When you have kids with a learning difference, the initial reaction is to find help to create an environment of support for them. As a parent, I turned to professionals, websites and other parents to build a supportive network. This is all good, but it does create a false sense of enlightenment in the world.
The last two weeks have served as a wake-up call. On three separate occasions, in three different areas of my life, I found myself talking to intelligent people who still believed Dyslexia is writing letters backward.
My network serves me well for answers and support, but it also created a bubble. When talking with them, I didn’t need to keep a well-honed, concise explanation of Dyslexia. I thought I had a good grasp on it. However, faced with an opportunity to educate someone, I blew it! I was fumbling with my words to explain it.
I forgot that dyslexia touches not everyone. I forgot that not everyone needs to be knowledgeable on this topic. But, most importantly, I am surprised by how stunned I was to learn this myth persists.
As I processed this jolt to my world, I was horrified to hear myself droning on trying to fix one clumsy statement with another. Catching the glazed eyes, I realized I had probably done more damage; I quickly changed the subject hoping I would get another chance. In reality, that pathetic jumbled explanation insured the topic would never rise again. There are no “do-overs” when talking to people who have little stake in an issue. I may have blown those opportunities but hopefully here, I might be able to reach one or two individuals who have the misconception dyslexia is writing or reading letters backward.
So here, in more eloquent terms written by someone else is a basic definition of Dyslexia:
a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that does not affect general intelligence.
A more technical definition:
…In particular, dyslexia reflects a deficiency in the processing of the distinctive linguistic units, called phonemes, that make up all spoken and written words. Current linguistic models of reading and dyslexia now provide an explanation of why some very intelligent people have trouble learning to read and performing other language-related tasks.
-The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity – Dyslexia article
Why does it matter?
When we talk about reading and writing in school, we often compartmentalize it to just that subject. However, the ability to read and write affects math, science, history even interactions with peers. School can become one frustration after another as dyslexics struggle to decipher words and instructions across all subjects. Their mind has to work twice as hard to decode words for reading. Writing projects brings out their weakness of understanding the phonemes in words making spelling difficult. This quickly results in mental fatigue, leading them to often being labeled as “lazy” by teachers and parents.
“Dyslexia is not observable as much as it is experienced” -16 year-old Dyslexic
While their intelligence is not affected, schools are not designed to highlight the strengths of these right-brained thinkers. Instead only the “deficiencies” are addressed with little opportunity for these kids to shine. Considering 1 in 5 children are affected by dyslexia across all cultures and languages, it is important for society to have a better understanding of this learning difference.
Dyslexia is not writing letters backward! This thinking implies a visual processing issue. Lending to the thinking that it can be “cured” with vision therapy. Dyslexics are people who learn differently and often creatively. Dispelling this myth can lead to early interventions, ability to pioneer new techniques and create better learning environments.