Dyslexia: What is it? What is it not?


It is my hope to build up a body of writings on dyslexia, so maybe some dyslexics can find it. Maybe it will help them.  Or I hope it might help even one dyslexic.


Why? There is still very little known about dyslexia, and what is known is often still myth.


Who am I? I am a dyslexic in my late fifties and I have picked up a few things over the years. Dyslexia runs in my family. One of my nephews is so dyslexic he had great difficulty learning to read and getting through high school and college. My father was an undiagnosed dyslexic who had difficulty learning to read and also some difficulty with math. He was an engineer who went on to become a well-known expert in his field who also had two technical books published. In researching my family history to create family trees and write about our genealogy, I talked to a cousin and she mentioned her father, my father’s brother, was so dyslexic he rarely drove. He confused right and left too much. On the other hand, he was extremely good with historical dates.


I was diagnosed as a “mild dyslexic” who would “grow out of it” when I was in the second to fourth grade (I can no longer remember which grade, but I was young). In my father’s era, he was born in 1909, dyslexic was rarely diagnosed. In my era, I grew up in the 1950’s/1960’s, it was also rarely diagnosed. The only reason I was diagnosed was because our grammar school was near the University of California, Berkeley, and some graduate students working on their thesis used our school to test their theories.


But my diagnosis was wrong. One does not “grow out of dyslexia,” it is there for one’s life time. What happens instead is that a dyslexic makes an adaptation to their dyslexia, compensates, so that over time it will appear to go away if their compensations are adequate. They may, in fact, adapt so well that others will not know they are dyslexic unless they themselves mention it. But it is true, my dyslexia is “milder” than some. I learned to read fairly easily and quickly. I am a tremendous reader and read more than most people I have known in real life. (On the Net that is a different story.)


So what is absolutely factual about dyslexia?:


  1. No one knows exactly what causes it or what it is. Only the effects are known and even those are not well documented.
  2. It does seem to be a genetic trait, so the tendency is inheritiable, and it runs in families.
  3. It has been tied to the sixth gene on the DNA helix. Allergies are also on the sixth gene. This is the ONLY scientific proof of anything physical about dyslexia.
  4. There is no proof that a dyslexic’s brain and a non-dyslexic’s brain are different. No autoposises show any difference in brains, any difference in “hard wiring.”
  5. Dyslexia has nothing to do with sight, and dyslexics do not see differently.
  6. However, dyslexia affects different dyslexics differently.
  7. Most dyslexics have difficultly with left and right, telling the difference between their left and right hands and left and right directions. However, a fair number of non-dsylexics also have some difficulty with this.
  8. Most dyslexics have difficulty learning to read and/or to write. This difficulty can be mild to strong. Some may also have difficulty with learning math. Some may also have difficulty with learning to tell time and tracking the passage of time.
  9. Not necessarily true for all, but true for many dyslexics, is extreme difficulty with monosyllabic words. Three letter words with one vowel, especially.
  10. Again, not necessarily true for all, but for many, is the inability to sound words out, to use phonetics. This makes learning to read and write even more difficult and, also as a result, most dyslexics are poor spellers (computer spell checkers are great).
  11. There is no connection at all between dyslexia and intelligence. In fact, many dyslexics are above average intelligence. On the other hand, a higher proportion than normal of prison inmates are dyslexic. This would lead one to believe for dyslexics who never master the art of reading, frustration is high, and they may turn to a life of crime because they are not able to get through school and get a decent job. (But as to the reason why, the last comment is just a theory.)
  12. The number of dyslexics in the general population is unknown (because it is still not routinely tested for so it remains undiagnosed in many), but I have seen estimates of between 2% to 17%. The percentage usually given is just under 10%.
  13. There is still no proven course of study for dyslexics to help them learn to read/write, do math, etc. There are some courses offered by private institutes, but there is no proof that these are any more effective than normal school work. Most public schools do not have any particular approach to help dyslexics.
  14. Dyslexics may learn better with a multimedia approach rather than with just reading/hearing. They also may learn better by being able to arrive at some intellectual understanding of the material presented rather than just learning by rote, regardless of their age, no matter how young.
  15. There is an adage about dyslexia that has some truth, “What is easy is difficult and what is difficult is easy.” This means that the things that others find easy to do, dyslexics may find difficult to do, and vice-a-versa.


Everything else, EVERTHING ELSE, is speculation and hypothesis, and unproven.


Over time I hope to offer my tips on learning to read and write. Especially learning to read monosyllabic words.


I also plan to review books and theories and point you to links about dyslexia that might be helpful. I will also offer my own theory about dyslexia, but, on the whole, I will try to present the factual rather than the mythical.


Of course, dyslexics who have extreme difficulty reading may never read this. 🙂



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