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Why Do We Need to Raise Awareness for Dyslexia?

Written by Ashley Collins, Academic Therapist at ACCESS

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month.

By now, most of us have heard of, or know about, dyslexia, yet common misconceptions still exist. So, what is dyslexia? Why is it important to raise awareness?

According to the International Dyslexia Association, “dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

This means dyslexia is a language-based learning disability which results in people having difficulties with specific language skills, decidedly reading. Additionally, a student with dyslexia will experience difficulties with spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia is not related to low intelligence, and dyslexics don’t see letters backwards. Dyslexia can be identified and diagnosed as early as 5 ½ years old. Early detection and intervention are key.

Dyslexia affects one in five people in the United States. That’s nearly 20% of the population. It is also hereditary. Children will not outgrow it. There is no quick fix or cure. It stays with you for life. However, there is hope. Research has proven that explicit, systematic phonics with a multi-sensory approach, such as programs that follow the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach, can in fact help ‘rewire’ the brain, thus helping students with dyslexia learn to read.

While dyslexia is often seen as a learning disability, dyslexics truly have amazing abilities. In fact, some of the most brilliant minds of our time have been known to have dyslexia, such as Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, and Pablo Picasso, to name a few. Dyslexics are gifted. They often enjoy and excel at solving puzzles. They do extremely well in comprehending stories that are read or told to them. They have a better use of their right brain and better sense of spatial relationships. Dyslexics have incredible thinking skills in areas of reason, imagination, conceptualization, and abstraction. They are typically more curious, creative, and intuitive than average. Many dyslexics have proven to see things three dimensionally which only adds to their creativity. They are gifted in so many more ways than listed here.

So, why do I raise dyslexia awareness? I raise awareness for my husband who was diagnosed, yet never received appropriate reading intervention during his school years. I raise awareness for my son who, despite being diagnosed in first grade, wasn’t provided the proper intervention he needed to be successful in school until his fifth-grade year. I raise awareness for my former students who were identified or diagnosed as dyslexic, and for my current therapy kids so that they might see how beautifully gifted they truly are. I raise awareness for families who have just embarked on this journey through a new diagnosis and for those who have been on this journey for a while. I raise awareness for my fellow educators so that they can be equipped with the knowledge to help their struggling readers.

Through the work and dedication of many parents, teachers, politicians, advocates, and children, Arkansas has passed a total of three laws specific to dyslexia: 1) ACT 1294 in 2013; 2) ACT 1268 in 2015; 3) ACT 1039 in 2017. Not only have these laws been passed, but in October of 2016, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a proclamation denoting October as Dyslexia Awareness Month in Arkansas.

If you think you have a child that may be dyslexic or who needs dyslexia intervention services, contact the ACCESS Evaluation and Resource Center in Little Rock. 501.217.8600