* Note: October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month
By Guest Blogger Cayle Fuller
Sometimes I question the term, “Learning Disability.” The definition of disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses or activities. Just by the mere definition of the word, a person labeled with a learning disability is simultaneously viewed as “limited.” I think this is very sad and very wrong.
Learning disabilities are very common. In fact, as many as one in five adults in the United States have a learning disability, as well as more than one million children. Learning disability is a broad term, because it can affect many areas of learning from reading to writing to understanding mathematical concepts. Learning disabilities can be as unique as the people who have them. A learning disability is just a different way of thinking and processing information, and many individuals with learning disabilities actually have above average intelligence.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that most people have heard of but don’t really understand. Dyslexia is more than just transposing words and letters or writing letters backwards – the disability itself is not making a connection between letters and their sounds. Dyslexics often see in pictures or in 3D, so even though they can hear and see perfectly well, they interpret the information differently. For instance, they may be unable to differentiate between certain sounds or they may see letters spaced incorrectly, like this:
Thew ord sare notsp aced cor rect ly Thewordsareallpushedtogether
Sometimes they feel as if they are thinking in German, speaking in French and writing in English. It’s no wonder some individuals have difficulty processing and understanding the English language when you read sentences like these:
“The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse…” or “Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.”
Not surprisingly, many children and adults with dyslexia grow up feeling stupid or lazy, because they cannot learn in the same way or at the same pace as their counterparts. This is one reason why it is so important to address learning disabilities in children as early as possible.
Some children exhibit signs as early as preschool; a child may have delayed speech; difficulty rhyming; or trouble learning the alphabet, colors, shapes or how to spell his or her name. Dyslexic children sometimes have poor fine motor skills and develop more slowly than other children and often have trouble learning how to tie their shoes. These are just a few indications that a child may need additional help so his or her learning disabilities AND abilities can be identified at an early age; this way educational support can be found before too many self doubts and negative images have been formed. However, some might argue that it’s failure itself that provides the means for success.
I am honestly amazed by the long list of famous people who all had dyslexia – Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, John Lennon, John F. Kennedy and Henry Ford, just to name a few. When I read those names I think dreamers, pioneers and points of light.
My friend, Girard, has dyslexia and founded an organization called Dyslexia My Life to help others with it. Through his website, I have learned that people with dyslexia are often gifted in other areas, but it is the disability itself that can provide the environment for failure (e.g. bad grades in school) and present the means for success. Meaning, because these people often make mistakes, they did not have a fear of failure; they knew if they try something and fail, they will just try again.
Girard serves as an inspiration to me. He may not be Albert Einstein, but despite the many obstacles in his life, such as growing up with dyslexia, he graduated from college, received his Master’s degree, produced films, founded non-profit organizations like the Gifted Learning Project and became an advocate for individuals living with learning disabilities. I know there are many people around the world like my friend, Girard, and I, for one, am thankful for their worthy contributions to this world.
For more information about dyslexia and other learning disabilities, visit the website of the Learning Disabilities Association of America at http://www.ldanatl.org/ or the National Center for Learning Disabilities at http://www.ncld.org.
Cayle Fuller is the mother of four children, ages 6-13. She and her oldest child have a nueromuscular disease called Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), and two of her children have Neurofibromatosis (NF1) which resulted in a syme’s amputation, learning disabilities and additional therapies/treatments. Cayle is a writer, editor, stay at home mother and advocate for people with disabilities.