By Gunveen Chadha:
Dyslexia, the word comes from Greek and means ‘difficulty with words’ (The British Dyslexia Association). It is usually present when a person is born and it affects them lifelong. Dyslexia can occur in adults after a brain injury. It can be inherited in families. Person with dyslexia reads at a slower pace and has difficulty in spelling and phonological processing. If one is dyslexic, one is likely to mess up spellings of the words. Dyslexia affects the development of language related skills (SCIPS).
Dyslexia Research Institute states, “Ten to fifteen percent of the US population has dyslexia, yet only five out of every one hundred dyslexics are recognized and receive assistance. Approximately 60% of individuals diagnosed with attention deficit disorders are also dyslexic, however, their learning and language differences are often unrecognized because only the behavioral aspects of ADD are addressed” (Dyslexia Research Institute). This illustrates that only a small percentage of dyslexics receive the attention they need. If they receive assistance they are able to understand themselves better. Diagnoses is very important as it gets frustrating for a person with dyslexia to keep trying to do the same work as other people and despite the effort they put into, the work still lacks quality. It is critical for one to learn about their disability as they are better prepared to respond to society’s reactions.
An essay on Dyslexia from the OPPapers dated July 21st, 2009 states, “In our society today, the association between bad spelling and stupidity is so strong that it is almost taken for granted. A misspelled public notice, for example, is a trigger for laughter and disapproval; it is commonplace for jokes and cartoons to be based on that association. It is no surprise that if we find one person who have poor literacy skills they will be the center of laughter” (grinpyz). This is a clear example of how the society in general behaves towards dyslexics. We human beings tend to judge the other person so quick that we do not even think if the person might have a disability. Even if we know the person has a disability, we do not empathize with them but instead make it harder for the person to live a normal daily life.
Many famous people in the world were dyslexic. Society did not make an effort to understand the difficulties these people faced. The teachers seemed to not have time to pay attention to a student who required more help. Albert Einstein, one of the most influential, important and recognized scientists, never received the care and help he needed from his teacher and school. His teachers said, “that he was mentally slow, unsociable and adrift in his foolish dreams” (The British Dyslexia Association). This shows how the teacher never paid any personal attention towards him to understand he needed special help in learning. He, the boy who was told that he was mentally slow, turned out to be a Nobel Laureate.
Thomas Edison, the most prolific inventors in history, developer of light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera was dyslexic. His teacher sent the following note home with him when he was six years of age: “he is too stupid to learn.” (The British Dyslexia Association)
In earlier times, there was less awareness of dyslexia. There was more of stigma associated with dyslexia than it is now. Schools did not have special help available for students with dyslexia. Teachers were not trained to instruct dyslexic students. As times are changing, percentage of dyslexic students is increasing hence the awareness has increased. The parents are pushing the schooling system to be more considerate towards their dyslexic child and that the school should be able to help the student learn and grow. Parents want the teachers to give their dyslexic child the personal attention the child needs and not be ignorant of the disability. If teachers choose to be ignorant of the disability, it is hard on the child to learn, as the child is constantly de-motivated by harsh comments from the teacher, school and peers.
Medicalization of Dyslexia certainly has positive elements to it, but like any other disability there is a negative association with it too.
Medicalization of Dyslexia has brought a change in the society, the health care system has evolved as it has explored and done research on the disability. The Dyslexia online magazine in its article mentions “With the technical advances that have come about in brain-scanning in recent years, a lot of research has been carried out examining the brains of dyslexic people” (Dyslexia Online Magazine).
Jorita Madison, in his article called “Every Child has Talents to Nurture” dated February 8th, 2007 states “It is unconscionable that we, as a society, are willing to create “pricey” classrooms to teach the “gifted” students while we leave the “regular” kids behind, squeaking by on regular funding. There should not be one penny’s worth of difference in any classroom in America between the “gifted” and the “ungifted.” We have no way of predicting which child or whose gifts will turn into another Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Henry David Thoreau, Mahalia Jackson or George Washington Carver” (Happy Dyslexic). I personally agree with Madison’s statement as we should provide better assistance and quality of education to the dyslexic student. In order to provide this the parents and the school need to develop an understanding of Dyslexia and talk to the student about how it affects him or her. It would be a good idea to have an awareness program for the regular students to better understand and relate to their dyslexic classmates. There needs to be an atmosphere of support developed amongst all students.
As for any disabled person to be labeled as “disabled”, the dyslexic person would sacrifice a part of his dignity to declare himself as dyslexic to seek support. The University College London states: “From a cultural perspective, social studies have shown that stigma, marginalization and concept of deviance are still attached to the concept of disability in “pop culture”. This stigmatization is a burden that the medical model of dyslexia carries from within, as an embedded problem, and further explains the high number of students in higher education who refuse support from which they could highly benefit to avoid labeling and stigmatization” (University College London).
Students learn to adopt strategies to help them cope up with day-to-day life. The SCIPS, in its article on Sociology and Dyslexia states, “It may be that the student has been demonstrating a high level of competence up to the point of transition and suddenly starts to lack confidence or suffer from stress and anxiety. It is important to be aware of this and look out for the signs that suggest a student may not be coping as well as they might.” (SCIPS) Students need constant support and encouragement from their families, schools, teachers and peers. Each dyslexic student is different from another, the statement from SCIPS states, “It is wrong to assume that all students will want to approach their studies in the same way and a certain amount of flexibility may need to be adopted.”(SCIPS)
A large portion of society believes the myth that poor parenting leads to dyslexia. Dyslexia can be inherited but it does not occur due to poor parenting. The Dyslexia online magazine in its article called ‘What Causes Dyslexia’ mentions “it is the concerned parents of dyslexic children who have taken the initiatives that have brought dyslexia to the forefront of the learning difficulties arena”(Dyslexia Online Magazine).
Dyslexic people are not to be looked down upon, instead we the people without any disability should be of assistance to the dyslexics and help them to learn and grow. The society should look at them for inspiration rather than stigmatize as the dyslexic person has immense will power to struggle and learn. Most dyslexics possess skills that we cannot even think about acquiring. Large dyslexic population thinks in pictures and not words” (Happy Dyslexic). The society needs to open its arms and welcome the disabled people rather than close doors on them.