What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia originates from the two Greek words “dys” (meaning “difficulty”) and “lexia” (meaning “language”). The term was first coined in 1887 by Rudolf Belin in Germany and was used to describe the inability to read. Nine years later Dr Pringle Morgan described the condition in the British Medical Journal, as it is more or less accepted today, as: an inability to read occurring in an otherwise bright and developmentally normal child.
Definition of Dyslexia offered by the British Dyslexia Association
Dyslexia is best described as a combination of abilities and difficulties, which affect the learning process in one or more of reading, spelling and writing. Accompanying weaknesses may be identified in areas of speed of processing, short-term memory, sequencing, auditory and/or visual perception, spoken language and motor skills. It is particularly related to mastering and using written language, which may include alphabetic, numeric and musical notation. Some children have outstanding creative skills, others have strong oral skills. Dyslexia occurs despite normal teaching, and is independent of socio-economic background or intelligence. It is, however, more easily detected in those with average or above average intelligence. Lindsay Peer, Education Director of the BDA
The Effects of Dyslexia
The impact of dyslexia is different for each person. The extent to which it will affect someone’s life depends on the severity of the dyslexia and whether he or she has received any remediation.
The most common or well-known effects are those associated with the classroom – difficulties in reading, writing, spelling and sometimes maths. (Not all people with dyslexia will have the same difficulties in these areas.) Obviously such difficulties will have long-term effects in educational and social attainment, with resulting low self- esteem.
In today’s society the ability to read and write is fundamental for every aspect of our lives. Internet shopping, sending and reading text messages, sending and reading e-mails, reading and following instructions for new electronic gadgets or games, and keeping abreast of local and national news using teletext are only some examples of how our technological developments of modern society presupposes that we can all read and write fluently.
A number of people with dyslexia also have problems with the spoken language. Social interaction and communication are an important part of life. Having difficulty in expressing oneself clearly, and fully understanding what someone else has said, can lead to grave difficulties in the classroom, in the work place or in any social context.
Dyslexia can often result in the feeling of disorientation. This can have major effects, such as, not knowing the difference between left and right, not being able to organize time, and/or the inability to follow a set of instructions sequentially. These effects reach well beyond the classroom and will encroach on every aspect of life.
Sometimes dyslexia can be accompanied by lack of co-ordination and poor dexterity. Clearly, this may result in the avoidance of sporting activities, dancing, and other such social events. However many dyslexics are very good at sport.
An accumulation of such difficulties and their effects can adversely affect a person’s self-image. Students with dyslexia can often feel “dumb” and misunderstood. If s/he has experienced problems at school, they may be less motivated to continue in an educational system. Often people with dyslexia can feel inadequate when in the company of people who don’t understand their disability, which may result in avoidance of social occasions.
It is crucial to remember that dyslexia is often accompanied by wonderful talents: Artistic, poetic, creative, musical, sporting, etc (See famous people with dyslexia)
How common is Dyslexia?
Ireland (Population = 4 million)
Ten percent of people have some form of dyslexia and a further significant percentage have other reading, writing or learning difficulties.
United Kingdom (Population = 58.3 million)
The British dyslexia association estimates that 10% of children have some degree of dyslexia. Four percent are severely affected.
(Ref: The Dyslexia Handbook 1995, published by the British Dyslexia Association)
Sweden (Population = 8.8 million)
Between 5 and 8% of the population have dyslexia.
USA (Population = 264 million)
10 to 15% of the US population has dyslexia yet only
5% of them are ever properly diagnosed and given appropriate help.