What is Dyslexia?

dys·lex·i·a (noun):

“A specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.” –International Dyslexia Association

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Frequently Asked Questions
Why do people with dyslexia often have trouble with reading and writing?

Reading and writing are complicated processes—different regions of our brains are involved in the creation (encoding) and understanding (decoding) of written words. Dyslexia occurs when the brain is unable to consistently link the written shape of a letter or word with the sound it makes. This difficulty—which is naturally occurring and often genetic—can be worsened by a lack of direct, sequential, phonetic instruction. Other environmental factors can also make dyslexia more pronounced, such as psychiatric disorders or a lack of access to educational resources. In short, having dyslexia doesn’t mean an individual is totally incapable of reading—dyslexia exists on a spectrum, and people with dyslexia struggle with language to varying degrees.

Do people with dyslexia have low intelligence?

Not at all—in fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Research has shown that dyslexia and low IQ are not correlated.[1] Many researchers have also noted that highly gifted children often show signs of dyslexia.[2] Dyslexia is typically suggested as a possible diagnosis when an individual is having greater difficulty with reading and writing than their IQ score would otherwise suggest. Of course, “intelligence” is an abstract concept that cannot be fully measured by an IQ score, and people with both low IQ scores and dyslexia are absolutely capable of high achievement in educational and vocational settings.

References: 

[1]   Ferrer, E., Shaywitz, B. A., Holahan, J. M., Marchione, K., & Shaywitz, S. E. (2010). Uncoupling of Reading and IQ Over Time: Empirical Evidence for a Definition of Dyslexia. Psychological Science, 21(1), 93–101. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797609354084

[2]  Peer, L. (2000). Gifted and Talented Children with Dyslexia. In 909388801 715970072 M. J. Stopper (Author), Meeting the social and emotional needs of gifted and talented children. London: David Fulton.

How common is dyslexia?

Very common. The IDA estimates that about 15-20% of the American population experiences symptoms of dyslexia. Dyslexia occurs in individuals of all backgrounds, and it manifests within a spectrum—your symptoms do not have to be “severe” for your learning difficulties to qualify as dyslexia.[1]

References:

[1] Dyslexia Basics. (2020, March 10). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://dyslexiaida.org/dyslexia-basics/

What are the signs of dyslexia?

Our detailed list of common symptoms of dyslexia can be found here. You can also take our non-diagnostic dyslexia screener for adults here, or our screener for children here. (This is not a substitute for a clinical dyslexia diagnosis.)

Can dyslexia be clinically diagnosed?

Yes. Clinical dyslexia diagnostic evaluations are typically administered by a licensed educational counselor or psychologist. More information about receiving a diagnostic evaluation through WILDD can be found here.

If I have dyslexia, will I be able to go to college?

Yes. Many students with dyslexia find great success in undergraduate, postgraduate, and technical college programs. A great deal of universities now offer extra support for students with dyslexia, including adaptive technology, assistive note-taking, and extra time. Check out the Yale Dyslexia Center’s guide to attending college with dyslexia here

If I have dyslexia, will I be able to find and keep a job?

Yes. The majority of individuals with dyslexia are able to perform successfully in their chosen field. Many people with dyslexia find that they are able to achieve highly in careers related to the STEM fields, athletics, the arts, and skilled trades. Additionally, employees with dyslexia and specific learning disabilities are entitled to workplace accommodations per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Certain employers may also be willing to sponsor remedial dyslexia instruction (via programs such as those offered through WILDD) through the appropriate state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

If I have dyslexia, will I be able to learn a second language?

Yes. While second-language acquisition can be more difficult with dyslexia, individuals are absolutely capable of doing so. Dyslexia cannot be worsened by studying a second language.[1] Students who are struggling with foreign-language requirements may want to request special accommodations, such as extra time on tests or electronic materials that can be used with adaptive technologies. For more information on second-language acquisition with dyslexia, check out the International Dyslexia Association’s fact sheet here.

References:

[1] Paradis, J., Genesee, F., & Crago, M. (2011). Dual Language Development and Disorders: A Handbook on Bilingualism and Second Language Learning (2nd Edit.). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

Can dyslexia be cured?

While dyslexia cannot be cured, it can be treated and effectively managed. The clinically recommended treatment for dyslexia is an educational program that focuses on direct, sequential, multisensory phonetic instruction. Early intervention is key—students who begin remedial dyslexia programs at a younger age are shown to have a greater degree of remediation than older children or adults. However, individuals with dyslexia are able to undergo remediation at any age.[1] You can find more information about WILDD’s remedial program, CLASS, here.

References:

[1]   Tressoldi, P. E., Lorusso, M. L., Brenbati, F., & Donini, R. (2008). Fluency remediation in dyslexic children: Does age make a difference? Dyslexia, 14(2), 142-152. doi:10.1002/dys.359

Celebrities with Dyslexia

 

Albert Einstein
Muhammad Ali
Robin Williams
Whoopie Goldberg
Galileo
Jennifer Aniston
Walt Disney
Magic Johnson
Henry Winkler
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Quick Facts

Learning Disabilities

  • The Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities estimates that there are 6 million adults with learning disabilities.
  • As many as 1 out of every 5 people in the U.S. has a learning disability. Almost 3 million children (ages 6 through 21) have some form of a learning disability and receive special education in school. (23rd Annual Report to Congress, U.S. Dep. of Education, 2001; National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities – www.nichcy.org/pubs/factshe/fs7txt.htm)
  • Specific learning disabilities have increased by 22% over the past 25 years. In the past decade, the number of students ages six to 21 years identified with specific learning disabilities has increased by 38%. (Source: National Institutes of Health, 2003- http://grants2.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-HD-02-031.html)
  • 35% of children with learning disabilities drop out of high school. This is twice the rate of students without LD. Of those who do graduate, less than 2% attend a four-year college, despite the fact that many are above average in intelligence. (National Longitudinal Transition Study)
  • 48% of those with learning disabilities are out of the workforce or unemployed. (Bridges to Practice)

Illiteracy

  • The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) estimates that 30 million adults in the U.S. –14% of the country’s adult population – have only the most minimal ability to read and write in English.
  • One in five adults – over 40 million Americans – has pressing literacy needs (NALS).
  • 43% of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty, 17% receive food stamps, and 70% have no job or a part-time job (National Institute for Literacy).
  • 20% of preschool aged children live in poverty and are likely to be part of families where the parent with the highest education has less than a high school education (National Institute of Family Literacy).