“Dyslexia is not a disease nor an identifiable physical condition, but a learning style.” - Betty Fetter
According to the Department of Biotechnology, the occurrence of dyslexia in India is estimated at 10% and nearly 35 million children in the country are thought to have this learning disability.
Yet many of us do not understand the implications and misinterpret them in many ways. We all remember the learning disability made famous in the movie, Taare Zameen Pe. However, many of us still do not understand its real implications and treat it as an incurable disease.
Let us take a quick look into the different aspects of dyslexia and try to understand it a little better.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia comes from the words Dys which means difficulty and Lexie which means words. It refers to a Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in reading.
It comes from a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to read, write and spell. A child with dyslexia finds it difficult to read words and understand language in print. However, that does not label him/her as ‘disabled or abnormal’. They can have normal intelligence, rather at times even above average intelligence. They are often more creative as well.
It has been estimated that between 5 and 10% of the world’s population has dyslexia. Some studies indicate that in India, this figure is as high as 17%. Considering India’s huge and growing youth population, it is very important for parents, teachers, and students to understand the real problems and bridge the gap with early and better intervention.
What are the symptoms of dyslexia?
Some of the visible symptoms of dyslexia can be speech impairment, poor vocabulary, difficulty in decoding symbols and sounds, and others. The symptoms can vary from one child to another, so we should avoid comparing their conditions and taking decisions. It has been seen that children with dyslexia often mix up letters in reading and writing, for example using “b” in place of “d”, or they make calculation errors because they don’t see numbers in a given sequence.
According to Bishop and Snowling (2004), some of the most common characteristics of dyslexia include:
Time management difficulties
It has been seen that children have a 50% chance of having dyslexia if one parent has it, and a 100% chance if both parents have it. Dyslexia can range from mild to severe. Around 40% of people with dyslexia also have ADHD. And those with dyslexia use about 5 times more energy to complete mental tasks.
What are the different areas of concern in dyslexia?
Reading performance is measured by word reading accuracy which is the ease to identify words and read fluently. This might be an issue for dyslexic kids. Their reading rate and word reading accuracy are both lower than others. Hence, comprehension, which is the most important element of reading is a challenge for such kids. Words are made of individual sounds, which they are not able to decode always. Hence, they face difficulty with rhyming words. Hence they need to be exposed to specialized reading techniques, which we will talk about in our subsequent articles.
Dyslexic people also face difficulty with spelling which hampers their reading rate. Learning to spell maybe even harder than learning to read for some people with dyslexia. Kids with dyslexia often confuse letters that have similar sounds. Vowels can be especially tricky for them. They may mix up the order of letters (like felt for left). They may also misspell common sight words, even after lots of practice.
Along with reading and spelling, dyslexic kids find it difficult to express their thoughts with words while writing as well. There is a deficit in the phonological component of language for them. The major problem areas are poor spelling, poor legibility, lack of diverse vocabulary, poor idea development, and lack of organization and structure.
We have to understand that dyslexia is not a disease, but it can be better explained as a brain-based disorder. Hence early identification and intervention are crucial to detect the problem in a child so that he/she can be given necessary and relevant help in time. So it is high time that we do not single out dyslexic children, rather embrace them to include them in various ways. Dyslexia doesn’t stop you from reaching great heights. And you have to remember that you are not alone.
There are so many inspiring stories about dyslexic people around us - celebrities like Tom Cruise, Abhishek Bachchan, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, Muhammad Ali, and many others. These people have not let their condition restrict them in life, rather they have made it their strength to achieve success.