When we hear the word dyslexia, the first thing that comes to mind is that, “Oh, Tom Cruise had it!” We also mention other celebrities such as Orlando Bloom, Cher, Steven Spielberg, etc. Oh yes, Steve Jobs also suffered from it (Famous Dyslexic People, p, 1). We often thought that they have had an insurmountable amount of disability yet we really never know what it is. At best, we often feel the admiration for these people because despite the disease, they have become successful. However, what exactly is dyslexia? Is it really difficult to overcome? How could people overcome it?
Allow me some minutes of your time to share with you important information about this learning disability. Dyslexia was first introduced in 1884 by R. Berlin, a German ophthalmologist (“Overcoming Dyslexia,” p. 1). He made it from the Greek words dys which mean “ill” or “difficult” and lexis which mean “word.” He used it to describe a particular reading disturbance in the lack of a pathological condition in the visual organs to contain it. In his publication three years later, Berlin defined that dyslexia is caused by a left-sided cerebral lesion (p. 1). He presumed right handedness and spoke of "word-blindness." He also detailed his observations with six patients with brain lesions who can verbally communicate but have lost their reading skills (p. 1).
In the following century, the narrow definition of Berlin attached was broadened. It was in the 70’s when the term dyslexia described a condition with magnanimous proportions. While the definitions have not been medically generalized, thousands of psychiatrists, pediatricians, neurologists, and developmental and educational psychologists have been confounded by this disease (p. 1).
The medical dictionary defines dyslexia as “impaired ability to read with a reading skills level under the average person with normal human intelligence. Also, it describes those with the condition of a normal vision who are able to recognize letters and meanings of objects and images (Kraft, p. 1).”
Individuals who have this condition may experience a difficulty with the facility of both verbal and written language (Ziegler, et. al., p. 169). This is in part due to the challenge in processing, including the lack of skills for audio visual perception. Prior education or stage of learning is not necessarily related to dyslexia (p. 170). Dyslexia depends on the individual and it can have moderate or intense effects on its victims. That is why some dyslexic people have moderate symptoms compared to some other who really experience greater difficulty reading, etc. This implies that the extent and effects of this disease vary as well. Thus, various approaches and strategies are applied in treating dyslexia. On the brighter side, this also shows that even when the people are suffering from this condition, they often have special talents and varying clusters of difficulties (Kraft, p. 1).
The different symptoms of dyslexia consist of the following: problems of expressing one’s self using a language and/or disabilities (p. 1). To illustrate, a dyslexic person may overturn words or segments of a word or paragraphs when they read aloud. A dyslexic pre-schooler may read the expression "gut" like it is "tug." They may also confuse word orders and sounds. Some others may omit or slur over some words. For example, a dyslexic may read the original phrase "the cat is mad” as “the cat is dam." Dyslexic individuals may also turn around letters and terms in printed language. This is called mirror writing or the absolute overturn of words and this is casually present in some cases of dyslexia (p. 1).
The symptoms of dyslexia also consist of experiencing difficulty with amenable vocabulary. Dyslexic individuals may incorrectly conceive words or sounds. No matter if the dyslexic person is loudly reading or silent or listening to oral language, he/she usually cannot recall significant aspects of the thing being said or read. These individuals may experience the difficulty in processing the reading material which was spoken to them. Also, they may experience difficulty explaining the material’s major ideas (Ziegler, et. al., p. 169). In the aspect of listening and speaking, dyslexics have difficulty in word pronunciation, particularly those with two or more syllables. Often, dyslexic people have no ability to say again the phrases which were previously orally said to them. They find it hard to contextualize clues or they cannot glean over the definition of the orally spoken terms (p. 172).
Another symptom of people with dyslexia is the difficulty in following instructions. They also do not comprehend words with the same sounds or meanings, rhymes and idiomatic expressions. People with dyslexia may also encounter problems with similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech (p. 172).
There are various theories on the origin of dyslexia that grossly lead to the general conclusion that dyslexia is a genetic disease that alters the way the brain processes information. Thus, this is passed on from one family to another, from one generation to the next (Kraft, p. 1). Dyslexia may run from the family and the experts estimate that if a person has dyslexia, there is between 40 to 60% chance that his/her child will also develop the condition.
The most popularly known and highly supported theory of dyslexia’s effects on reading and writing is termed as the “phonological processing impairment theory” (p. 1). Under this theory, people with dyslexia difficultly process their phonology than other persons. They said that some people encounter this phonological processing problem is because some parts of the brain behaves differently compared to other people who do not suffer from the said condition.
In experiments, it was shown that people with dyslexia showed a magnetic resonance imaging scans with low levels of brains activity in all of the brain’s three regions while they were reading. The low levels of brain activity seem to contribute to their problems with processing phonology (p. 1). The brain part called cerebellum. It functions as the coordinating part of the brain. In the scans, it also shows slow motions. Hence, it explains the dyslexic people’s problems with mind and body coordination. This cerebellum is also responsible for the way we manage time (p. 1).
The effects of dyslexia vary from one individual to another. The only common trait among dyslexic people is that they read at levels significantly lower than people of their own age. However, dyslexia is just a condition and it is very different from reading retardation. The latter may reflect intellectual retardation or cultural deprivation.
Dyslexia is considered as one of the most common learning difficulties. On the average, about 4 to 8 percent of all schoolchildren in England have some degree of dyslexia. (Kraft, p. 1). Similarly, this condition and/or learning disability affect over 40 million children and adults in the United States. Many individuals with dyslexia and associated learning and attention disorders realize on the onset that they are different from their peers. Sadly, their learning and coordination disabilities caused them to be ridiculed or mocked by others who do not understand their conditions. They feel dumb and depressed or they feel isolated (“Dyslexic, You’re Not Alone,” p. 1).
The above condition is diagnosed with the use of a full evaluation that includes tests on one’s intelligence, learning and language. The evaluations used in this diagnosis also includes observations, parents and teachers inputs, analysis of the dyslexic’s school work, and his/her development. It also includes his/her social contexts and histories (p. 1).
During the process of evaluation, the examiners try to locate evidences of the disability as they also reject other possible factors which could be influencing the dyslexic’s language and reading difficulties. The factors that are ruled out include the following: the absence of instruction and attendance, economic and community factors, including body problems like hearing impairment or difficulty in seeing (p. 1).
How can dyslexia be treated?
Dyslexia can be treated by focusing on a specific learning problems which the person experiences. There is often a modification of the learning methods and contexts in order to answer to the dyslexic person’s specific needs.
There are several prognoses for people with the said condition. Since it has an extensive range of symptoms and effects for different people, the predictions are difficult to make. It has, generally, a good prognosis. However, those who are diagnosed with the condition earlier on have better prognosis, given that they have a loving family and network of friends, strong self-esteem, and with proper treatment.
Special education may also help. Dyslexic children can improve learning when they can utilize most of their senses as they could. By regular practice, their skills are reinforced as they are able to "overlearn" the skills where they are challenged by (“Dyslexic, You’re Not Alone..” p. 1).
“Dyslexic, You’re Not Alone..” 2010. Levinson Medical Center for Learning Disabilities. Accessed on 05 February 2012 < http://www.dyslexiaonline.com/famous/famous.htm>.
Famous Dyslexic People. 2011. Background_Color Website. Accessed on 05 February 2012 < http://www.dyslexia-test.com/famous.html>.
Kraft, S. What Is Dyslexia? What Causes Dyslexia? April 27, 2010. Medical News Today. Accessed on 5 February 2012
“Overcoming Dyslexia.” N.d. Edublox Website. Accessed on 5 February 2012 < http://dyslexia.learninginfo.org/overcoming.htm>.
Ziegler, J. C.; Perry, C.; Ma-Wtatt, A.; Ladner, D.; Schulte-Korne, G. (2003). "Developmental dyslexia in different languages: Language specific or universal?" Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 86 (3): 169–19.