What is dyslexia and does dyslexia have a cure? This question has become almost ubiquitous in recent years as dyslexia diagnoses have become more common. In this article, it is my goal to provide answers to the questions: “What is dyslexia?”, “How do you get dyslexia?”, “What are the symptoms of dyslexia?”, “Can you cure dyslexia?”, and “Who has dyslexia?”.
According to the National Institute of Health, dyslexia is a reading disorder that presents itself in people with otherwise normal intelligence. According to the National Institute of Health, roughly 7% of students in the U.S. will be diagnosed with dyslexia (Seminar: Developmental Dyslexia). Yale University describes Dyslexia as “an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader.” (Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity). Accordingly, students with dyslexia often read slower than their peers and have trouble with spelling and sequencing tasks. Unexpectedly, however, dyslexic students often have very fast creative problem-solving skills in non-reading academic tasks. This ability to perform some tasks very quickly and others slowly can leave dyslexic students and their families confused. The good news, however, is that with the right tools dyslexic students can use this to their advantage.
Dyslexia is genetic, in other words, it travels through families. Accordingly, if you have a family history of dyslexia, it is more likely that you (or your children) will also be dyslexic. While scientists aren’t exactly sure which genes control dyslexia, they have observed a fascinating connection between roughly 6 genes and prenatal neural development (in other words these genes are controlling how your brain develops before you are even born). While you might be developing before you are even born, dyslexia is rarely diagnosed until you begin learning to read. Many students can so skillfully work around their dyslexia, that they are not even diagnosed until high school or college!
Dyslexia is diagnosed through something called a “psychoeducational assessment” (often referred to as a “psych-ed” for short). During this assessment, a medical doctor and clinical psychologist will team up to assess a student’s learning style (and general cognitive abilities). by the end of such an assessment, if it is appropriate, the providers will be able to provide a diagnosis of dyslexia.
If you are considering pursuing a “psych-ed” assessment for yourself (or your student), it is important to consider the common symptoms of dyslexia. The Mayo Clinic offers a comprehensive article explaining a host of dyslexia symptoms at a host of development stages in THIS ARTICLE. Generally speaking, however, the following symptoms are likely evidence that a student might be struggling with dyslexia.
The fundamentally different wiring of a dyslexic brain causes many unpleasant symptoms like the ones listed above; however, this unique wiring can also empower dyslexic individuals with a host of strengths. Yale University research shows many students with dyslexia are unusually gifted in the following.
Because dyslexia offers many strengths to complement its many setbacks, having a “cure” for dyslexia is rarely considered the goal. For most, the goal is to find a way of treating and reducing the negative symptoms of dyslexia, allowing the strengths to shine through.
Fortunately, there are a wide array of very effective interventions for dyslexia! If caught early, most of the negative symptoms of dyslexia can be almost completely erased with the following resources.
When navigating dyslexia, it is critical to keep in mind all the wonderful people around you who also have dyslexia!
Albert Einstein, arguably our society’s most ubiquitous genius meme, was dyslexic. Einstein struggled tremendously with learning foreign languages (and school generally) and was even kicked out of University for poor academic performance. Einstein was famous for saying “Words or language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play
any role in my mechanism of thought.” (letter, 1945) He also said the following about words “Thoughts did not come in any verbal formulation. I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterwards.” (interview)
Steven Speilberg, the American screenwriter, director, and producer, is dyslexic. It is easy to see the connection between Speilberg’s unusual ability to visualize and then create fantastic worlds with his dyslexia. Interestingly, Speilberg didn’t discover that he was dyslexic until he was about 60 years old. Watch this incredible interview where Speilberg talks about his Dyslexia. Steven Speilberg Dyslexia Interview.
Kiera Knightly, the British Actress, is dyslexic. Despite her dyslexia, Kiera managed to be top of her class in school. Read all about Kiera’s academic and acting journey HERE.
Tommy Hilfiger, the American fashion designer, and businessman, discusses his dyslexia in this movie!
Grantly Neely, (me) the author of this article, I am dyslexic! Despite struggling tremendously with reading in lower and middle school, I was able to graduate as the valedictorian of my high school class. Next, I studied Economics and Studio Art at Dartmouth College (an ‘Ivy League’ university). Currently, I am the founder of the learning center and education technology company Granite! I love making videos to explain math, physics, and economics concepts in “dyslexic friendly” ways! Follow me on YouTube to watch all the videos! Also, follow this link to learn more about all of our wonderful “dyslexic friendly” educators here at Granite.