A couple of years ago I was sitting in the office of the woman who was, at the time, the head counselor at my school. She has a PHD, speaks 3 languages, and was extremely good in dealing with troubled kids. She and I also liked each other and had a great working relationship.
She was laughing about some word mix-up one of the kids had said and I clarified that the student’s dyslexia was causing that. I then said “that is why President Bush flips his words around so much and verbalizes so stiltedly when reading a speech. She popped back, “REALLY, I just thought it was because he was so STUPID!”
My dyslexics know only that they aren't "normal." They can’t keep up in class, can't spell or read properly. All live in agony of being called upon to read out loud. They are called stupid or lazy -- and too often, they believe it.
When I had dyslexia, they didn't diagnose it as that. It was frustrating and embarrassing. I could tell you a lot of horror stories about what you feel like on the inside.
Nowadays, research is showing not only that dyslexics aren't stupid; they're often exceptionally bright in other areas. With reading, spelling and organization a constant struggle, dyslexic children (and adults) are forced to find alternative, innovative strategies to learn.
Thomas Edison was a brilliant scientist and inventor. He was thrown out of school when he was 12 because he was thought to be dumb. He was noted to be terrible at mathematics, unable to focus, and had difficulty with words and speech.
He told me that his teachers reported that . . . he was mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.
--Hans Albert Einstein, on his father, Albert Einstein
They often rely on creativity, reasoning, problem-solving and empathy to achieve their goals -- building skills that can serve them well in life beyond the classroom.
You should prefer a good scientist without literary abilities than a literate one without scientific skills.
--Leonardo da Vinci
Da Vinci was also believed to suffer from a number of learning disabilities including dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Some believe that the initiation of many more projects than he ever completed suggest that he had attention deficit disorder. Strong evidence in Da Vinci’s manuscripts and letters corroborates the diagnosis of dyslexia. It appears that Leonardo wrote his notes backwards, from right to left, in a mirror image. This is a trait shared by many left-handed dyslexic people. In addition to the handwriting, the spelling errors in his manuscripts and journals demonstrated dyslexia-like difficulties.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading.
I am, myself, a very poor visualizer and find that I can seldom call to mind even a single letter of the alphabet in purely retinal terms. I must trace the letter by running my mental eye over its contour in order that the image of it shall leave any distinctness at all.
--William James, psychologist and philosopher
People with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.
The looks, the stares, the giggles . . . I wanted to show everybody that I could do better and also that I could read.--Magic Johnson
Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person's life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment.
"As a high school student, many of my teachers labeled me DUMB... I knew who the real dummies were. I barely graduated…There was no way I was going to college- I never even thought about it. I could barely read my textbooks. "--Muhammad Ali
"As a child, I was called stupid and lazy. On the SAT I got 159 out of 800 in math. My parents had no idea that I had a learning disability.” -- Henry Winkler
Winkler was the epitome of cool during his decade-long run as Fonzie on Happy Days. If only Winkler, who was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 35, knew how to ride the motorcycles that were as much a part of the Fonz’s character as his signature two thumbs up.
“One of the effects was being unable to make my brain understand how to coordinate the clutch, throttle and brake on a motorcycle,” Winkler said of his dyslexia in 2008. “There was just no way I could figure it out, so I never got to ride that cool Harley-Davidson.” Instead, the motorcycle was mounted on a wood base with wheels for all of Winkler’s riding scenes.
Winkler was ridiculed for his dyslexia as a child – his parents called him Dumb Dog – so it’s no surprise that he’s become an activist for others with dyslexia. Since 2003, he has published more than a dozen books about a fictional 10-year-old boy with dyslexia named Hank Zipzer. The books have sold more than 20 million copies.
The dyslexic is a person who has good intelligence, strong motivation, and who has received appropriate teaching. Logic says such a child or adult should have learned to read and yet he or she has not.
And so dyslexia represents a paradox, particularly in our society where reading ability is often taken as a proxy for intelligence and it is assumed that if you are a good reader you are also highly intelligent and if you struggle to read you must not be so smart.
Since I was the stupidest kid in my class, it never occurred to me to try and be perfect, so I've always been happy as a writer just to entertain myself. That's an easier place to start.
--Stephen J. Cannell, screenwriter, producer, & director
Dyslexia violates that assumption because people who are dyslexic can be both both highly intelligent and struggle to read.
Richard Branson, Now, head of 150 or so enterprises that carry the Virgin name, with a personal wealth estimated at nearly $3 billion,
Richard didn't breeze through school. It wasn't just a challenge for him, it was a nightmare. His dyslexia embarrassed him as he had to memorize and recite word for word in public.
The 1990s marked a crucial turning point, when scientists discovered the disability was linked to neurological differences in the brain -- differences that had nothing to do with cognition, IQ or intelligence.
My father was an angry and impatient teacher and flung the reading book at my head.
Willie was sent to lessons in spelling and grammar, but he never learned to spell. To the end of his life he produced highly idiosyncratic versions of words.
--Biographer A. Norman Jeffares on William Butler Yeats
Technology became available that enabled scientists to observe the brain while a person read, spoke or processed phonological structures of language -- i.e. what the brain is doing when we "sound out" words, or make links between the way a word sounds and what it looks like on a page.
Scientists discovered the sections of the brain that process language work differently in people with dyslexia.
Moreover, most people with dyslexia have been found to have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds, a key factor in their reading difficulties. Dyslexia has a genetic component and tends to run in families.
My family is riddled with dyslexia. My father, Michael, my brother, Rupert, Isabella’s twin brother, Mungo, and their younger brother, Rafferty, six, are all dyslexic – to different degrees and in different ways. I don’t yet know about my fourth child, Monty. He is four and still at nursery school. --Annabel Heseltine
Dyslexic parents are very likely to have children who are dyslexic. In the Bush familiy Bush Sr., son Neil, and of course, son George. Henry Winkler's children are dyslexic. Some people are identified as dyslexic early in their lives, but for others, their dyslexia goes unidentified until they get older.
Jack Horner is the Montana State University Regents' Professor of Paleontology, but his dyslexia precluded a college degree, which was not diagnosed until he was an adult and had not graduated from college. While working at Princeton he found a diagnostic center, and his dyslexia was formally diagnosed. "I wasn't diagnosed until well after I had reached adulthood, had struggled through school being considered lazy, dumb, and perhaps even retarded, and had flunked out of college seven times."
I barely made it through school. I read real slow. But I like to find things that nobody else has found, like a dinosaur egg that has an embryo inside. Well, there are 36 of them in the world, and I found 35.
Perhaps as many as 15-20% of the population as a whole — have some of the symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words.
Young George . . . although he was bright and intelligent and bursting with energy, he was unable to read and write. Patton's wife corrected his spelling, his punctuation, and his grammar.
--Biographer Martin Blumenson on General George Patton
Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. Dyslexics are often capable or even gifted in areas that do not require strong language skills, such as art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales, and sports.
Having made a strenuous effort to understand the symbols he could make nothing of, he wept giant tears . . .
--Caroline Commanville, on her uncle, Gustave Flaubert
A number of accomplished writers are believed to have had dyslexia, including Hans Christian Anderson, Lewis Carroll, W.B. Yeats, and Agatha Christie, the British mystery author and playwright. “I, myself, was always recognized…as the ‘slow one’ in the family,” Christie reportedly once said. “It was quite true, and I knew it and accepted it. Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I was…an extraordinarily bad speller and have remained so until this day.”
The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. The core difficulty is with word recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and writing.
Tom Cruise has previously admitted the condition made it difficult for him to gain his pilot license because he struggled with the theory aspects.
The actor - who eventually passed his flying tests in 1994 - said: "In 1986, when I was 22, when I was making 'Top Gun', I got the chance to make my dream come true - to become a pilot. I thought, 'This is the time to do it,' so I had a couple of lessons. But then I just blew it off. When people asked what happened, I told them I was too busy preparing for the film, just didn't have time. The truth is, I couldn't learn how to do it. “ I had to train myself to focus my attention. I became very visual and learned how to create mental images in order to comprehend what I read."
Some dyslexics manage to learn early reading and spelling tasks, especially with excellent instruction, but later experience their most debilitating problems when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding textbook material, and writing essays.
Charles Schwab prefers oral communication to the written word, which is perhaps one of the reasons his firm’s marketing campaign suggests that you “Talk to Chuck” rather than write to him. Schwab, who wasn’t officially diagnosed with dyslexia until he was 40, graduated with a degree in economics from Stanford in 1959. “The first two years [at Stanford] I struggled because there were so many subjects,” said Schwab, who read the comic-book versions of classic books to get by. “I flunked English twice. They just passed me through the third time. I got an F in French. I had a tough enough time with the first language. When I came out of public high school I thought I could charm my teachers. I found out in college I couldn’t.” Schwab persevered and, in 1971, founded the brokerage firm that still bears his name.
* * * * * I couldn't read. I just scraped by. My solution back then was to read classic comic books because I could figure them out from the context of the pictures. Now I listen to books on tape.
People with dyslexia can also have problems with spoken language, even after they have been exposed to good language models in their homes and good language instruction in school. They may find it difficult to express themselves clearly, or to fully comprehend what others mean when they speak.
"One of the very difficult parts of the decision I made on the financial crisis was to use hardworking people's money to help prevent there to be a crisis." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2009
"I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport." -- G. Bush, Washington, D.C., Oct. 3, 2001
I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." -- G. Bush, Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000
Paul Orfalea, founder of KINKOS, was a D-student, flunked two grades, was expelled from four out of eight schools, and graduated eighth from the bottom of his high school class. As a hyperactive dyslexic, he was barely able to read, struggled on school tests, had no mechanical ability, and after being fired from numerous jobs, was virtually unemployable as a young adult.
Orlando Bloom has spoken about his struggle with dyslexia, admitting the condition makes it difficult for him to learn scripts.
The 'Pirates of the Caribbean' star often finds it difficult to remember his scripts because of the condition - which causes sufferers to struggle with reading and spelling - and feels he has to work harder than other people.He said: "It's still an ongoing struggle. I have more trouble studying scripts and memorizing lines than most other actors."
Such language problems are often difficult to recognize, but they can lead to major problems in school, in the workplace, and in relating to other people. The effects of dyslexia reach well beyond the classroom.
Cher dropped out of high school before launching her successful career and wasn’t diagnosed as dyslexic until she was 30. The diagnosis came only after she arranged medical tests for her daughter, who was struggling in elementary school. “I’m a terrible reader,” Cher said in 1985. “I don’t write letters. Numbers and I have absolutely no relationship. I can dial a phone OK, as long as it’s not long-distance. I write the first letter of the word, and my mind races to the last letter. I see words and jumble them together. I see great billboards, billboards no one has ever invented.”
Dyslexia can also affect a person's self-image. Students with dyslexia often end up feeling "dumb" and less capable than they actually are. After experiencing a great deal of stress due to academic problems, a student may become discouraged about continuing in school.
I grew up in a school system . . . where nobody understood the meaning of learning disorder. In the West Indies, I was constantly being physically abused because the whipping of students was permitted.