How often have you felt your dyslexic child is incredibly bright even though they have been floundering or failing in school? How often have you felt confused, frustrated, sad and wished someone could explain to you why your son who understands the big bang theory ad nauseam can’t remember the word “the?”
Gratefully, there is a new study defining dyslexia, which was conducted by Dr. Sally E. Shaywitz of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. It was a 12-year study, which followed typical learners and dyslexic students. The study found that unlike typical readers where reading and IQ track and influence each other, IQ and reading are not linked in dyslexic student’s brains.
Dr. Shaywitz also states that, “Typical readers learn how to associate letters with a specific sound. “All they have to do is look at the letters and it’s automatic…It’s like breathing; you don’t have to tell your lungs to take in air. In dyslexia, this process remains manual.” In other words dyslexic kids who are able to read are doing so because of learning strategies such as reading slowly, using place markers or using their finger to track the words as they read, rather than simply remembering the sound.
In other words, when typical learners see the word “the,” we recognize it because it’s alive and kicking in the language processing memory part of our brains. But when someone with dyslexia sees the word “the,” he or she is seeing it for the first time! S/he has to decode the word in order to read it each and every time.
We can (and should) all contemplate all the new questions that are associated with this study. For example, if reading doesn’t influence a dyslexic child’s IQ, what does? Regardless, what we are left with is the importance of knowing that not being able to read well is not the same as not being intelligent. And an incredible feeling of amazement that these children continue to want to learn despite the significant learning disability inherent in dyslexia.
Elizabeth Corsale, M.A., MFT