It’s easy for most of us to take for granted our reading skills and the ability to understand and gain information from printed material. We don’t often think about it, but these activities are integral to daily life.
Physicians who research and teachers who work with children and adults now have an exploding field of modern neuroscience to help explain it and teach those with learning disorders. These reading and learning disabilities have no boundaries, neither language, ethnic, geographic nor intellectual. From all parts of the globe, England, Thailand, Italy, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Israel and Argentina come stories of children and adults who experience the same kind of difficulties.
Why are some people who are so smart unable to read and spell? Certain children or adults who are verbally intelligent and perhaps even gifted can still have dyslexia. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. Over the past several decades, a model has emerged based on deficits in phonological processing; processing the distinct sounds of language. Brain imaging shows differences in brain organization and function. The dyslexic brain “lights up” using different patterns and so when the individual reads, he compensates in various ways.
These children, college students and adults often need learning accommodations, must work harder and take more time than others. These accommodations connect the individuals with their strengths and help them reach their potential at work or school. Because of the science-based evidence, there are now ways to successfully remediate dyslexia, although it never goes away.
Young adults with dyslexia do attend many Ivy League schools, even Harvard and Yale. There are many successful people with dyslexia who become doctors, lawyers, business moguls, artists, actors; accomplished in various careers. Among those are Charles Schwab, financial guru; John Irving, author; Wendy Wasserman, Pulitzer Prize playwright; Henry Winkler, actor, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, surgeon; Walt Disney, John Lennon, Dustin Hoffman, Steven Spielberg, John F. and Robert Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, General George Patton, Leonardo Da Vinci and Mozart.
There is no deadline or age limit for when a person can learn to read and research attests to the plasticity of the brain, even in adults. Lack of literacy is a concern in our country with at least one-quarter of the population unable to read even a simple passage and answer questions about it. If you know someone who never reads for pleasure, has poor spelling and probably reads slower than average, they may have undiagnosed mild dyslexia. If reading difficulties run in the family, take notice. If you know children who are bright, but still struggle to learn reading, take action to help them.
The Children’s Dyslexia Center Cleveland at 3615 Euclid Ave., uses the Orton-Gillingham Approach method. It is an amazing resource providing tutoring free to children with dyslexia through a charitable project of the Masons. Cleveland has a myriad of other resources for both children and adults, including hospitals which can offer recommendations of where to get evaluated and information about successful instructional options.