What Is Dyslexia?
Reading is complex. It requires our brains to connect letters to sounds, put those sounds in the right order, and pull the words together into sentences and paragraphs we can read and comprehend.
People with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when they have trouble with that step, all the other steps are harder.
Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.
Dyslexia is also very common, affecting 20 percent of the population and representing 80– 90 percent of all those with learning disabilities. Scientific research shows differences in brain connectivity between dyslexic and typical reading children, providing a neurological basis for why reading fluently is a struggle for those with dyslexia.
History of Dyslexia
In 1896, a doctor in Sussex, England, published the first description of the learning disorder that would come to be known as developmental dyslexia. “Percy F. . . ged 14. . .has always been a bright and intelligent boy,” wrote W. Pringle Morgan in the British Medical Journal, “quick at games, and in no way inferior to others of his age. His great difficulty has been and is now his inability to learn to read.”
In that brief introduction, Morgan captured the paradox that has intrigued and frustrated scientists for a century since: the profound and persistent difficulties some very bright people face in learning to read.
What Causes Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is offer characterized by the child or adult’s struggle with reading and/or writing. There are a few explanations of what causes dyslexia. According to MedicineNet, there are three main types of dyslexia, categorized by what caused them: trauma dyslexia, primary dyslexia, and developmental dyslexia. In addition, dyslexia is also categorized by the issues the individual is having. These include visual and auditory dyslexia.
Trauma dyslexia, the first type, usually happens after the individual has gone through brain trauma or brain injury. This may be for a variety of reasons, such as a car accident or a fall from a tall ladder. Trauma dyslexia is usually seen in adult patients and most children do not suffer from it. The trauma is usually at the area of the brain that controls an individual’s ability to read and to write.
The next type of dyslexia (again, according to MedicineNet) is called Primary Dyslexia. Instead of a brain injury or trauma, Primary Dyslexia is caused by a dysfunction of the cerebral cortex, or left side of the brain. This type of dyslexia is genetic and is hereditary and is sometimes correlated with left-handedness (however, not all left-handed children are dyslexic and vice versa). Boys are usually more likely to have Primary Dyslexia than girls are. This type of dyslexia does not improve or get worse with age. Patients usually read at or below a fourth-grade level and continue to struggle with writing, reading, and spelling into their adulthood.
The last type of dyslexia is called Developmental (or Secondary) Dyslexia and is assumed to be caused by hormonal development during the early stages of development in the uterus. Developmental dyslexics usually improve and have less symptoms as they get older. This type of dyslexia is also more common in boys.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, individuals with a certain type of dyslexia may also be categorized by what type of skill they are struggling with. Visual dyslexia is constituted as a struggle with the ability to write numbers, letters, and words in their correct order and style. Many dyslexics often may read words backwards or write (or say) words out of order in a sentence. Auditory dyslexia is the struggle with the sounds of individual letters or words. Auditory dyslexics cannot pronounce the sounds of letters and words correctly because they do not hear or see them in the right way. Auditory dyslexia also may be caused by hearing and ear problems that start from an early age. If a child is unable to hear the correct pronunciation of words and letters, than they will in fact have trouble learning them and may develop a case of auditory dyslexia. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. Auditory dyslexics don’t always have hearing problems and those with hearing problems may not have dyslexia.
What causes dyslexia definitely depends on the individual’s own circumstances. A dyslexia patient may suffer from a combination of the above causes of dyslexia and therefore may have a more severe (or long-standing) case than others.
Famous people who had dyslexia and attention-deficit
Thomas Edison was an American inventor and businessman who developed many important devices. Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors of his time, holding 1,093 U.S. patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. He was, apparently, also dyslexic.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
(1874 – 1965) was a British politician known chiefly for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. A noted statesman and orator, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historical writer, and an artist. He is also remembered for his dyslexia.
Hans Christian Andersen
was a Danish author and poet, most famous for his fairy tales. Among his best-known stories are The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Snow Queen, The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Little Match Girl, The Ugly Duckling and The Red Shoes. During Andersen’s lifetime he was feted by royalty and acclaimed for having brought joy to children across Europe. His fairy tales have been translated into over 150 languages and continue to be published in millions of copies all over the world.
Andersen was, according to many sources on the Internet and even scholarly books like Corinne Roth Smith’s Learning Disabilities. The Interaction of Learner, Task, and Setting (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1991), also dyslexic.
According to LD lore Einstein failed to talk until the age of four, the result of a language disability. It is also claimed that Einstein could not read until the age of nine. To strengthen their case LD proponents point to such facts that Einstein failed his first attempt at entrance into college and lost three teaching positions in two years.
While this makes a nice story, this widely believed notion is false, according to Ronald W. Clark’s comprehensive biography of Einstein, and according to Subtle is the Lord: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein, a biography by Abraham Pais (Oxford University Press, 1982).
Pais states that although his family had initial apprehensions that he might be backward because of the unusually long time before he began to talk, Einstein was speaking in whole sentences by some point between age two and three years. According to Clark, a far more plausible reason for his relatively late speech development is “the simpler situation suggested by Einstein’s son Hans Albert, who says that his father was withdrawn from the world even as a boy.” Whether one accepts this interpretation, other information helps us to judge Einstein’s language abilities after he began to speak.
Einstein entered school at the age of six, and against popular belief did very well. When he was seven his mother wrote, “Yesterday Albert received his grades, he was again number one, his report card was brilliant.” At the age of twelve Einstein was reading physics books. At thirteen, after reading the Critique of Pure Reason and the work of other philosophers, Einstein adopted Kant as his favorite author. About this time he also read Darwin. Pais states, “the widespread belief that he was a poor student is unfounded.”
Failing His College Entrance Exams
True, Einstein did not pass the college exam the first time he took it. However, aside from being only sixteen, two years below the usual age, the plain fact was he did not study for it. His father wanted his son to follow a technical occupation, a decision Einstein found difficult to confront directly. Consequently, as he later admitted, he avoided following the “unbearable” path of a “practical profession” by not preparing himself for the test.
It is also true that, after graduating from the university, Einstein had difficulty finding a post. This was mainly because his independent, intellectually rebellious nature made him, in his own words, “a pariah” in the academic community. One professor told him, “You have one fault; one can’t tell you anything.”
Also true is that Einstein went through three jobs in a short time, but not because of a learning disability. His first job was as a temporary research assistant, the second as temporary replacement for a professor who had to serve a two-month term in the army. Clark remarks that it is “difficult to discover but easy to imagine” why Einstein held his third job, as a teacher in a boarding school, for only a few months: “Einstein’s ideas of minimum routine and minimum discipline were very different from those of his employer.”
How to Cope With Dyslexia
Dyslexia is considered a disability and is considered a problem for many. Advice and help on how to cope with it may be hard to get. But here are some tips to make it easier for you to deal with this condition:
• Change your attitude toward your condition. Instead of seeing it as a problem, see it as a rare gift.
• Understand the frustration you feel and use this energy to your advantage.
• Accept that you are different from other people. You are unique. Do not try to be like them.
• Don’t think that you are unintelligent, slow, or stupid. Instead, see yourself as creative, gifted, and capable of thinking outside the box. Only dyslexic people can view the world in a unique way.
• You may find it easier to understand imagery and pictures. Use them instead of words. You can also use colors and shapes. You may find it easier to say, spell, or use a word when you assign a color or shape to it.
• Be creative. Play with your mind. Develop a language that you can easily learn. With practice, you’ll be able to easily absorb a lot of information. When you’ve learned to do this well, you can teach yourself anything.
• Don’t take it out on yourself if you don’t pick something up right away. It will come to you if you are creative.
• The mind learns sounds before words, so use music as a learning tool.
• Try to learn at night. You may be able to concentrate better during the night than during the day.
• Dyslexics learn in a holistic manner or all at once. There’s no need to repeat what’s already understood.
• If you can’t understand anything, breathe. Keep your mind still and concentrate on your body’s feelings. Push these from your spine to your head. Visualize the problem as a picture and act the problem out.
• Never force your mind to work. If you are not in the mood, then wait and relax. Forcing yourself will just stress you out.
In conclusion, dealing with dyslexia as an adult can be a harrowing experience. You need not go on living in fear of rejection and denial. Dyslexia is a gift which once exploited will allow you to live your life better and more confidently.