Dyslexia is a common disorder, experienced by around 10 percent of the population. Those who suffer from it may feel stupid, leading in turn to anger, frustration and sometimes violence or crime. Unsurprisingly, a disproportionately high number of prison inmates are dyslexic. Identifying the problem, and providing intervention, are therefore vital.
But what is dyslexia? The word has its origins in Greek, where ‘dys’ means difficulty and ‘lexis’ means words. Experts disagree on many points, but all accept that in essence it means people struggle to read and spell fluently. The following are classic signs:
1) A remarkable gulf between an individual’s general intelligence and their literacy skills. In other words, they may be articulate, quick-witted, good with numbers, and able to solve problems, yet struggle to read and write.
2) People with dyslexia often originate from families with a history of learning problems. Perhaps their father or mother never learned to read properly, yet went on to enjoy a demanding, highly-paid career.
3) The most obvious sign is difficulty with spelling. A person with dyslexia may jumble letters. They may choose the correct letters, but arrange them in the wrong order: ‘dose’ instead of ‘does’ and ‘siad’ instead of ‘said’.
4) Problems learning to read. Someone who was not diagnosed until adulthood will often remember frustrated teachers who considered them intelligent and were bewildered as to why they found reading so difficult. Some older people tell horror stories of beatings at the hands of teachers convinced they were ‘doing it on purpose’.
5) Confusion between left and right. This is another classic sign and one often put down to ‘stupidity’.
6) Writing letters or numbers backwards (the confusion between ‘b’ and ‘d’, for example).
7) Difficulty with personal organization. Children with dyslexia often have messy bags, or find it difficult to get organized for a lesson. Once again, this will often be put down to bad behavior.
8) Difficulty following two- to three-step instructions. For example, someone may be exasperated by their husband’s failure to do the things requested. Perhaps, his partner asked him to buy some milk, then get the car washed and then post a letter. People with dyslexia sometimes find this sort of information impossible to remember and follow through.
9) Poor hand-to-eye coordination. This is not always the case, but many dyslexic people struggle to catch and throw well.
10) Trouble writing. Dyslexic children often grip their pen in a strange way and develop a handwriting style that is eccentric, inconsistent or incomprehensible.
The signs of dyslexia vary between individuals. Some will exhibit all of these signs, others just a few. The severity also varies. It is, however, never too late to get help and improve your literacy skills.