All week long I’ve pulled out various bits of analysis about literacy and reading. There were data on the long term costs of illiteracy to us as individuals and a society; the impact parents have, especially mothers; and the global nature of the problem.
Those are all external influences. Sometimes, though, there are “internal” factors that affect our ability to be proficient students and literate adults. These include conditions such as
- dysgraphia (a deficiency in the ability to write, regardless of the ability to read);
- dyslexia (a learning disability that affects someone’s ability to read); and
- dyscalculia (difficulty in learning or comprehending mathematics, akin to dyslexia).
In the United States and Canada, a learning disability refers to psychological or neurological conditions that affect an individual’s communicative capacities and ability to be taught effectively. In the United Kingdom, the term is used more broadly to include developmental disability. [source: Science Daily]
Dyslexia affects 1 of every 5 children, there are 10 million dyslexic children in the United States alone. It is estimated that between 5 and 17 percent of the population is dyslexic.
Dysgraphia is better known than dyscalculia, but is not as well known as dyslexia (WritingLD @ Squidoo: Dysgraphia has 150,000 Google listings; dyscalculia 44,000, dyslexia 3.5 million). Andrea La-Rosa calls it “the most common learning disorder no one has heard about” I learned that it costs US industry and business $20 billion each year, but could not find numbers about how many people are dysgraphic, nor estimates on percentage of the population.
Current estimates suggest that dyscalculia affects 5 percent of the population. More often than not, dyscalculia is discussed in the context of dyslexia, not as a topic of independent analysis and study.
There is no connection between these conditions and an individual’s level of intelligence and/or his overall ability to learn (i.e., acquire skill or knowledge). Their impairment is based in a processing disorder that impacts their ability to learn through traditional methods.
Ongoing studies are looking at these conditions and individuals with diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum and ADHD. There is also data to suggest that gifted individuals sometimes have learning disabilities.
who? who? who?
- Benjamin Franklin excelled so quickly as a student that his father enrolled him in a private school. By the end of his second (and last) year, he had performed exceptionally in every subject but one: math! His father removed him from school and put him to work. He apprenticed at his brother’s print shop at 12, and eventually became a great scientist, statesman, writer, and publisher.
- Albert Einstein did not speak a word until he was four and had early difficulties with arithmetic.
- Thomas Edison did not learn to read until he was 9, and was considered a delinquent.
- Wernher von Braun, the father of rocketry, flunked 9th grade Algebra.
And the coolest finding of all: More than half of NASA’s employees are dyslexic. The organization deliberately seeks out these individuals because they have superb problem solving skills and excellent 3D and spatial awareness. [Source: Mary-Margaret Scholtens, director of the Alternative Programs Providing Learning Experiences Group, Copyright 2005, Jonesboro Sun]
There are lots of potential speed bumps that can affect someone’s literacy ability. Some of them are environmental. Some are innate. The good news is that no matter the source, there are strategies and tools available. That’s not to suggest it’s an easy fix – it’s not. Changing our habits is hard work. Overcoming fear and eliminating barriers takes courage, persistence, and a willingness to help.
Sidebar: The links for dyslexia, dysgraphia, and Discalculia go to websites that offer definitions, symptoms, and most importantly strategies for helping individuals with these learning/processing disabilities.
Who? Who? Who?