Really interesting article about how misunderstood dyslexia is by the public. Thanks to Elizabeth Hoksbergen for her comments.
When a parent announces to their friends their child is dyslexic, the awkward faces and glances might reflect sympathy.
When a special-education teacher learns a child is dyslexic, it’s an opportunity to help the child teach and develop in a new way.
However, according to Elizabeth Hoksbergen, the gap between the vast body of research data on dyslexia and the way it is handled by most schools is “titanic.” As the executive director of Pella-based Apples of Gold Learning Centers since 2000, Hoksbergen made a two-hour presentation Tuesday at Newton Christian School, discussing the myths, facts and her own personal experiences in dealing with dyslexia.
Noting that October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, Hoksbergen defined dyslexia as a language processing disorder, rather than simply reading words or letters backwards, or it being an emotional, physical or mental illness.
One of the myths she addressed was whether dyslexia is even a real illness.
“I did a (Des Moines area) radio show recently, and a staff member later stopped me and told me I was perpetuating a scam; that very few people have dyslexia,” Hoksbergen said. “So there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of awareness.”
Hoksbergen said between one in six and one in five people — or between about 17 and 20 percent — have some form of dyslexia. There are millions of Americans who have mild or one of six more severe forms of the disorder, and it isn’t necessary to wait until the mid-grade-school years to have a student diagnosed.
“Studies show diagnosis can be made with 92 percent accuracy by the second semester of kindergarten,” Hoksbergen said. “That could give parents a huge leg up on getting more testing done and possibly treatment.”
Describing dyslexia as more of a difference in a type of processing rather than a defective one, she said understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the dyslexic is a huge key. Many dyslexic people have gone on to become hugely successful by focusing on their strengths, she said, including Muhammad Ali, William Butler Yeats and Tommy Hilfiger.
She said memorization of sequences or long lists or exact formulas tend to be areas where dyslexics struggle. For example, there seem to be few dyslexics who become accountants, but many gravitate toward outside-the-box sciences.
“Word is that NASA prefers to hire dyslexics as engineers, because of the problem-solving skills,” she said.