Word Blindness or Dyslexia?

I am often asked by concerned parents if their child needs glasses. Of course, this is a first step to ruling out learning issues, so I encourage a trip to the eye doctor. But I always explain that the act of focusing and taking light into the eyes helps us see; the actual “seeing” takes place in the brain.

It has been a hundred and thirty years since the term dyslexia was coined by Rudolf Berlin, a German opthalmologist and professor. Although some of his patients were able to focus, he noticed that many of them struggled to read correctly and concluded that this problem took place in the brain.

Color blindness, eye blindness, and dyslexia…they have more in common than you’d think.

We now know just how true his early research proved to be, amazingly so if you think of the limited resources of the times. Dr. Berlin didn’t have use of PET or CAT scans. Or the vast amount of technology we have access to today.

Later, other pioneers joined in and referred to dyslexia as word blindness. That’s an amazing term if you think about it.

Word blindness.

We have color blindness and snow blindness, so why not word blindness? I like the sound of this much better than dyslexia, a word that conjures up images of failure. Of not being smart. Of being dumb or stupid or lazy.

The word dyslexia itself tells us that something is wrong, not just a physical problem, but a dysfunction. An inability to function.

I have been around a lot of dyslexic people, and they function quite well. They just struggle to read and spell, and this has nothing to do with their intelligence.

“I suffer from word blindness.”

“I suffer from dyslexia.”

We rarely doubt a blind person’s intelligence, but dyslexia? All the time. Even though one of the symptoms of dyslexia is that these people have an average or above average IQ, they suffer the most from feelings of inadequacy. It’s as if their intelligence is their curse.

Of course, newer research shows that there is an auditory component to dyslexia, so perhaps we should coin the term word deafness. Hmmm. Maybe not. Deaf and dumb were once tied together, so maybe we should just let matters be.

We know more about the brain now than we ever have, yet so few people use this information. If you are going to get help for a child with dyslexia, make sure the program isn’t entirely academic. To help these kids, the brain, visual processing, and auditory processing components must be added and strengthened.

Word blindness can be overcome!

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