It can occur in any race, sex and background. It does not discriminate. All abilities can be affected by it, “Dyslexia is a hidden disability thought to affect around 10% of the population, 4% severely.” Like many hidden disabilities and illnesses, a stigma is attached, “People think you’re stupid because you can’t read or write properly, but people should find out more before making assumptions,” says a dyslexic adult who would rather remain anonymous.As stated by the NHS website Choices on Dyslexia, it does not affect intelligence; dyslexia is a “specific learning difficulty,” unlike a “learning difficulty” which does affect intelligence and natural brain functions.
The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek words ‘dys’ meaning faulty and ‘lexis’ meaning words or language, “Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by problems in processing words into meaningful information.” This condition was first documented by DR. Pringle Morgan in 1896 about an intelligent child with normal development. Dr Morgan thought that dyslexia was a visual deficiency and he named this “congenital word blindness.” It was in 1925 that an American neurologist Dr Samuel. T .Orton concluded that dyslexia was caused by one side of the brain and put in place teaching methods to suit this theory, which is still used today. For a long time dyslexia was only researched in the medical field, but in the mid-twentieth century, it was looked at by people in the psychological and educational sectors, which widened people’s understanding of the disability.
Psychological and neurological professionals exclaim that dyslexia can be inherited from parents. The interviewee was asked about this and he described his father as not being able to read or write. Which is evidence for an inherited disability. Many do think that teaching and environment can play a part in this, as in they can cause the disability. The National Centre for Learning Disabilities in America, explains that dyslexia is “a neurological and often genetic condition, and not the result of poor teaching, instruction or upbringing.” Research in 2012 revealed that dyslexia is caused by connections in the brain attributed to speech and sound being handicapped. The processing of speech sounds is hampered.
The signs that someone may have dyslexia is that they read and write slower than other people and they have a problem organising and sequencing pieces of texts. A screening test can be taken if you suspect a child or adult to have dyslexia at a local Dyslexia Action Centre. It does come at a cost though. Other conditions should be ruled out before, such as if someone has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), this could be why they have issues with reading and writing, due to poor concentration. Sometimes though, people can have both of these, a dual diagnosis. I asked the interviewee and he explained that he also has ADHD and that living with both is a struggle every day.
The symptoms of dyslexia are different in each person, “Each individual with the condition will have a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses.” Some common symptoms include, confusing the letters ‘b’ and ‘d’, having difficulty deciphering word order and poor short term memory among many other traits. An interesting fact is that dyslexic people can muster up 1500 to 4000 images per second compared to the average person conjuring up only 150. Which shows how a dyslexic mind works in a completely different way to an average person, highlighting that people with dyslexia have brains which move at a faster rate, which can be very overwhelming.
Dyslexia is mainly diagnosed at an early age when children are learning to read and write, but what about if you are diagnosed in adulthood? The interviewee says, “It wasn’t really known when I was a kid and I only got diagnosed at the age of thirty.” The support we have in schools nowadays was not the case twenty years ago. So how do adults get the same support and what support is out there for recently diagnosed people? The British Association of Dyslexia has a lot of information and provides conferences for adults with dyslexia. Only, where can an adult with this specific learning difficulty go in their community for help? People with dyslexia rely on others such as friends and family to help and technology to aid when reading and writing. Though in times of stress these factors break down and cannot be used. Dyslexia can make a person feel nervous or embarrassed about omitting they have it, but there is help out there. Adult educational colleges provide courses and the national charity Dyslexia Action helps individuals and have learning centres dotted around the country. People can also call the BDA helpline and all Further Education and Higher Education institutions should have in place support for dyslexia.
There is a lot more support for children diagnosed with dyslexia in the 21st century. “The SEN Code of Practice which came into effect on 1 September 2014 requires schools to provide appropriate support so that all children have the opportunity to benefit from an inclusive education. A dyslexic child should be offered differentiated support to address the child’s particular learning needs. Dyslexia is a recognised difficulty under the Equality Act 2010.” Schools usually have a teaching assistant who can assist a child with reading and writing and can provide text printed on blue paper. Parents can also receive help with their child. The BDA website offers workshops and advice. If you are concerned about a child having dyslexia ask to speak to the SENCO at the child’s school and they will give guidance on what steps to take when diagnosing and supporting a child with dyslexia.
Though it is a disability, dyslexic people are able to see the bigger picture and are great problem solvers, such as Einstein or they are creative like Agatha Christie. Among many other famous people including Henry Winkler aka “The Fonz” from Happy Days, dyslexia does not have to hold people back and people should not be made to feel ashamed. It is not to do with lack of intelligence: it is a disability like any other which someone has no control over having, but in most cases there is an aid, which can make life a little easier.
By: Lyndsey Richards