Marcus hit my office about six-months ago, full of energy and ideas, a nine-year-old who wanted to become a famous scientist. He knew he was meant to cure cancer, to make a cool flying bicycle and when I asked him to develop a furry frog, a much cuddlier pet, he started throwing out ways that that could happen. He was a really bright kid who three hours later, I diagnosed with severe dyslexia. In their excitement, they nearly floated out of the office, as if he had already invented flying tenny-runners.
Three days later, I got a call from his mom. She and Marcus had shared the exciting news with his school about discovering why he was struggling so hard. Now, she needed the name of a good counselor because Marcus was suddenly very down and saying self-deprecating statements that he was too dumb to do anything. He’d become a baggy balloon, a deflated rubber shell of a kid, the helium that had made up his imagination drained out in only a matter of days.
Or in his case, after a matter of five words. He’d been told by a teacher, that although he though he had dyslexia, everyone knew that “dyslexia wasn’t a real thing.” She explained that he would just have to accept working extra hard to try to keep up with the other kids.
His thought: If Dyslexia isn’t real, then what does that make me?
My answer is this. If dyslexia isn’t real then neither is deafness. Nearly 10,000,000 people in the US report a hearing loss of some severity with 1,000,000 people being completely deaf. The statistics are the same for dyslexic children. The newest statistics reveal that 10 million children have some form of dyslexia, so why do we accept that deafness is real, but not this prevalent reading disorder.
Obviously, deafness is SO VISIBLE. Deaf speech is loud, cumbersome and there is equipment involved with hearing aids. There’s the special sign language, fingers and hands flying everywhere. This disorder gets loads of research and respect, as they should.
Dyslexic kids don’t have obvious signs of a disorder, yet millions of dollars are spent each year at big-name universities and the National Institute of Health to further our understanding of how to help people who are wired differently. It is real. These children need to know why they struggle. Their challenges are valid.
You join the fight for your child by being educated. Here are some facts:
ü Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
ü Of people with poor reading skills, 70-80% are likely dyslexic.
ü One in five students, or 15-20% of the population, have this learning disability. Dyslexia is probably the most common of the language-based processing disabilities.
ü Nearly the same percentage of males and females has dyslexia.
ü As children grow older, they may learn to read but dyslexia may still affect spelling, writing, word-finding and math skills
ü It is neurological in nature, (like many deaf people)
ü It is inherited and can range from mild to severe
Loads of facts can be seen at www.ida.org or www.ldonline.org/dyslexia.
Marcus is fine. He’s happily back to planning his future as a scientist, full of hope and some whacky ideas – A cereal that makes us smarter, a book page that turns into a movie when we touch it. Who knows? Maybe he will be the guy who figures out a cure for dyslexia.