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Dyslexia - Introduction

Science EncyclopediaDyslexia

One of the first things we learn as school children is how to read. Reading is a key that can unlock an unlimited number of doors. Storybooks invite us to visit imagined worlds. In magazines, we can read about fashion, politics, or music. Newspapers inform us of events happening across the globe or around the corner.

Often without thinking about it, we rely on reading to manage our daily lives and ensure our safety. We read labels on cereal boxes and soup cans to find out the ingredients. We consult the telephone book to locate a business or find the phone number of a neighbor. We read traffic signs. We read warning labels.

But what if a child has trouble learning to read?

Over 100 years ago, in November of 1896, a doctor in Sussex, England, published the first description of a learning disability that would come to be known as dyslexia. W.Pringle Morgan wrote in the British Medical Journal, “Percy F, aged 14, has always been a bright and intelligent boy, quick at games, and in no way inferior to others of his age. His great difficulty has been—and is now—his inability to learn to read.”

Morgan describes a mystery that has stumped doctors, teachers, and parents for over a century. Why do some very bright people have trouble learning to read? People often assume that if someone is smart and works hard in school, he or she should have no trouble learning to read. But the experience of millions of dyslexics like Percy F has shown this assumption to be false.

Dyslexia is a language disability. It is also considered a learning disability. It affects a person's ability to read, write, and spell in accepted ways. Dyslexia tends to affect the ability to communicate in more subtle ways, too. For instance, someone with dyslexia may be pretty sure they know another person's name, but when they say the name, it comes out all wrong. Or, no matter how much a student with dyslexia studies for a test, the next day he or she might completely forget the material. Although just as smart as the other kids in his or her class, it may take a student with dyslexia five times longer to do homework.

As much as dyslexics have a learning and language disability, they also have gifts. As we learn more and more about how the mind receives and digests information, we also learn that everyone's mind does not work in exactly the same way. While dyslexics may find it hard to express themselves in words sometimes, they may have a talent for thinking in terms of three-dimensional pictures. They may have a gift for music or art. They could be phenomenal gymnasts or great scientists and inventors. They may be very sensitive to the emotions of others. They may be highly perceptive about other people's thoughts and feelings.

Many people do not realize that they have dyslexia. Unfortunately, teachers and parents do not always notice that a child has a language disability. Often they find other explanations for a student's school troubles. Fortunately, if dyslexia is diagnosed, it can be managed. People with dyslexia can and do learn!

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