This is a long post, but one that's near and dear to my heart. I hope you'll all have time to read it.
I love the written word. This is a love affair that began when I first discovered reading and spelling way back….. Well, we won’t go there. Let’s just say that Dick and Jane watching Spot play were part of my curriculum. For those of you who don’t remember those old reading primers, I can just say, “That’s unfortunate because Dick, Jane and their dog Spot were wonderful friends for young children first learning to read.”
I have two grandchildren with Dyslexia; my twenty-year-old granddaughter and her twelve-year-old brother.
My grandchildren were, and are, fortunate to attend Prentice School for Dyslexic Children. It goes from K-8 grades, and uses the Slingerland method of teaching—a very specific method for dyslexic children. What a wonderful boon for these children to be in an environment where all the students have the same learning disability. During their time at Prentice they are taught not only to read, spell and comprehend—along with the usual school requisites—but they are prepared academically and socially to enter the public school system in the 9th grade.
I helped my grandson with his homework the other afternoon, as I do most days. This time as I watched his painful struggle to read and process the written words, it dawned on me how much I take reading and writing for granted. It saddened me that what comes so easily for some is so hard for others.
Like most of you, probably, I am a voracious reader. Always have been. Reading came easy for me in school. I can remember in grade school I was always in the top reading group. And weren’t those in the bottom group dumb? Why couldn’t they get what was obviously so easy? They just weren’t trying! How wrong I, along with so many others over the years, was. Thank God, I have matured since then!
So, while helping my grandson with his homework, I decided to search the internet for information on dyslexia and to find out about authors with dyslexia. First I researched facts.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services. (The International Dyslexia Association)
What causes dyslexia?
The exact causes of dyslexia are still not completely clear, but anatomical and brain imagery studies show differences in the way the brain of a dyslexic person develops and functions. Moreover, most people with dyslexia have been found to have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds, a key factor in their reading difficulties. Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods, dyslexics can learn successfully. (The International Dyslexia Association)
What are the effects of dyslexia?
The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. The core difficulty is with word recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and writing. Some dyslexics manage to learn early reading and spelling tasks, especially with excellent instruction, but later experience their most debilitating problems when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding textbook material, and writing essays.
People with dyslexia can also have problems with spoken language, even after they have been exposed to good language models in their homes and good language instruction in school. They may find it difficult to express themselves clearly, or to fully comprehend what others mean when they speak. Such language problems are often difficult to recognize, but they can lead to major problems in school, in the workplace, and in relating to other people. The effects of dyslexia reach well beyond the classroom.
(Let me insert a side comment here. It breaks my heart when my grandson tries to tell me something and gets frustrated. He’ll say, “Oh never mind. I can’t think of the right words.”)
Dyslexia can also affect a person’s self-image. Students with dyslexia often end up feeling “dumb” and less capable than they actually are. After experiencing a great deal of stress due to academic problems, a student may become discouraged about continuing in school. (The International Dyslexia Association)
(Another side note: This is why the Prentice School for Dyslexic Children, or one like it in your area, is so important.)
· Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.
· 15% to 20% of the population has dyslexia.
· Of the students with specific learning disabilities receiving special education, 70% to 80% have deficits in reading.
· Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
· Dyslexia effects males and females almost equally, and people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds as well.
· 74% of the children who are poor readers in the third grade remain poor readers in the 9th grade and on into adulthood.
Information gathered from www.dyslexiadash.com
Then I researched “Authors with Dyslexia.” I think you’ll be as amazed as I was. There are so many, but I’m only including a partial list that I found on www.happydyslexic.com
1. Agatha Christie
2. Edgar Allen Poe
3. Elizabeth Daniels Squire
4. Fannie Flagg (Author of "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe")
5. F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. Hans Christian Andersen
7. Jules Verne
8. Kinely MacGregor/Sherrilyn Kenyon: Writer of Romance, Fantasy and Suspense
9. Stephen J. Cannell: screenwriter, producer, director, and novel writer.
And there are so many more. I cannot even imagine trying to write a novel if I were handicapped with dyslexia. After three surgeries for brain aneurysms, I experienced what the Psycho-analyst called “word-search difficulties.” I would come up with a word that began with the same letter, but was not the word that expressed what I wanted to say. With therapy I overcame that problem. In fact, I wrote my first book as part of that therapy.
But, obviously the prolific authors with dyslexia do not consider themselves handicapped. They have decided not to allow dyslexia to keep them from their dreams. What an inspiration for my grandchildren!
Oh, and another thing. Henry Winkler visited Prentice School for Dyslexic Children last week. He is dyslexic. Not only did he make a career for himself as “the Fonz” on Happy Days, among many ensuing roles, but he now writes children’s books!
To any of you reading this, who are Dyslexic, I applaud you. I admire you. For those, who may not have experienced it or don’t have a family member coping with it—I hope I’ve imparted a glimmer of understanding into the world of people with Dyslexia.
So the next time you hear someone pronounce a word “not quite right,” or stumble when they read—I hope you’ll remember this blog!
Oh, my granddaughter graduated from high school and entered college for a degree in Criminal Justice. She wants to work for the DEA – Drug Enforcement Agency.