Dyslexia Is Not A Disease – It Is A Different Way of Learning

Dyslexia is a difficult disorder – it is not a disease. Those afflicted with it have difficulty reading, writing, spelling and/or math, but they are able to learn and are not retarded. As a matter of fact, a high percentage of them are above average in intelligence. They have excellent and productive minds, but process language skills differently.

The common myth about dyslexics is that they read backwards and reverse letters and words. Although some may have these symptoms, these are NOT the most common or most important attributes. They may have trouble rhyming and separating sounds that make up a spoken word, which seems to be critical in the process of learning to read.

In general, dyslexics will encounter:

  • Difficulty determining the meaning (idea content) of a simple sentence
  • Difficulty learning to recognize written words
  • Difficulty rhyming
  • Problems in school, including behavior problems
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Reading problems that persist into adulthood, which may affect job performance, particularly if the problem was not addressed early in life

Most children learn to read by recognizing words and being able to sound out the letters and grouping them together to make words.

At least 10% of the population is dyslexic, yet dyslexia often goes undiagnosed. The person struggles in school, work, and often is labeled as retarded or slow. All too often these people drop out of school and end up in low-paying jobs when proper instruction could help them. Teachers should be trained in what to look for in students who are struggling, and then make sure proper training is given them so they are able to continue their education.

Other skills that may be affected could include processing auditory and information, planning and organizing, short-term memory, motor skills and concentration. Some of these can make it especially challenging for individuals to follow instructions, turn thoughts into words and finish certain tasks on time.

Dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder. Brain research, including studies from Yale and Auckland Universities, have shown that while it is common to use the ‘verbal’ left side of our brain to understand words, dyslexic people use the ‘pictorial’ right side — making them slower to process and understand language, but stronger in creative areas like problem solving, empathy and lateral thinking.

World dyslexia authority Sally Shaywitz, founder of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity is a pioneer in this area. Her laboratory was one of the first in the world to image the dyslexic brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The data obtained from several thousand children and adults, combined with fMRI data from around the world, revealed a distinctive neural signature for dyslexia, with some parts of the modules for phonological awareness appearing in the right brain, and some visual processing modules located in the left brain.

Shaywitz believes dyslexics are higher-level thinkers with high learning capacity and exceptional empathy. They tend to be top-down thinkers rather than bottom-up thinkers. This means they learn by getting the big picture of the meaning first and then fill in specifics. They are definitely out-of-the-box thinkers, and are frequently the ones who provide new insights into a situation.

Dyslexic people are highly creative, intuitive, and excel at three-dimensional problem solving and hands-on learning. They are visual learners, and with proper methods in place they will be able to tap into their creative process and master reading in a way that is comfortable for them.

There is no doubt that living with dyslexia is not easy. It can be frustrating for the child, the teacher, the parents, and other around them as they struggle to find their niche and rhythm. It is teachable, however, and many famous people in history have had this disorder and gone on to become pioneers. Famous dyslexics who have unlocked their potential include historical figures as diverse as Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Steven Speilburg, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Keira Knightly, Whoopi Goldberg, and Walt Disney all have/had dyslexia.

In the overall scheme of things, dyslexia can be characterized as a learning preference, and not a disability, based on individuals preferring to receive, process and present information in ways that make more sense to the dyslexic-wired brain. This would include orally, visually or with different senses instead of through the written word.

About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.


Scoop Education — Dyslexia: Beyond the Myth: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/ED0511/S00051.htm

Dyslexia, The Gift — Why is Dyslexia a Gift?: http://www.dyslexia.com/

The Dyxlexia Foundation of New Zealand – http://www.dyslexiafoundation.org.nz/index_flash.php

PubMed Health — Developmental Reading Disorder: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002379/

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