Dyslexia an 'invisible' learning disability Just for kids

Ask The Experts

October 07, 1998|By Susan Rapp

In recognition of October's designation as National Dyslexia Month, reading specialist Susan Rapp describes this learning disability and its far-reaching impact.

Learning disabilities encompass a variety of handicapping conditions and affect about 15 percent of Americans. The

learning disability known as dyslexia refers to difficulties not only in learning how to read, but also in processing written and spoken language. At school, problems may emerge in the areas of reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, speaking or listening. Typically, a person with dyslexia has difficulty associating the spoken sounds with the written symbols (letters) representing those sounds. Frequently confused letters - such as b, d and q, or m and w - can become "twisted" in reading or writing, so he may write was for saw or left for felt. Sounds can also become confused in speech. For instance, when attempting to say mechanic, she may say, "Oh, you know, that person who fixes cars." Or he may scramble words when talking, such as aminal for animal, rustard and melish for mustard and relish.

Dyslexia is not the result of low intelligence. People with dyslexia exhibit the full range of intelligence that any other population group might evidence, although they may display a gap between their potential and their performance. Many high-achievers either are or were thought to be dyslexic: inventor Thomas Edison, mathematician Albert Einstein, Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner and actor Tom Cruise.

Sometimes dyslexia is called the "invisible handicap" because it is so difficult to imagine its impact. An exercise from the book "Josh: A Boy With Dyslexia" by Caroline Janover provides an idea of what it feels like to be dyslexic:

1. Find a pencil and a piece of paper.

2. Stand in front of a mirror.

3. Put the paper against your forehead.

4. Looking into the mirror, write the word good.

5. Look at the word. Did you write it correctly?

6. Try again, but now pretend your teacher is standing next to you saying, "Hurry up! Everyone else is finished!"

Average or above-average students with dyslexia learn to compensate in creative and unique ways. Teaching techniques supported by research involve a multisensory, structured and sequential approach, which includes all the modalities (visual, auditory, tactile-kinesthetic). With the right help, dyslexic students can become good readers and successes in school. For information on dyslexia, contact the International Dyslexia Association, 410-296-0232, Web site: http://www.interdys.org.

Pub Date: 10/07/98

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