The label Dyslexia is often used as a blanket term to label and sideline students who are having trouble learning to read. Often, once these students have been labelled, nothing EFFECTIVE is done to solve these students’ literacy problems.
Let’s look at some Dyslexia statistics. For more information, go to the Articles page, then to Research.
In this article, I’ll insert a quote, then illustrate it with a graphic to help you see what I mean.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE DYSLEXIA?
Think about the last 20 adults (people 16 and over) you walked past in the street.
Nearly half of America’s adults are poor readers, or “functionally illiterate.” They can’t carry out simple tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job.
National Adult Literacy Survey of 1993.
WHAT PROPORTIONS OF MALE AND FEMALE HAVE DYSLEXIA?
Nearly the same percentage of males and females have dyslexia.
HOW MANY CHILDREN HAVE DYSLEXIA?
Dyslexia affects one out of every five children – ten million in America alone.
Sally Shaywitz, M.D., 2004
I have some questions about these figures:
- 20% of children have dyslexia, but nearly 50% of adults have trouble reading?
- Do 20% of children have dyslexia, and 30% have another problem that causes low reading?
- Do lots of people lose much of their ability to read, once they become adults?
WHY DO THESE PEOPLE HAVE DYSLEXIA?
The causes for reading difficulty may be neurobiological (caused by differences in the structure and function of the brain), experiential (the student could not learn because of his behaviour or inability to pay attention), instructional (the teacher did not provide adequate instruction), or a combination of these factors.
At present, there is no genetic or neurological test to diagnose or predict whose problems are primarily neurobiological or which problems are experiential or instructional (dyslexia is a neurobiological condition).
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
It means that of those 9 people who can’t read properly, we’re unable to tell if a particular person can’t read because of problems with the brain, learning difficulties, or poor teaching! So perhaps we could assume that:.
- 1 or 2 might need a specialist/specialist training, and proper literacy teaching;
- another 2 or 3 might just need a non-specialist using special training, and proper literacy teaching; and
- the other 5 just need proper literacy teaching.
So, if we taught EVERYONE using proper phonics-based courses:
- that would help 16 of the 20 people (including the ones now in difficulty who just need proper teaching);
- then, we give one-to-one/small group teaching by a non-specialist for those still in difficulty, that will catch at least half of those still in trouble;
- then specialists teach the remaining 1 or 2;
we should have taught practically everyone to read!
So, it’s not right to lump all the people who can’t read properly into the ‘must have dyslexia, so won’t be able to learn to read – so don’t bother trying’ category.
HOW MANY DYSLEXICS COULD BE HELPED?
According to this information, there should be no more than 10% of people with no literacy, or very low literacy. And, with the right help, nearly all the people in that 10% should be able to read, too.
It means that since we can’t tell what type of problem students might have, we should teach EVERYONE to read in as near a fail-proof way as possible. Then, whether or not they have a problem, they’ve been presented with the truth about how sounds and letters work. They’ve been shown how literacy makes sense. They’ve been given the best start possible.
What does this mean to you as you think about teaching someone to read? It means there’s HOPE that you can solve your student’s problem either totally, or enough to make a major difference.
IF YOUR CHILD HAS DYSLEXIA
If you strongly suspect that your student falls into the red or pink categories, I recommend you look at Audiblox. (See Audiblox on the Articles page.)
Go ahead and apply to have Dyslexia testing if you want, but don’t waste time waiting for a diagnosis before doing something. Act Now!
A diagnosis of dyslexia might be useful for things like getting extra time for tests, etc., but often, nothing else useful comes of having a diagnosis. Often, it’s just a label. It doesn’t mean that the student will be given effective remedial help – it’s likely you’ll have to look after that yourself.
We’re still learning about the brain, and about dyslexia. It was thought at one stage that dyslexia might be caused by the brain being too ‘right-brained’. But many right-brained people read perfectly well.
WHAT WE NOW THINK DYSLEXIA IS
It appears that dyslexia might be caused by the brain wiring going a bit wrong – but brains can be re-wired, because that’s what brains are for – wiring and re-wiring! Brains wire and re-wire, just as lungs breathe in and out.
The problem is that Whole Word methods of teaching literacy actually help the brain wire wrongly for reading, so Whole Word methods can CAUSE dyslexia in a brain that wasn’t naturally dyslexic.
And if someone was right-brained (and half the population is born right-brained – so it can’t be a DEFECT), and then had their brain wired wrongly for reading and writing through being taught the Whole Word method, then it might have been enough to tip them into the dyslexic category. This is because basic literacy skills are LEFT brained skills, and everyone (whether left or right-brained) needs to practice these skills using their left brain.
BECOME A BRAIN ELECTRICIAN – DO SOME RE-WIRING
If your child or student has wiring problems, you and the brain’s owner are going to have to turn into brain electricians – and do some re-wiring.
Remember – there’s nothing wrong with being right-brained! Right-brained people see things a bit differently than left-brained people, that’s all. Left-brained people see things a bit differently than right-brained people, too. One is not better than the other. We need both ways of seeing things if we’re going to solve the world’s problems.
In an ideal world, we would all be both-brained. Then we’d ALL be using all of our brains, and we’d ALL be BRILLIANT!
You, a non-teacher can help with literacy and brain re-wiring. You can make a difference. Don’t rely on others to put your child or student first, because it just won’t happen.
THERE IS A LOT OF INFO HERE TO HELP YOU
Look at the material on this site. You’ll find all sorts of information. On the Resources page you’ll even find links to technology that can help people who have major difficulty with reading. If your student has exceptionally bad problems, he or she might need to use this technology permanently, but most students who use these aids use them for a while, then can cope without them.
But whatever you do, take sensible action! (Don’t just race around like a headless chook*, wasting time and energy.) Sorry, I can’t make everything better by waving a magic wand.
But you can make a major difference by finding something useful to do, then moving forward each day, little by little – in time, this will make a HUGE difference.
And never, never, never give up!
*Chook is the Australian term for a chicken.