The Impact of Dyslexia
An Unexpected Conversation
To say that I was a little irritated would be a major understatement. It was 6 am Sunday morning and the forecast for Mt. Hood called for epic snowfall. Under normal circumstances, my wife and I would be driving to the mountain with a steaming mug of coffee, some tunes and a roof rack loaded with snowboard and skis. Instead, I was driving to the airport to catch an 8-hr flight for our company’s annual sales meeting.
Traveling for work on a Sunday morning sucks and, as you probably guessed, I wasn’t in a mood to talk. Little did I know that I would soon have a conversation that made a lasting impression on me. I was holding out hope that the vacant seat to my right would go unfilled when I noticed an impeccably dressed, older woman and her pet cat eyeing down my vacant seat. Crap…
I don’t remember her name but her story was remarkable. Within minutes, she introduced herself and started asking where I was headed, where I was from and what I did for a living. She even cracked a few jokes about traveling with her cat and I noticed my mood quickly improving. At some point, I mentioned that my wife was a dyslexia specialist and her eyes lit up. She told me that she was severely dyslexic but didn’t learn this until later on in life.
Throughout her childhood, her teachers repeatedly told her parents that she was unteachable. As she got older, she fell further behind and eventually was placed in a class with cognitively disabled students. She had few friends and eventually dropped out of high school with severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
She found peace by visiting the shops, museums and art galleries of downtown Chicago and spent her evenings drawing detailed pictures of the various sites she visited. She was fascinated with architecture, especially how fabrics and colors could be used to make large spaces feel warm and inviting.
This Story is not all that Unusual
Most dyslexics struggle in school unless they have been identified and have appropriate supports in place. That said, many don’t realize they are dyslexic till much later in life. Richard Branson shares a similar experience in the above video.
Researchers estimate that 20% of the population has some degree of dyslexia. Fortunately, scientists have made significant advances in understanding how the dyslexic mind works and more importantly, how to teach those with dyslexia using multi-sensory, Orton Gillingham based teaching methods. Unfortunately, many states in our country still fail to recognize dyslexia in the classroom. This is a tragedy, considering 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.