy it here! I’ve always struggled with reading, I’m very slow and have to reread things often. I was never a good student until I found something that I was passionate about, then I blossomed. It takes time, hard work, and loving support but I’m certain Eli will do well. To know is half the battle.
Whatever the challenge is, and we all have them, once it is identified we can move forward, knowing that there are answers and that we are not alone.
I am happy for Eli; he & his parents & educators now know; and with patience, knowledge and effort, he can look forward to a bright future!
Blessings come in many forms! 💓🙏🏼
My thoughts and feelings are more than conveyed by all the supportive comments submitted by your other readers. Children are blessings and miracles and need to be surrounded by Love. Thank you for bringing some aspect of the human condition to us each week and allowing us to meditate, contemplate, empathize, absorb, and fully immerse ourselves in this one great and amazing precious life. Oh, but if we could only carry it with us every second of the day, through all our joys, sadness, trials and tribulations, and honors, and successes. Thank you.
Sally Shaywitz’s book was recommended to the class I completed in Orton Gillingham teaching methods. I’m glad you found it. The Charles Town library has a copy for check out (for those interested in learning more). 🙂
Since 1 in 10 humans exhibit this characteristic, I assume there is a genetic explanation. I will go out on a limb & say, if so, it must convey some advantage for humans that we haven’t figured out yet. Sickle cell anemia provided protection from malaria in the part of the world where it was most needed. Stay tuned for something from science!
Sadly diagnosing a problem whether it is physical or other requires persistance.. success starts with an accurate diagnosis. So glad that part is complete as I am sure he will find his own successful path forward!
Thank you. I am glad to have the characteristics of this condition spelled out in some detail. We are slowly moving forward, the human race. Slowly accepting other people’s debits and credits and ways of learning, ways of perceiving things, ways of understanding and the conditions needed for understanding. I am grateful every time I hear of people acknowledging and accepting something/some people/ someway that has been commonly ostracized, criticized, looked down upon, kept outside the realms of the ‘normal’.