I promised a blog of 750 or less words. Millions of words have been written concerning dyslexia. But here goes.
Learning Disabilities Association of America defines dyslexia as “Dyslexia: A specific learning disability that affects reading and related language-based processing skills. The severity can differ in each individual but can affect reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, recall, writing, spelling, and sometimes speech and can exist along with other related disorders.”
While that’s an end result for many dyslexics, let’s look at some of the reason for this “specific learning disability” and perhaps gain an understanding that it is not all about reading or school. It may not even be all about a disability.
Another way of viewing dyslexia: An individual with dyslexia has average or above average intelligence. It is not an intellectual problem. Dyslexics have auditory and visual perceptual differences which make them process information differently. These processing differences affect the way individuals learn not just in reading but in all areas of life such as dealing with time, retaining sequences (directions or math procedures) and language based issues.
Dyslexia is not just a K-12 grade problem. Obviously, if someone does not learn reading skills, he is going to have difficulty in school. His ability to gain other information needed to have a productive career will be impaired. However, what about the “dyslexic” (more about that term in future blogs) who has gained reading skills but has extremely weak auditory memory and is constantly forgetting directions? Or the individual with dyslexia whose sense of time is impaired? He’s the procrastinator, the crisis driven one, the person who is stressed out, or stresses out others.
Language based skills: Forgetting words and/or replacing with strange words, “I need that sticky, blocky, papery thingy.” (A post-it note.) On the flip side – articulate verbally but unable to put the same information in writing. Comprehension issues, both with verbal communication and reading, arise often. An individual miscues on a “What” question and gives a “How” answer. Concrete questions like who, what, when, where are easy to answer but why questions are a struggle.
Complicating matters, many dyslexics have autoimmune issues (allergies, intolerances to chemicals, stomach issues, blood sugar). These biochemical differences can cause great variability in an individual’s processing. For example, on a clear day, a student may be able to listen and hold a sequence of directions, where after a carb/sugar filled lunch, they cannot remember the same sequence and or follow directions. Too many times, if their reading is not a major problem, these individuals are diagnosed as ADHD as opposed to dyslexic and they keep being told “If you would just focus and pay attention, you would be fine.” when in fact no one is aware of how hard they may be trying, but not succeeding because the perceptual differences and language differences created by their dyslexia is not being addressed.
Here are the high points:
Individuals with dyslexia:
1) Are intelligent
2) Process/interpret auditory and visual information differently
3) Process and understand language differently
4) Have biochemical differences which can cause variability in attention and perception
5) Have a lifelong difference that affects all ages and stages of life.
Sound depressing? Doesn’t have to be because many of those same differences, if the academic problems are addressed properly, can become assets. Stayed tuned for future blogs of the gifts of dyslexia and ADHD.